I was supposed to be at that game! Jean-Pierre Dumont! The debut of Big Bear! In which he scored two goals and had one assist! Fights! Scraps! Dmitri Kalinin roughing people up! Four goalies! All getting scored on! Andrew Peters scoring a goal! I repeat, Andrew Peters scoring a goal! I can't believe I missed this game!
Okay, let me come back down to earth a little. The biggest knock on Steve Bernier that I've come across when peeking in on San Jose boards and blogs and talking to the few Sharks fans I know is that he's very inconsistent. He'll play the way he did last night for a few games and then go invisible for a while and then suddenly start playing well again. But a lot of people also thought that Ron Wilson was not really a very good coach for him, punishing him at the slightest sign of a drop in play even though that seemed to affect him even worse. I noticed that during both his pregame and postgame interviews (and what an adorable interview he is), Bernier said the word "confidence" a lot, giving the impression that that's been a problem for him in the past, something that he's maybe a little worried about. So I'm optimistic. He's so young - he's younger than most of our babies - so maybe the change of scenery and being in a more open system will help. It definitely sounds like Lindy Ruff will be good for him because if there's one thing Lindy has shown this year it's that he can coach young players. Maybe he'll be able to get Bernier through those rough spots better than Wilson did, protecting him and his confidence a little.
You know what though? I don't even care if Bernier scores as long as he plays as hard as he did last night. I mean, I was really into him scoring but this is the moment I really fell in love with him:
And it was contagious! Sabres were sticking up for each other all over the ice, in a way I've never seen from this particular group. There's no denying that mixing in guys like Bernier, Nolan Pratt, and Patrick Kaleta has changed the team attitude a little. Interesting to see the team slowly get a little bigger and a little tougher. Tim Connolly was flying into scrums! Dmitri Kalinin was jumping on people's backs! There was an adorable shot of Kalinin and Kaleta fist-bumping in the penalty box. That cracked us up at our house because those are not the two guys you expect to see celebrating a dust-up while sitting side-by-side in the box. (Anyone who has a screencap of that is my hero.)
I've heard a little criticism of the Sabres for almost giving up a three goal lead but I'll give them some slack there. The first goal was clearly helped along by the goalie lying in a heap on the ice. (I'm glad he's okay of course but that slow-motion replay of Ryan Miller faaaalllling over was hilarious.) The next two were on T-Bo and even one of them was just a beautiful shot (Arnott's, I think). When Ryan wasn't bleeding from the face he looked much better than he's looked during the last few games. And unlike against Philly, they never quite let go of the game. They put the foot back down on the pedal and took charge.
So while it's one game, it was a good one. But man, am I glad we don't have to face the Predators all the time. What a bunch of jackholes! Does Scott Nichol ever punch someone from the front? JP Dumont is too good for them!
And speaking of JP, I'm glad he was cheered last night. Why am I glad he got cheered when I was perfectly fine with Chris Drury and Daniel Briere being booed? Because I like him more. While I would argue that the circumstances of his departure were different than Drury and Briere's, it really is that simple. I liked him and I miss having him around. Of all the players we've lost over the last couple of years, the only one I miss more than JP is Jay McKee. He's the reason I bought tickets to last night's game in the first place.
I can't really think of a way to naturally work this into the rest of the game recap, but I do want to give a Top Shelf glove-tap to Henrik Tallinder for making the decision to wear a neck piece. They mentioned it on Versus but since they're sometimes stupid, I didn't entirely believe it. But Rob Ray talked about it on the broadcast last night (although he kept referring to Hank's underwear which made me giggle) so now I know it's correct and seriously, I think he should be applauded. Every single guy at the arena that day talked about how devastating and frightening it was but only one guy has actually done anything to guard against it? (On our side. I don't know what's going on in Florida.) I know it's only happened a couple of times in the last twenty years, but I don't think I'd take the chance - and I know I wouldn't want my husband taking the chance. So good for you, Hank. Just another reason you're my favorite player.