Separating The Champions From The Choke-Jobs

The NHL Closer is written by Greg Wyshynski, of FanHouse and The Fourth Period. He is also the author of Glow Pucks And 10-Cent Beer.

I realize that Buffalo accepts crushing disappointment as a societal norm, like paralyzing snowfall totals and permanent wing sauce stains. But last night's third-period collapse against Ottawa — a 6-3 "definition of a joke" whose box score will be etched on the Sabres' tombstone for the '07-08 season — made Syracuse's choke in the NIT against UMass seem like a quaint, acceptable folly by comparison.

Buffalo's wasn't the only choke-job last night, but the Sabres were the only suffocating ninnies with a goalie who "looked like a shell-shocked turtle without protection."

Ryan Miller might be handy with a "Yo Momma" joke, but he played like absolute dog shit while the Senators stormed back from a 3-1 deficit with five unanswered goals in the third period. His slow reaction to Daniel Alfredsson's game-tying goal made it appear he had become unstuck in time. He gave up the game-winning goal to Anton Volchenkov, a noted offensive juggernaut who scored his first regular-season goal since Feb. 27, 2007.

Looking at their remaining schedule,and five points out of the playoffs, the Sabres are probably done. Is there still hope? Sure, according to the awesomely titled blog Hitler Loves You but I Never Will and its equally awesomely titled post, "Ryan Miller, I would still show you my boobs": "...Beautiful demi-gods of Buffalo, for the sake of your fans, please spend less time on Chippewa drinking Goose and Tonics at the Bayou and a little more time concentrating on what you were brought to our sad little city to do."

Get This Dude Some Gatorade. Nashville shut out the Blue Jackets, 3-0, to move within two points of the final Campbell Conference playoff spot. Goalie Dan Ellis was already one of the better stories of the season before the game; his legend grew last night, as he nearly passed out from dehydration in the second period and dropped 13 pounds during the game. That was certainly the medical miracle of the night...well, until Jordin Tootoo gave birth to a baby Jason Chimera.

Separating The Champions From The Choke-Jobs

I Miss Ties, For Games Between Teams I Hate. Good things happen for others when Sean Avery does something stupid. He was out of position for Danny Briere's game-tying goal in the third period, and then his idiotic, blind cross-ice pass in overtime sparked a Flyers' breakout that led to Mike Richards's game-winner, 2-1. Richards called it a "garbage goal," which is an insult to at least 600 of Dave Andreychuk's career tallies. Oh, and it gets better for the Rangers: The Daily News reports that the "upper body injury" for Scott Gomez might actually be torn cartilage in his rib cage. Which I'm sure sounds worse than it is. Here's a photo from last night's game I borrowed from Fleshbot:

Separating The Champions From The Choke-Jobs

In Other Life-Altering Action Last Night. Calgary had a huge comeback win over Vancouver, 3-2; much like Elisha Cuthbert, the Canucks were Phaneuf'd. The Flames move into first place over the Wild, and one of these teams is going to seriously fuck up the awesome potential Dallas/Anaheim first-rounder. ... The Devils got hosed in their 2-0 loss to Pittsburgh (who clinched a playoff spot) last night, as a goal was disallowed even though Arron Asham was pushed into Marc-Andre Fleury by a Penguins defenseman. That sent Brent Sutter into a stick-pounding tirade against the refs, because he knows as we know that the Devils couldn't score right now if their opponents played blindfolded with an empty net. ... Viktor Kozlov is second all-time in shootout scoring, which comes in handy when the Capitals needed the extra point they earned in a 3-2 win in Carolina last night but has the historical significance of being second all-time on "Dance Dance Revolution." Sixty-one goals for Ovechkin, making him first in Washington's single-season scoring and in the hearts of Russian blondes on the Internet. ... I'm beginning to believe we are in the final stages of "Operation: Cock-Tease" thanks to Boston. And Florida's now five points off the pace in the East after losing to Tampa, 3-1. The Panthers held a contest to name the Stephen Weiss/Nathan Horton/David Booth line; the winner was "Sunrise Express," which sounds like either a musical involving roller skates or a juice that makes you shit.

Puck Headlines

* They're already writing "Will Scott Niedermayer return next season?" stories. Sheesh. [Welcome to The OC Register, Bitch]

* Coming to a Canadian television near you: "The Don Cherry Story." There's really only one actor for this role, and her name is Cate Blanchett. [The Star]

* Fun with NHL press releases. I got my start in PR, but I got tired of coming home with bullshit on my breath. [The FanHouse]

* Finally, on this busy morning, don't forget to cast your vote in the KB's "Best NHL Hit of All-Time" finals. And with that, the NHL Closer officially endorses this Scotty Stevens Stanley Cup Finals classic: