Detroit, MI (LGS) -- You're playing in Hockey Town, one of the great venues in the NHL. But the arena is almost empty.
You're worried about how your family is coping with a devastating snow storm back home. But it's mid-October, and the leaves are still changing.
What the hell?
You have to play, that's all you know. It's your job, and all that stuff has to be pushed into the back of your mind. It's hard though.
Before the game is two minutes old, you watch a Red Wing shoot the puck into your zone, and the puck caroms off the back boards, and bounces over your goaltender's stick, and lands on another Red Wing's stick in front of the net, the empty net, and you trail, just like that. That's one of the oddest goals you've ever seen, and you've been around this game for awhile now.
Your teammate stands on the bench and plays the puck to your other teammate. Did that just happen? What's going on? Is it Friday the 13th or something?
Hey, there's Dominik Hasek, and you want to score on that guy in the worst way, but you look up at the shot clock, and it says zero, and the period is half gone. You've barely crossed the Detroit line.
Now you're down 2-0 and getting skated out of the building, the empty building, and under the bright lights you think about your kids freezing at home.
Your teammate bursts in all alone but stumbles over an imaginary rut in the ice and dribbles the puck into the corner. This is embarrassing! We're good!
Scary good! But this is just scary. Scary bad.
Suddenly, behind the mask, you see Hasek's hollow, glowing eyes and realize that his evil death ray was what spoiled the chance, and now it all makes sense: this is just a bad dream. You're taking your afternoon nap!
Before you realize you're butt-naked and being chased by a chainsaw-wielding Don Koharski and your skates are stuck in quicksand and he's closing in and you're in the mall parking lot and can't find your car, Adam Mair nails a Wing in the corner, and the crowd erupts.
You wake up. The game wakes up. The fans start chanting, and filing in to finally fill the The Joe. Chris Drury scores on the power play, roofing one over a very human Dominik Hasek, whose groin squeals for mercy as it's peeled off the ice.
This makes sense. Hockey sense.
Note to self: no more day-old hotel pastry and a Red Bull within one hour of naptime. Make that two hours.
Bonus Crunching the Numbers
124 - Red Wing points in 2005-06
1 - Presidents' Trophy for Detroit
2 - Wins in the playoffs
20 - Presidents' Trophy winners in its history
6 - Trophy winners who won That Other Trophy
1 - Reason to root for just enough Sabre losses to avoid it
350,000 - Dollars (Canadian) to the winning team
Recent long breaks at the beginning of a Sabres season include six days off in 2000. The Sabres lost in Edmonton to start a Western swing after a pair of wins at home to start the season. And in 1999, the Sabres opened on the road in Detroit, lost 2-0, and stewed in it for six days until their home opener, another painful defeat, 3-2, to Ron Wilson and the Caps. And the Cup hangover was on.
The Sabres suffered some power play woes early last season, too. After converting on four of 18 chances in their first two games, the Sabres went on an 0-25 skein. When the red light finally came on, though, the Sabres were fine, scoring 19 PP goals in their next 10 games on their way to one of the best power plays in the league. How much do the Sabres miss Tim Connolly's dynamic hands?
·· Add slow starts to too many penalties as a major concern right now ‹ when is this team going to realize it doesn't have to wake up in the second half of games and squeak by opponents, that it's good enough to just run them out of the building from Minute One?
· The Sabres didn't exactly kick down the door, but the upstart franchise arrived at the house of the old guard and announced their intention to move in next spring. And what better model for the Sabres to follow? Three Stanley Cups in the last decade have turned that city into Hockey Town, exactly what the Sabres want to do in this one in the next decade.
· Judging by how long it took Dominik Hasek to peel himself off the ice at times, you really have to wonder how long he's going to hold up this time around.
· A stark illustration of a goaltender entering his prime and one leaving it well behind: in the shootout, Ryan Miller does the splits and goes post to post to reject Jason Williams' try at the right pipe. Dominik Hasek can't make the exact same save, and Daniel Briere tucks the puck inside the post on the Sabres' first attempt.
· Lindy Ruff said they made some improvements to the coach's office at Joe Louis Arena, an office whose old appearance he likened to a bathroom. Too bad it still wasn't in the john ‹ Ruff could have gone in there after the first period and wretched. That's a joke!
· I know the Bills are themselves only a mediocre team, but how are they underdogs against the LIONS?!
· Am I dreaming?