It totally, totally sucks to come that close to a victory, only to have it snatched away in a stupid shootout, but I'm in a good mood so I'm willing to call this a moral victory. Why? Well, let's go over the reasons, shall we?
- The best team in the Eastern Conference only scored two goals against us, only one of them coming from the now legendary line (enter eye-roll here) of Heatley, Spezza, and Alfredsson.
- Despite taking way too many penalties - way too many - our penalty kill did a solid job, killing off every last one of them.
- The Sabres got a solid start from Jocelyn Thibault. Yes, he had some luck on his side - I don't think I've ever seen the Senators miss the net so many times - but he also came up with some big saves. Mark and I discussed whether or not the team relies too much on Ryan Miller when he's in net because they really looked like a different team through stretches of tonight's game. Mark said it's the Jim Kelly/Frank Reich effect - the Bills always played a little harder for Frank. I can't comment on the accuracy of that since I wasn't in Buffalo at the time, but I'll take his word for it. At any rate, the point is this: Guys, Ryan needs your help, too!
- We were in the game despite missing a fair number of bodies. Underachieving or no, Derek Roy, Maxim Afinogenov, and Tim Connolly are important parts of the team as it's currently built. And in addition to that, the defense played short-handed for most of the game with Jaroslav Spacek leaving with back spasms. Aside from the poor powerplay - seriously, it was awful - I would even say the Sabres carried the play for much of the game. I know it's annoying to hear, "If we play like that, most nights we're going to win," but tonight it's kind of true.
- Lindy, with a little assist from me, held Thomas Vanek out of the shootout at first despite two of our usual shooters (Afinogenov and Connolly) being out. (For the record, all previous mentions of Lindy reading my blog have been completely in jest, but I'm beginning to get suspicious...) But when Lindy did go to Vanek, with the game on the line, Vanek bucked up and scored. Go, Van, go! (Is there a team optometrist? Has anyone thought of checking Thomas's eyes? Maybe that could explain missing those can't-miss shots during regulation and overtime?)
- And perhaps most importantly, Paul Gaustad made Chris Neil bleed. The phone rang during the first period and we didn't answer it. (We don't answer the phone very much anyway but we definitely don't answer during a game.) During intermission Mark checked the voicemail and heard the following message from his 70-something mother: "GAUSTAD BLOODIED CHRIS NEIL! YEAAAAAH! GO, GAUSTAD!" Did I mention that I love Mark's family?
I will say this... While I do think Roy, Afinogenov, and Connolly are important (I know our PP hasn't scored much lately but somehow it looks even worse without Timmy), the guys who play hard and show some effectiveness should play. Clarke MacArthur should be in the line-up until he does something to deserve not being there. He was arguably our best forward tonight, I thought.
Also, I love Jochen Hecht - he's my first-half MVP and it's not even close in my book - but Lindy, really? Yo-Yo in a shootout? His thing is bouncing pucks off of goalie's backs and stuff like that. He can't carry the puck in on a breakaway and score. Too bad Spacek had to leave the game. I'm sure he would've nailed it!
Loved the round-table discussion about fighting in the NHL. I am truly shocked to learn to Rob Ray considers it important. Shocked, I tell you! And I loved this quote from Mike Robitaille: "Hockey is like a war without the killing." Deep, Robi. Very deep.