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3MI Roadtrip Recap: Toronto

(In place of a traditional “Overreactions” post, which would be extremely tardy, this is 3MI Roadtrip Recap. A mix of what the postgame blogs usually look like and a look into the trip. Hope you like it. If you don’t, well, go lay down on train tracks.)

Preamble

It’s about as close to being at the center of the hockey universe as you can get. Saturday night in Toronto. Hockey Night in Canada. Nationwide up north and on NHL Network in the United States.

The aura of the Air Canada Centre is something that has to be experienced. And it’s something that I’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to experience. Multiple times. Many, many times.

So when you look at the calendar and see Sabres at Leafs on a Saturday night at the end of March, two thoughts come to mind:

  1. Going to games in Toronto is awesome.
  2. The Leafs will be eliminated from playoff contention by then.

Which brought us to Saturday, which was as big as big games could get after losing Friday night to Pittsburgh.

So me and my buddy headed up north for the day. A nice afternoon of watching hockey at Real Sports Bar & Grill across the street from the ACC and some Saturday night hockey. Got standing room only tickets off StubHub at box office price. Can’t beat it.

Sabres @ Maple Leafs
Viewed at: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

If you want to write the book called “How to fuck up your playoff chances in a game you should win,” I’ve got a suggestion for what you can include.

Making the short trip north for a showdown with a free-falling Toronto Maple Leafs, who came into Saturday riding an 11-game winless streak at home, who happened to be starting their fourth-string goalie because their third-string goalie got shelled the game before, Buffalo proceeded to back away from any decent shot at a playoff spot.

Unable to beat Ben Scrivens or shut down a struggling offense, the Buffalo Sabres dropped a 4-3 defeat at the hands of the golf-course-bound Leafs in Toronto.

Ryan Miller was unable to rebound from a rough outing the night before, giving up four goals for the second straight night. He made 25 saves in the loss.

“We scored some goals tonight, so I didn’t need to be perfect,” Miller said. “But I needed to make another save or two.”

Tyler Ennis, Ville Leino, and Drew Stafford scored for Buffalo, who never led at any point. Read the rest of this entry

3MI Roadtrip Recap: Washington

(In place of a traditional “Overreactions” post, which would be extremely tardy, this is 3MI Roadtrip Recap. A mix of what the postgame blogs usually look like and a look into the trip. Hope you like it. If you don’t, well, blow me.)

Preamble

Sometimes you gotta just say “Fuck it.

Having a few good friends living in the DC region, a trip to the Verizon Center had been on the docket as a possibility for a while. This week’s game had multiple arguments against the viability of the trip. Leading the way was the fact it was on a Tuesday. It was just something like “Alright, I’ll keep an eye on Southwest Airlines deals into BWI and see if there’s a good deal and then I’ll consider it…” until days kept creeping up on March 27 and all of a sudden the magnitude of the game became apparent. Just a week prior, I’m sitting at work texting a friend about maybe going and a song comes on and it’s time to show a cut from Sting’s new album.

So Monday after work, I hit the road for my friend’s place outside Baltimore. We and a couple of her friends got tickets for a somewhat reasonable price on StubHub over the weekend. So after a brief seven hour drive, it was a good night of sleep that stood between me and the day of the next biggest game of the season.

I had been to Washington and the area multiple times on various road trips over the past few years, including a trip last summer to catch a Nats game and a USMNT game. It’s a beautiful city, tons of stuff to do, a hell of a lot of fun. I had done the basic stops on the pilgrimage all Americans should make before, but it didn’t stop a return visit to the Museum of American History, which is always mind-blowing.

A few hours touring around downtown DC led to pre-game beers led to the game. Oddly, I had little to no stress about the game, mainly due to the fact it was such a mess finding my way down there and the looming overnight drive I had waiting for me. But here it was. Read the rest of this entry

3MI Roadtrip Recap: University of Sabres Doubleheader

In place of a traditional “Overreactions” post, which would be extremely tardy, this is 3MI Roadtrip Recap. A mix of what the postgame blogs usually look like and a look into the trip. Hope you like it. If you don’t, feel free to move to the Congo.)

Preamble

Not often that you get opportunities to see your team play twice in one day. Well, sort of.

Couple weeks ago a buddy of mine alerted me that the Rochester Americans were playing a weekday morning game in Toronto. He suggested we go for the 11am start. Oh, and the Sabres were hosting the Bruins the same night. What are the odds? Luckily, getting a day off work was feasible, and it worked out great. Easy drive Sabres game didn’t start until 7:30. Plenty of time.

So we hit the road early and headed up the QEW to Toronto to see the Sabres’ minor-league affiliate play the Leafs affiliate to start one hell of a day.

Rochester Americans @ Toronto Marlies
Viewed at: Ricoh Coliseum, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The Amerks have had their struggles with injuries. With Joe Finley out with a lower body injury, facing a Toronto team they’ve had tough games against this season, things didn’t get much better.

Getting an early start in front of thousands of school kids, the Rochester Americans lost 4-3 to the Marlies at Ricoh Coliseum.

Rookie Zack Kassian scored twice for Rochester, who now sits 9th in the AHL’s Western Conference.

Max Legault scored the other goal for the Amerks. David Leggio made 21 saves in the loss.

Rochester struggled offensively for much of the game, generating just ten shots through two periods. Kassian’s second goal came with under four seconds left.

  • Kassian looked like the Kassian we know. Wasn’t throwing his weight around, but strong physically and good around the net. He’s not going to be the player everyone wants him to be. He’ll be good though.
  • Made an effort to watch Dennis Persson as much as I could. Seems like he’s slowly becoming a bit steadier. His selection was always assumed to be under the intention that he’d grow into a Henrik Tallinder-type, and I can see it. Tallinder took his sweet time developing. Persson is progressing slowly as well. Not ready to say “bust” yet. He was -2 on Wednesday.
  • If you’re into roadtrips, I highly recommend heading up to Ricoh for a game. Beautiful little AHL arena. Very intimate environment.
  • Travis Turnbull is a guy that can be a mainstay on the Amerks for a few years. A joy to watch. Plays with a lot of intensity and spunk. Had a nice scrap with Toronto’s Kelsey Wilson. Read the rest of this entry

3MI Roadtrip Recap: Toronto

(In place of a traditional “Overreactions” post, which would be extremely tardy, this is 3MI Roadtrip Recap. A mix of what the postgame blogs usually look like and a look into the trip. Hope you like it. If you don’t, well, go find a bridge.)

Preamble

It really is the center of the hockey universe. Whether we like it or not.

Living in Buffalo, you get used to Toronto being “right there.” Honestly, it’s a nice perk. I hate Canada in general with a passion, but, to be truthful, I love going to Toronto. It’s beautiful.

I’ve made a habit of heading north to catch Sabres games since the lockout. Thanks to the Sabres’ ownership of the Leafs on the scoreboard since then, it’s been a habitually great trip. Heading into Tuesday, I had attended 15 Sabres/Leafs games at Air Canada Centre, with Buffalo winning 13 of them. Really. When you can leave an opposing arena on a winning note, it makes the trip much more enjoyable.

A couple weeks ago, I found a few standing room only tickets on StubHub for a reasonable $49.99 each. You read that right. Those damn fees turned into $60 each, but I’m a huge fan of the SRO areas at the ACC. You basically stand right at the top of the 300 level, with a birds-eye view of the ice and some space to breathe. Some would look at a $60 ticket that doesn’t include a seat and question it, but I don’t. It’s Toronto. It’s a different world.

So I headed north with some friends eager to see another win. Um, well…

Sabres @ Maple Leafs
Viewed at: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

You can’t win if you don’t score.

Thanks to an impotent offense and 60 minutes without a single powerplay, the Sabres had no chance to win in a 2-0 loss to the Maple Leafs.

First period goals by Nikolai Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski were plenty of cushion as Jonas Gustavsson got the shutout for Toronto. Ryan Miller made 26 saves in the loss.

Buffalo was in rough shape early, as Thomas Vanek played just four minutes due to illness and left the game during the first period. Without their leading scorer, the Sabres struggled.

“We need to get one and it will make the boys in here feel good and hopefully we can string them on from there,” Sabres forward Drew Stafford said. “We’ve got a great opportunity in the rematch in a couple days.”

Opportunities are only useful if they’re converted.

  • The officiating was horrendous both ways. The only penalties called, save for the Patrick Kaleta charging penalty, all required tangible evidence to prompt a call. Stafford put the puck in the crowd. Then Stafford pushed a guy into the net and knocked it off. Then Mike Weber put the puck over the glass. That’s weak.
  • Love the atmosphere at Air Canada Centre, but honestly, that was the weakest vibe I’ve experienced there. Crowd was absolutely dead. If I ranked all the games I’ve gone to there in order of quality of atmosphere, that one was 16 out of 16. Shitty intro video doesn’t help get the crowd going either. Read the rest of this entry

3MI Roadtrip Recap: Nashville

(In place of a traditional “Overreactions” post, which would be extremely tardy, this is the newest addition to the site, 3MI Roadtrip Recap. A mix of what the postgame blogs usually look like and a look into the trip. Hope you like it. If you don’t, well, go find a bridge.)

Preamble

As a fan who is growing increasingly tiresome of the experience at First Niagara Center, as I have over the last couple years, the answer to the disinterest in attending home games is combining the desire to see the team I follow live and the joy I find in traveling. Road games are an option overlooked by many fans who don’t see it as a feasible alternative. I tend to believe that it’s a necessity.

To this point, I had seen the team in ten other cities outside of Buffalo: Boston, Carolina, Columbus, Florida, Montreal, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Toronto. Each trip, each arena is a unique experience, so when I tear apart things they do at FNC that I deem awful, I actually have a lot of other exploits to base it off of.

Things worked out perfectly time-wise to return to what I consider my second home, Nashville, for Saturday night’s matchup. I lived there from this January to September, and loved every minute of it. It’s an extremely fun city if you like to party. The food is great, the people are friendly, and there’s a bevy of places to drink.

So, along with my friend Tom, I was able to go back to the place I miss so dearly, reconnect with some friends, and check another road game off the list.

Nashville is about a 10-11 hour drive from Buffalo, an extremely enjoyable ride. You pass through enough major cities to break up the trip (Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Louisville) and it’s all major highway. We left Buffalo at 8pm Thursday night and were driving around Nashville at 5am CT.

Friday
Red Wings @ Sabres
Viewed at: Broadway Brewhouse (Midtown), Nashville, TN

In a surprise to many Sabres fans, Joe Finley can not win games by himself.

The legendary rookie made his Sabres debut, but the game was never close. Detroit jumped to an early lead and cruised to victory by a score of 4-1.

Super sniper Jochen Hecht had Buffalo’s only goal midway through the third period.

“We’ve got to win a game, that’s the bottom line,” Buffalo forward Thomas Vanek said. “We’ve got to make a run here.”

Jhonas Enroth had 32 saves for the Sabres, who were outshot 18-8 in the first period and 35-28 overall.

  • Thanks to Broadway Brewhouse for being so accommodating. Nice place to watch a game, and we were joined by another group of guys who had driven down from Buffalo. Reports on the food weren’t glowing, but the beverage options were plentiful. Tom was smitten with the 73 taps at the bar.
  • We got stuck watching the game in Midtown rather than on Broadway because there was a Christmas parade. Really. A Christmas parade on December 2nd. Can’t condone that one Nashville. Read the rest of this entry

Things are good.

One of the downsides of running a solo blog is that if you can’t post, nothing goes up.

I was working on a VP-Day post (Victory over Patriots) day post last Sunday. I was doing a good job putting my thoughts together (in my head at least) before I had to leave for the concert at First Niagara Center.

(Sidebar: Foo Fighters were incredible. I became a Rise Against fan as well. Phenomenal, memorable show.)

Unfortunately, it never got finished. Started a new shift at my new job, and all of a sudden, almost a week later, here we are, my first post since the early stages of that Bills game, about a Sabres game no less. For posterity, the two Sabres preseason games since that were a 4-1 loss to Columbus Sunday night and the 4-3 shootout loss in Washington Friday night. But you likely already knew that.

There really isn’t much I feel like needs to be said. The Sabres wrap up the North American portion of their preseason 4-1-1, which isn’t bad for games that don’t really matter. The ownership that has swept in and pushed the franchise toward the light is still too good to be true, right?

The Bills are in first place in the AFC. They’re 3-0, and in first place. Not just the division lead. They have the best record in the conference. If the season ended today, the Bills would have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. This is the same franchise that started 0-8 last year and finished 4-12.

3-0, first place. Insane, right?

Oh, and they just beat the Patriots for the first time in eight years. No big deal.

But something needs to be reiterated: things are really good for Buffalo sports fans right now.

Will you be able to make that statement a week from now? Who knows. The Bills season could come crashing down in Cincinnati. The Sabres could fly back from Europe with a couple losses and more questions than answers. The way things have been going, would anyone expect that? No. And that’s a good thing.

There’s this sense of hope that is the special kind we don’t see in Buffalo too often. It’s not the hope that usually shows up at the start of each season, totally disregarding any past history and overrating what our teams really are. This is hope with merit. The Bills just beat the Patriots. The Sabres just went and bought a whole bunch of good players this offseason. There’s tangible results to back this up.

It’s not just hope, it’s optimism.

Anyways, I’m heading to Cincinnati this weekend with some friends for the Bills game Sunday. Maybe I wouldn’t be making this trip if I didn’t believe the hype. But the way things are going, there’s a little Mark Miller in all of us.

It’s good to have this confidence in our teams and ourselves. The end result is far off, but that’s no reason not to enjoy the moment. At the moment, things are good.

Buffalo all the way this time.

(Be sure to follow me @3rdManIn on twitter for updates and other random insights)

Brotherly Shove: A Sabres fan visits Philadelphia

I wish I could’ve gotten to this earlier, but for posterity, better late than never.

This past weekend, I headed to Philadelphia for Game 2 against the Flyers. I caught a flight out of Nashville and a few buddies from Buffalo made the drive out Saturday morning. (For the record, my total traveling to Sabres games this season has broken 8,000 miles. Where’s my 7th Man award?) After biding time at a local bar until my friends arrived, we headed towards the arena.

So, we walk over, I drop my stuff in their car, and I get one of the guys to take a picture of me in front of the arena, which I try to do at each road game. The rain kinda limited the tailgating efforts, so I figured the hostility would be limited until we got inside. As we took the picture, a Flyers fan drinking in his car with his buddies about 40 feet away rolls down the window and yells “I hope your fucking camera gets ruined, you fucking faggot!”

Very classy. Despite that, overall, I was expecting it to be even worse.

For the most part, the people around us were cool. I had some good conversations with the inebriated gentleman next to me, who seemed only hostile towards Jeff Carter. But there were a good amount of assholes to be found. Read the rest of this entry

3MI ROADTRIP: Columbus in 2010 Edition

Fellow Sabres fans, fear not.

3rd Man In is treading where many of you will not this Saturday.

Both Mike, our newest blogger, and myself, the one known simply as “e”, are making the trek to Columbus to see the Sabres game tonight at Nationwide Arena.

We’re riding on a bus full of Sabres fans from western New York, headed to Ohio’s capital. The plan is to pregame at the Frog Bear & Wild Boar Bar across from the Arena, so if you’re gonna be there, feel free to say hello and buy us a round.

Obviously, this prohibits us from being at a computer to live blog, but I will be twittering the whole ride there. And back. Pending I survive the game, of course.

If you’re not following us already, you can get updates at twitter.com/3rdmanin. I assure you it’ll be an entertaining read. And, you know, follow us.

Go Sabres!

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