Maybe I'm just too sensitive about a city I consider my second home even though the only significant time I've spent there has been in hockey arenas. But when MSG's Chad Hairspray sat on the set in New York City and sent things back to HSBC Arena for the pregame show, he called it "chilly and brutal Buffalo." And there was something about the way he said the word "brutal" that made it a comment not on the weather, but the place. At least that's how I heard it. And it's not fair.
Buffalo hides have been thickened since Johnny Carson mercilessly poked fun at the city during the Blizzard of 77. And like the snow, it stuck. And it sucks. The jabs roll off their sturdy backs, but, I'm sorry, the people of Buffalo just don't deserve it. All they did on Saturday night was leave the broken limbs and the flooding basements behind and fill HSBC Arena and make a statement -- this city gets up, and shows up. And the fans did their job masterfully.
They were ruthless, jumping on Jaromir Jagr's unimpressive shoulders and not letting up until he was frazzled and almost completely ineffective. Jagr was pelted with icy pellets, and then in a nod to the bizarre weather, greeted with thundering boos. They were savvy, cheering every small play, and player, like Derek Roy when he pestered the Rangers power play, playing the role of the little brother who won't stop hanging around. They were creative, tweaking a classic Buffalo hockey chant, leaving the counting of goals behind and just chanting "We want eight!" time and again. How come no one ever thought of that?
The players noticed, and appreciated it.
"A lot of hardship right now," Ryan Miller said. "To have them come out, I thought the reaction was priceless."
And perfect. Well, almost.
Only the holding onto of hats after Chris Drury's third goal marred this first-star performance by 18,690. But on a goal-mouth scramble, it wasn't obvious Drury had scored.
The fans deserve a break. So does the city.
- When Danny Briere was jarred into the boards and lost his helmet in the second period, then kept buzzing the net, it was a real throwback to a different era in hockey. I feel like a creep every time I have the thought, but wouldn't it be cool if the players didn't wear helmets? Yeah, I know...
- Speaking of helmets, how about the aforementioned Briere's little tap on the helmet of one of the Rangers after Jochen Hecht's centering pass was deflected into the net perfectly by Peter Pock. Another thing your little brother would do.
- I know it's not Peter Pock.
- More Briere. Was his goal a distant replay of his overtime winner against the Flyers in Game 1, or what? Right down to the celebration. And Brian Campbell tried to chip in with a repeat of his hit on Umberger but just failed to absolutely blow up a Ranger at the Buffalo line.
- The numbers on the "vintage" jersey? One more disappointment. Only the winning product on the ice has kept the uniform fiasco from being a total disaster. Don't get me started. Trust me.
- When did the Sabres change the announcement with one minute to go in periods from "Last minute of play in this period (or regulation time)" to "Final minute of play in the period"? And why? These things bug me. Uncle Miltie needs to go down there and straighten things out. · Henrik Tallinder bumps Jaromir Jagr along the right wing wall in the Buffalo zone near the point, gets position on him, chases the puck down behind the net, carries it into the opposite corner and wings it off the glass, then follows up to grab the recalcitrant puck again and finally clear it. An awesome play by an awesome player.
- Sabretooth was so fired up after the final horn that he banged on the glass behind the Buffalo bench and smashed it to smithereens. The incident illustrates the near-mania surrounding this team. It's unbelievable and unseen since perhaps the early days of the franchise. The only problem might be: how do the Sabres deal with it?
- I don't think this neurotic fan has ever yelled it in 31 years of watching the Sabres, but I've yelled it twice in the last week: "they're gonna score!" First it was with Danny Briere busting into the Montreal zone, his team trailing by two and getting the business down there from the refs, looking like one pissed-off elephant escaping the circus. He scored with authority. Then last night it was Chris Drury his team trailing by two, charging through center like a teenage girl with her daddy's credit card. Ales Kotalik scored with authority. OK, it blooped into the net. And, yes, I know my metaphors need some work. It's early in the season.
- "They just had a great night in the middle of this state of emergency. They were having a lot of fun. We're happy to provide it." -- Ryan Miller. Anyone else starting to REALLY like this guy? · Did you see the way Chris Drury scored his first goal? Was he trying to shoot the puck through the back of the net? Wow. Double wow. A tap-in to the yawning cage would have sufficed, but I have another theory to explain the oomph. Larry Quinn and Tom Golisano had arranged a delivery of generators to the team plane in Detroit so the players could bring them home to their dark and chilly homes. I could be nuts, but Drury on Saturday night was saying thanks.
- Speaking of ownership, honestly, these guys have had almost a golden touch since taking over. Their maize logo needs a little work, that's all.