Friday, January 15, 2010

Buffalo Sabres 2 at Atlanta Thrashers 1 (OT) - January 14, 2010

After over 20 hours on the road, I had finally arrived at my destination: Philips Arena in downtown Atlanta, home of the NHL's Atlanta Thrashers and the NBA's Atlanta Hawks. Tonight had the Thrashers hosting the Buffalo Sabres in a 7:00 start.

I got to the game about 30 minutes before face off so didn't have much time to tour the facility, but I did like that it was directly above the MARTA station. The main entrance is actually above the lower concourse which gives a unique view on the place. All 30 NHL and NBA teams are represented by banners hanging along the spacious concourse.

The Thrashers have a special on Thursdays where you can get a seat in the 3rd deck at the goal line for only $15. I got a seat in the first row in section 314, which is where I like to sit. It's a great deal, but the problem is that you have to endure the Thrashers' hideous 3rd jerseys. I mean, this is the best you can do? I know the 3rd jerseys were introduced to suck fans into spending more money on souvenirs, but Atlanta's attempt is so clearly cynical - suffice to say that I saw no fans wearing this gawdawful design. Doubtless a new 3rd jersey will be released in the near future to yet again try to separate fans from their hard-earned dollars.

After entering the arena, I went down to watch the Sabres warming up. All fans are allowed into the lower bowl during warmups, which is something that all rinks should do. It's a great chance for young fans to get close to their idols, and a couple of Sabres were happy to throw pucks over the glass to little kids waiting expectantly.

Tyler Myers, the 6'8? rookie defenseman who is in the running for the Calder, looks like the real deal. He's the NHL's 2nd tallest player and a key reason why the Sabres are near the top of the league this season.

Ryan Miller was typically solid, even in practice. As the starting goalie for the US Olympic team, Miller is my biggest fear next month in Vancouver. He leads the league in GAA and save percentage and seems to be technically almost impossible to beat.

Kudos to Buffalo fans who were out in force. The same cannot be said about the Thrashers faithful. I'd say the building was half-full at best (announced attendance was 11,313) and really wonder why the NHL persists in maintaining these franchises which are not succeeding. The club zone and upper end zones were practically empty. Even the $15 sections were mostly empty. When wandering around the second-level concourse, most of the concession stands were closed. It's really a bit depressing.

I don't want to recap the game, you can read about it here. The winning goal was quite nice though, with Tim Connolly doing a great misdirect on the pass to Derek Roy who one-timed a slapshot past Ondrej Pavalec. Here are some pictures from the game:

Tim Kennedy watches the puck sail by Pavalec

Toni Lydman winds up from the point - this shot went wide but ended up on Patrick Kaleta's stick, and he potted the game's first goal

Pavalec dives to smother the puck in overtime

The Sabres celebrate the win

The final score

After watching this game, it's obvious that the Sabres are a solid defensive club that gives up few scoring chances. Miller was excellent, but it seemed to me that Atlanta couldn't generate much in terms of consistent pressure. Only the Devils have given up fewer goals than the Sabres, and they are backstopped by Canadian goalie Martin Brodeur. We'll see what happens in the Olympics as these two may not have the defensive support they are used to.

The game itself featured 16 penalties as both refs called it tight. Subsequently, there wasn't much flow. Each team went 1/7 on the power play (Roy's OT marker was scored with the man advantage). Overall, this was not a bad game, but not as exciting or feverish as some of the contests I've watched on Center Ice over the past two months.

Having said that, I think there is no better feeling than a long journey that ends with a sporting event. I always try to see something the day I arrive, as it helps cure the jet lag. It is amazing to me that on Thursday morning I can watch the Canucks in Minnesota while sitting at home in Japan, and then on Thursday night, see a live NHL game in Atlanta. Twenty hours on the road may sound like a lot, but when you think about it, it's not much to get halfway around the world.

Great Promotion

A final note on the promotion held between the second and third period. Known as the Steak, Rack and Roll race and sponsored by Applebee's, it features 3 contestants dressed up as a sirloin steak, a rack of ribs, and a chicken fajita roll or something like that. In each game-day program there's a card that indicates that if steak wins, you get a free steak with the purchase of another entree at any Atlanta-area Applebee's.

The contestants then have to run two laps around the rink jumping over obstacles and avoiding a strategically-placed sumo wrestler and the Thrashers mascot. What was fun about this was that they were encouraged to run into and generally pummel each other while racing around the ice. There were more hits in this promotion than in the entire hockey game! It is certainly a good laugh to see a sirloin steak take a run at a chicken fajita roll and drive him into the boards. The contestants must be well padded because I was sure there would be injuries, but it was all in good fun. And of course, steak won so free steak for everybody! Except you have to go to Applebee's.

I was too enthralled to remember to take pictures, but I'm going to another game next week and will remedy the situation then.

Next Up

Tonight the Phoenix Suns are in town to take on the Hawks. The game is on ESPN and the start time has been moved to 8:00. It should be a great game as both teams are well-above .500 and play exciting basketball. As usual, check back for more on that game.



1 comment:

  1. Thanks for updates, Sean!

    I remember Thrasher's games being enjoyable when I went there. It's nice to know they continue the effort.