Craig of the PuckBuddys delivers this pregame and travelogue. Please follow @PuckBuddys on Twitter.
So it all comes down to this. A season full of mediocre and substandard Caps performances could very well hinge upon Tuesday night’s tilt against the Sabres. Or, as we like to call them, the godless and heathen Sabres. Tuesday night at Verizon is when we glance up into the rear-view mirror and see all those squandered games and lost opportunities receding into the distance. Had the Caps gotten their heads and asses wired together at any point between November and say, last Friday’s night’s OT loss to the Jets, we wouldn’t be on pins and needles headed into Tuesday evening, or in my particular case, on lithium and Maker’s Mark.
No matter. It is what it is and here we are – do or die on the Verizon sheet if the Caps are to control their destiny. Destiny being a funny thing, donchaknow. We’ll get to all that high-minded stuff later, but first, some spleen-venting. But before we start with Buffalo filth, maybe some de rigueur Pens H8 first – Did that band of misfits and degenerates deliberately tank to the Jets on Saturday night, just to screw with us in the Eastern standings? I’m not smart enough to know, math makes my hair hurt, but I saw tweets that suggested as much. And in this day and age when I can’t believe in anything, I put a lot of weight behind rumor, innuendo, and disinformation, if it helps sustain and further stoke my blind and bitter rage with those miscreants. OK, enough about the Pens – let’s shuffle off to Buffalo, or as near as we risk traveling without the necessary inoculations.
For anyone who grew up in Rochester (90 miles to the east of Buffalo), as I did, you develop not just a hatred of that city, but something more visceral, a disgust. Between the three cities of Upstate New York (and I mean real Upstate, not freakin’ Poughkeepsie), Syracuse, Buffalo, and the Middle Jewel, Rochester, you’d think there would be some sense of fraternal pride and brotherhood between them, based on all three cities losing the geography lottery. But no, there’s a mutual distrust and highly competitive spirit between them. Rochester and Syracuse do share one thing in common however: pity for anyone who comes from Buffalo.
To be sure, Verizon will have its share of Sabres boosters Tuesday evening. To give you an idea of the sorry quality of life for Buffalo expats, is the annual “Buffalo Nite”, a gala evening in DC sponsored by the New York State Society. First organized by Jack Kemp staffers in 1978, Buffalo exiles have jumped at the chance to celebrate their escape from that dark city (dark in the daytime), and swill Genny and gorge on “beef on weck”, two staples that you’d find in just about every Western New York barnyard trough. But they’re the lucky ones, the survivors, the ones who got away. It should also be noted that one of the Buffalo Nite corporate sponsors is Wegman’s. It should also be noted that Wegman’s is a Rochester company and they only opened outposts in Buffalo to keep the citizenry from starving – consider it the grocery version of the Berlin Airlift – but Cold War Berlin was a regular garden spot compared to the “Mistake on the Lakes.”
Poor Buffalo. How did it get to be so squalid? At the turn of the last century, it was the Empire State’s second largest city behind New York, and the 8th largest in the country. Thank the Erie Canal and hydropower for Buffalo’s growth and then blame the St. Lawrence Seaway for its steady erosion and demise ever since. The bloom has been off that putrid rose for over 100 years. The city that boasted the Pan-American Exposition in 1901, reached its high water mark then and there. Of course, history geeks will recall it was at the Expo that President William McKinley was felled by an assassin’s bullet, fired by anarchist, Leon Czolgosz. This is where we make a cheeky joke about that dude having more consonants in his name than Bryzgalov, or McKinley wanting any excuse at all to exit Buffalo, but we won’t go there – too soon.
But perhaps the greatest blemish on Buffalo’s record was the Larkin Building. Innovative in 1904 for its use of including air conditioning, stained glass windows, built-in desk furniture, the Larkin Building was an early example of Frank Lloyd Wright’s marriage between form and function and his aversion to ornamentation. Mies van der Rohe, one of the few 20th Century architects often mentioned in the same breath as Wright, hailed the Larkin Building as a “masterpiece.” But an early FLW masterpiece wasn’t good enough for Buffalo – a decidedly un-great city situated on the shores of two Great lakes. In the years after WWII, the building fell into disrepair and became home to vagrants; in 1950 it was torn down and was replaced by a parking lot.
On Tuesday evening, the Sabres, this ragtag gang of streaking hooligans must too, be torn down; brick by brick, shot by shot and goal by goal. Whatever late season pride and momentum this squad brings to Verizon, it must be demolished and replaced only by the kind of soul crushing emptiness and sense of loss that that now haunts that parking lot at 680 Seneca Street. It is the Caps destiny to vanquish these pretenders who claim what is rightfully ours – a playoff spot.
“Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.” William Jennings Bryan (1899)
Two weeks ago, with detached amusement, we read about “What’s Wrong with Alex Ovechkin,” in the Washington Post. It took team owner Ted Leonsis two weeks to weigh in on that piece, but the Captain has been answering that question ever since the edition went to press – 10 points (9G, 1A) in his last eight games. He’s playing aggressive D and despite the occasional lapse in our own zone, is exhibiting “Vintage Ovi.” He logged 26:19 TOI against the Wild and looked like he could’ve handled more. It’s the captain’s responsibility to play the hardest, and Ovechkin is setting the right example for his teammates, especially now, when it counts the most. The tummy pats? Maybe he’s hungry for MOAR! Let him feast on buffalo Tuesday, devouring their spirit, souls and any sense of pride those poseurs bring with them to Verizon. And when he’s done with that – HE WANTS WINGS! BUFFALO WINGS!
Ovi’s Russian playmate, playboy, and playmaker, Alexander Semin, also continues his propensity to care, racking up 7 points (1G, 6A), in the eight games since the Bulldog edition of that Post story hit the streets. If Sasha only knew English well enough to understand what the jokers on the NBC (Nothing But Clowns) broadcast team were saying about him, perhaps he’d really turn the heat up. Maybe he does and he’s just being coy. Keep shooting Sasha, find the twine. Put some rubber on that creep Ryan Miller Tuesday night, and stay beautiful. (And consider a pay cut next season, please? Kuz is coming!!!).
“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.” William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar (Act I, Sc. II)
The Caps high-dollar talent, the stars, aren’t the only one who need to step up big time on Tuesday night. We’ve been heartened by recent play from those who doesn’t necessarily command the headlines – or the wrath and venom of those blithering idiots on NBC (Nattering Braying Carping): Chimdog, Kanoobs, Beags, Matty P., MoJo and Alzner. Missing from this list? Brooksie. Is it us, or has he been flat lately? Never mind the ill-timed fight with the Jets’ Jim Slater on Friday night, we don’t see much Laich ink on the score sheets lately, except for TOI. Maybe we’re looking in the wrong spots, but we tend to zero in on the G, A and P columns.
Braden Holtby. Say no moar. Except OMGBRADENTHOLTYWASAMAZINGAGAIN
As for Buffalo’s stars, thanks to Peter we can ding a few on their squad with actual hockey insight rather than just juvenile name-calling.
Ryan Miller is a great goalie, but his star is dimming. Every summer begs this question: is his career stifled by being in Buffalo? I doubt he even gets the starting nod in Sochi with Howard and Quick in the mix.
Amen, Brother! Sing it! Now Peter, savage them with some #fancystats:
Not a strong team on the puck– they sit back and rely on their D too much. 24/30 in possession (Fenwick) when the score is close. Caps should be able to get 30 shots against them.
“The willing, Destiny guides them; the unwilling, Destiny drags them” Seneca, Roman philosopher
Had things gone differently with Buffalo earlier in the season, Gabby might still be Caps coach. (Show of hands – who misses him? Jeez – So much for our sophisticated polling. We showed Santorum up big in Illinois, too). We’re not going to argue Bruce Boudreau’s departure here for the umpteenth time – whether he lost the room, bench, or his corner banquette at Applebees during the troubles, we blame Buffalo for his exit. This season has been so manic, with its occasionally dizzying highs and all too many terrifying lows – but it was probably the night of Saturday, November 26, that was the team’s nadir. If you haven’t repressed the memory by now, the Caps were basically playing my Rochester Amerks that night and were pasted 5-1. Enter Dale Hunter and all that conflama (confusion + drama) that followed, but I digress – because there’re more quotes on destiny from old dead white guys that I need to recycle. (And I get paid by the word).
“It is a mistake to look too far ahead. Only one link of the chain of destiny can be handled at a time.” Winston Churchill (1945)
Five games remain beyond Buffalo’s visit to Verizon, but to what degree do any of them matter? Who among us can even look past Tuesday night? Is it bad juju to look at the final weeks of the regular season before we throttle those gangsters? What if we jinx the delicate balance – do we tempt the fates by looking past Buffalo? Pffft! The hockey fans who buy into that jinx / anti-jinx chicanery, tomfoolery and shenanigoats are probably the same guys who watch “professional” wrestling ::cough Adam, Wysh, Vinny ::cough. They’re also the type that probably buys time-share condos too. Whatevs – Get it done, Caps. Close the deal. Break their backs and crush their spirits. By brutally savaging the Upstate swine, you’ll send a message to Boston, Montreal, Tampa, Florida and New York, “We’re back, b*tches – and we don’t like golf!”
“We need Hawaii Buffalo just as much and a good deal more than we did California Winnipeg . It is Manifest Destiny.” President William McKinley (1898)
There was no way we were going to let our 25th president off the hook so easily, but we’ll end it here on a positive. Bite us Buffalo. That’s about as positive that any kid from Rochester can ever be.
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