It was a stellar job by all involved. There was an expectation coming into Friday night's matchup between the Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers, and all parties lived up to the billing. This included the players, the referees and even the announcers. Tuning into the contest by way of the MSG-Buffalo feed on Game Center Live, I was welcomed into the broadcast by this gem:
Originally selected by the Atlanta Flames...
The Atlanta Flames? Like from Atlanta?
The broadcaster was talking about a person playing on Friday night. In 2014. The Flames haven't played as the home team in Atlanta since 1980. The Panthers weren't even born yet. Hell, most of the players playing in the game probably weren't born yet.
'Oh boy', I thought, 'This is gonna be awesome'.
And it was. The Panthers and Sabres are truly awesome. Just not at being awesome. Because they are both bad. Awesomely bad.
Why am I doing this?
I'd be lying if I said this game was any fun, because it wasn't. These teams are legitimately awful -- at least they were on Friday night -- and it was laborious to watch them fumble the puck and miss outlet passes and struggle to organize breakout attempts and do other things that are hockey buzzwords to describe system play.
To make this real simple: System play did not look like a thing in Buffalo on Friday night.
If you showed up in Buffalo having never watched hockey before, you would not think that a systemic approach to playing the game existed. Instead, you would assume chaos and confusion reigned supreme in this strange game played on ice with a little disc.
There were several times that I asked myself why.
Why do I deserve this? Why am I doing this?
I still don't know the answer to those questions. Honestly, it's probably because I have some deep psychological issue that I've been suppressing for years.
Yeah, I should probably look into it.
Yeah, it's probably going to impact my future relationships.
Yeah, It's probably why I was watching this game on a Friday night instead of hanging out with my friends.
The Referees were bad
Now, that I'm thinking back on it, the referees were mainly awful to the Sabres. Marcus Foligno got called for a high stick, which he didn't do it. In fact, it was actually a Panthers player who hit a Panthers player in the face with a stick and somehow the Panthers ended up with a power play.
Don't worry, though.
Putting the Panthers on the power play serves them no real benefit. That is, unless you think missed passes and beefed shot attempts qualify as beneficial actions (looking at you Aleksander Barkov).
There was also an instance when Andrej Meszaros clearly kept a puck in the zone, but the officials called it offsides.
(That's how interesting this game was. I was moved by a blown offsides call. Like, I stopped doing what I was doing to make a note of a blown offsides call.)
One moment that actually bothered me involved Zemgus Girgensons getting slammed into the wall while chasing down an icing in the final seconds of play. The officials were quick to call hybrid icing throughout the night and they let this one go. I understand why they let it go; the Sabres are down by one in the final seconds with an opportunity for one last play. They had to let it go.
But Girgensons could have gotten really hurt and I would have hated to see that.
The players were bad
This applied across the board.
Willie Mitchell looks really old, which is ironic when considering he's been pegged as the leader of such a young group. I'm sure he serves well as a motivational voice, but his play should not be used as an example. Unfortunately, it kinda looks like it is.
Girgensons took an awful penalty when Scottie Upshall ran into Sabres goaltender Jhonas Enroth behind the net. Upshall was getting two for goaltender interference then Girgensons came in and dropped the gloves in an attempt to protect Enroth's honor. Upshall never dropped them and Girgensons just kinda stood there with no gloves on.
Instead of a power play, the refs gave both players minor penalties. Good job, Zemgus. Maybe next time, push the guy around a bit and goad him into a fight instead of just assuming he'll drop the gloves.
There were so many bad turnovers that I'm not even gonna waste your time mentioning them. There were a lot and they looked bad (Marcus Foligno).
I wanna say the goalies looked alright, but the potential of anyone actually scoring a goal makes me skeptical that they performed well enough to mention.
The goal was awful
This was probably the worst part of this god forsaken game.
An ugly goal, scored three minutes into the second period.
But really, that's how this game needed to be decided.
No drama, no excitement. Just an innocuous bit of puck luck.
The torture is complete and it was comprehensive.