To read Part I:
We last left our hero, yours truly, with his trusty guide, her brother (the former Islander fan trumpet player) watching Game 4 of the Islander/Sabres series. A man donned in a Ranger jersey has sat in the seats, and bad vibes are back in the Coliseum.
"Leave it all on the ice"
Those words are exactly how the Isles play. They play their best. It's a back and forth affair. The Isles cycle and press on Ryan Miller, and then, at 6:24 in, Jason Blake gets the puck from Poti and scores.
The Ranger fan cheers along with Buffalo fans as Vanek and Drury get loose from their man and make the Isles pay with scores within 2 minutes of one another.
I can feel the bad vibes getting more palpable. The smoke must be still in my head. In my aisle seat, suddenly I notice someone next to me. It is no other than Hockeybuzz blogger, Garth
"When in god's gravy did you get here!" I exclaim. "I thought you were still north of the border."
Garth turns to me, wearing a Flutie Flakes t-shirt.
"I'm not really here, actually," he admits. "I'm just some hallucination. You really put yourself into a pickle this time, Gallof. Smoking Keith Richards father with Charles Wang? Has your debauchery know no bounds? And what's with the Hunter S. Thompson impersonation still? Are you going to go through the rest of the Islander playoffs like this?"
"Listen, kid," I point at him, my fingers actually going through Garth's nose, "I'm just going with the feeling and vibrations this hockey playoffs. God knows, with all the ups and downs, the only way to describe this wild ride is to reach into Hunter's bag of tricks..."
"Uh oh," Garth is staring at the ice...
I turn to watch Teppo Numminen plow Blake into the boards. The crowd holds a collected breath.
"It's those bad vibes," Garth says. "I don't know what you brought back down from Buffalo with you."
"Brought back? Us? Come on, you bastards probably with Lindy Ruff breathing down your neck with a knife between his teeth, are behind this!" I accuse.
Garth shakes his head negatively and shrugs his shoulders, fading away
"Wasn't us," he says.
Then Sillinger scores at 19:44 to even the score. The tension ceases and the crowd goes wild as the equalizer holds the hope in place. But at the end, another wacky one as someone gets a penalty with no time left. When the 2nd period starts, the culprit is Richard Park. Buffalo scores on the powerplay. And Garth's voice in my head now.
"Remember," he twitters, "I told everyone that special teams would be the difference of who wins and loses"
"Silence" I scream, as my guide and Lee look at me strangely. Some bewildered Buffalo fans edge over a step or two away as I plunge down the stairs, half falling, and go over to the security guy. His bored face suddenly brightens as he looks at me with recognition.
"Dude, you were right, that cigar did change my life" he says, showing me his shirt with a cuban flag. His teeth are littered with tobacco leaves and he smells like Fidel's bunghole.
"Good god, you are the fellow who let me into the team area last game. What the hell happened to you"
"You gave me what was left of that cuban cigar, telling me it would change my life. And, dude, it did. I left my wife and kids and moved into the back of a cigar shop yesterday. I'm going to become a famous cigar roller."
I stare at the guard's wild eyes. He is gone. Some can tame the beast. Some ride it. Some get eaten by it. This man was its hot lunch.
"I'm not going to waste my time arguing with a man who's lining up to be a hot lunch," I quote Richard Dreyfuss from Jaws and walk over to another guard.
I point back up to the Ranger fan telling that guard this he's an evil spirit and the dark forces are coming back. I try to convince them he needs to be removed before the worst can happen. I am shuffled off like some leper.
"Back to the back row," he dismisses with a hand gesture, "God damn nut"
2nd period continues. It goes back and forth again. Things remain the same into the 3rd period. Buffalo fans are happy and cheering. Islander fans are beginning to feel the pressure. The Ranger fan is helping the Buffalo fans cheer, "Go Buffalo". Some Long Island mook loses his cool, and we teeter mighty close to the edge. His fat belly, that the Islander orange jersey struggles to keep under it, jiggles as he shouts for the Ranger fan to step outside. Cheers and jeers aren't enough. This moron wants fisticuffs. He is restrained as security appears from all sides. Some security is actually in the crowd as regular fans. He sits next to the Ranger fan as others push the anger management refugee Isle fan back to his seat. One of the Buffalo fans actually stepped down to diffuse the situation, and once again, Isles fans are shown behavior modification from a wiser audience.
Buffalo fans maybe called arrogant, expecting too much, cup crazy or whatnot, but what is clear is that they have been the more mature and tamer crowd, just believing in their team. Buffalo, in my eyes, is not working on all cylinders to win a cup this year simply because I feel their defense is suspect, and that Miller is not on top of his game just yet. They are capable, but defense is what wins cups...or a hot goaltender carrying their team. Unless Miller takes this team with him, their flaws will come clearer during physical games with the Rangers or the Devils. Do they have a shot? Oh, most assuredly. This is a great team with a great coach. Just not sure it's their time just yet. But if not this year, next year it will be all Buffalo and Pittsburgh in the Eastern conference. The new NHL is taking over.
Isles press. Hard. Time is running out, and one of the great things they have shown this season is when the chips are down, they get desperate, and when they get desperate, they play their balls off. No Thrasheresque unraveling here. Isles fans take additional note: Watch how other teams fold and good teams still fight. Walk away with a smile to this season, despite flaws and free agents....this time fights. And they collapse upon Ryan Miller like Rosie O'Donnell on a donut.
Goal??? No goal???? The replay shows it go across, but the ref shaking it off. It goes to review. Toronto...the true evil empire. Bettman, for all the things he's done, there are all those things he hasn't. The NHL has been a constant bane of the Isles this season...from a verbal back and forth between Witt and, not to be confused with a Mensa candidate, Colin Campbell. Chris Simon's flagrant foul. I could go on and on. The NHL, who in it's infinite wisdom, took Comcast over ESPN's offer, and lost a 20 million viewership. Yes, the dark forces who see dollar signs, but not for every team.
No goal runs right through the crowds spine and soul, ignoring their rocking the coliseum with "Goal" chants. They have torn into their hearts once again. Some odds and ends do land on the ice...but not as much.
It hits the fan in our section. The Ranger fan is trying to start a cheer, but security wisely throws him out. But it's too late, the damage has been done. The final goal nails it for Buffalo. It's over. The Islander fan mook actually has the temerity to try to start a fight with OTHER ISLANDER fans who sat with the Ranger jersey guy. Brilliance knows no bounds, especially on LI. Couple of a bad apples spoiling it for others. The game ends with chaos in our section, another mook showing his tattoos and declaring that the other Islanders should meet him outside. Suddenly, we spy Sparky, the Islander mascot, trying to extricate himself from the crowd before something breaks loose.
Lee turns to me, tears in his eyes.
"That BASTARD stole my job!" he shouts, and jumps Sparky. He and the furry costumed mascot go tumbling down the stairs into the throng.
"Don't blame me for this one," I give my guide an accusing glare. Suddenly, next to me, the door unlocks. Garth Snow peers out, motioning me inside. I leave my guide to her sibling who is ontop of Sparky, trying to choke him to death.
"We need you," says Snow conspiratorially.
I follow him all the way down the rabbit hole until I get into a small room with video equipment. They are going to show this reviewed non-goal to the press, but show me first. It looks pretty sketchy to me, but what do I know. I'm still blazed from earlier.
"We are showing you first because we have a mission for you," says Snow. "You need to go in and find out what happened."
"I'm your man!" I declare.
Using the video equipment, a hologram of the main NHL offices comes up. Snow points out it's weak points. There is too much security, so I need to run trough some trench to get to the thermal exhaust port to the NHL office. It should lead me right into the main center, the NHL reactor core.
Snow hands me round trip tickets to Toronto.
"Good Luck and god speed," says Sport's Illustrated Executive of the Year.
To be continued . . .
To read Part I:
To read the infamous Fear and Loathing in Long Island:
To read Reality Dysfunction: