Thursday, February 21, 2008

Thomas Freakin' Vanek

We hadn't turned the TV off - we've only done that three times ever that I can remember - but we had moved out of the living room. Mark was in the kitchen making tonight's dinner, I was stretched across the bed in the dark. I turned the TV up before I left the room so that I could still hear so we weren't really trying to ignore the game so much as get some space from it. I don't know, maybe it would be easier to take the loss if we couldn't actually see it. Maybe it would be easier not seeing Tampa Bay huddle around Johan Holmqvist, yet another average goalie who looked like a champ against the Sabres. Maybe it would be easier not seeing the sad, confused Sabres coast off the ice. Maybe it would be easier not seeing postgame interviews with a frustrated Ryan Miller and a sad, distracted Brian Campbell.

When Toni Lydman put his shot on net and someone - at that point it was up in the air who - tipped it in net, I didn't cheer and neither did Mark. But things went silent in the kitchen for a long moment and my whole body stiffened up and my ears perked up and zeroed in on the game even more than they already were. It still seemed like a stretch - I mean, there was what, two something left in the game? I wasn't sure - but maybe...

When Vanek's second goal went in to tie the game, our place went ballistic. Screaming, whooping, high-fives. I hobbled back into the other room as quickly as I could maneuver my crutches and Mark joined me. We then had the obligatory "Should we stay where we were? Are we going to ruin the mojo?" conversation for a few seconds before we finally decided, screw it, when the Sabres win this game we want to see it.

I don't want to take any credit away from the players who got the assists here because there were some beautiful passes involved on the game-tying and game-winning goals but holy crow, Thomas Vanek. Thomas Vanek who has almost as many goals in the last ten or so games as he had in the first half of the season. Thomas Vanek who has nine of the Sabres' last fourteen goals. Thomas Vanek who stood up in the dressing room after a loss and said the Sabres would be in the playoffs and that's all that mattered. It had to be Thomas Vanek. It had to be Thomas Vanek who scored two goals in the third period and then finished off the natural hat-trick in overtime. It had to be Thomas Vanek, the player who much of Buffalo wanted to toss over the side of the Peace Bridge as recently as a couple of months ago, who put the Sabres on his back and carried them through a must-win game. How great is it to see this much-maligned kid slowly take steps forward in maturity and confidence? Seriously, unless you're a Tampa Bay fan (in which case, I salute you), games like tonight are part of why we watch sports, aren't they? If all you can see in last night's game is all the stuff that should have been different, well, I feel a little sorry for you.

Should the game have even been this close? No.

Did some important players look bad tonight? At times, absolutely.

Should the Sabres have won this game considering how they played for the first 40 minutes? Probably not.

But they won it anyway. And I'll take that.

Thomas Freakin' Vanek (Photo: Bill Wippert)


Anne said...

I did change the channel, I have to admit, but didn't turn the TV off, that would've been a little intense as I've only turned the TV off on them twice that I can recall in the last 3 years.

And, OMG that picture is screaming for thought bubbles. Hahahaha.

Pookie said...

Great post, Heather!

In the course of the IPB Questionnaire someone (I think it was Forechecker) commented that fan blogging creates an archive of the fan experience. This post reads like a little historical document. Someday, when Vanek is the superstar he looks like he'll turn into, you'll have this fantastic little slice of your history with him -- that night you didn't give up and neither did he. It gives me goosebumps!

Heather B. said...

In the course of the IPB Questionnaire someone (I think it was Forechecker) commented that fan blogging creates an archive of the fan experience.

Hey, I said that! (Forechecker might have too though.)

Mark B said...

I wonder if this will stop the assinine Miro Satan comparisons and the "Yep, I would have taken the draft picks" stupidity.

Eh, probably not - this is Buffalo after all.

The day the Sabres agreed to sign him to the offer sheet was the day I started to believe this young team could still win without those other guys that left us. And I still feel the same way!

Sam said...

I didn't desert this game, I had a feeling about this one. It just seemed like the Sabres weren't ready to quit- which is a new feeling for this year.

It really is great to see Vanek stepping it up. He was frustrating the hell out of me earlier this year because he wasn't doing what we all KNOW he can do.. but now he is. I don't knopw what's changed for him but whatever it is, he finally seems to have it together and that is awsome!

ANd no one made any mention of this, but how cool was it when Royzie JUMPED in the air so that Connolly's pass could get through to Vanek on the 3rd goal? That was neat. If he hadn't done that, the puck probably would have deflected off his skates and who knows what would have happened?

There were rough parts of the game, but the Sabres rallied when they had to and kept the pressure on and MADE IT HAPPEN. Big props to Spacek for that lunge to keep the puck in that lead to the winner. Brilliance!

Now... they just have to keep this good mojo rollin. :)


Pookie said...

Are you serious, Heather, you said that? That's so funny! I could have sworn it was Forechecker! All this time I thought he was so brilliant but all along it was you! @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@ (I feel terrible now.)

Anyway, that was a fantastic point that you made, then!

Courtney said...

I love the confused look on Spacek's face!!!
p.s. hope you're feeling better, I've been to overwhelmed @ home (kids)to be online much at all... I still check in periodically though...

Vanek's Hair said...

Two hat tricks in just over a week!!! Take that Vanek critics! OK, OK, my handle gives away that I am far from impartial on this subject. I had the good fortune of being at the game. What a game to be at, star player carrying a team. More games like that would increase the league's popularity.

In a related story, it was nice to see that a local sports writer (Hint: He still prefers to be called a nickname), even in discussing Vanek's recent success, could not stop himself from mentioning two former Sabres. He must write his columns with Sinead O'Connor's "Nothing Compares 2 U" to get himself into somber character, tear drops and all.

Heather B. said...

Vanek's Hair, I totally thought of you last night. I have been working under the assumption that you're a Vanek fan so I'm glad to hear that's correct.

I was all ready to give the sportswriter in question some credit for that column (which is pretty good overall) but I also hated that he threw in a reference to two former Sabres, especially since last I knew, the teams we're playing are actually called the Rangers and the Flyers not the you-know-whos. But hey, whatever. I'm trying to not get too worked up by the sportswriter in question anymore.

Vanek's Hair said...

I have what you may call a "man crush" on Vanek. Not ashamed to admit. It began when I watched him dominate the Frozen Four in Buffalo a few years back.

I agree that the overall tone of that particular sportswriter's column was good. I nearly fell over, then I saw those two names and thought, does he and all the other jilted ex-girl and boyfriends realize that all the columns, calls, complaints will not bring them back? They are gone. I enjoyed their time here, but they are gone. Deal with it.

Sorry, that subject still gets me a bit sore.

Kate said...

Heather this post is awesome!

I totally do that "leave the room, but don't turn off the game" thing too. When the Sabres are making me sad, I usually do some dishes.

elise said...

I remember the first time I saw Vanek was at a Gopher game and I remember thinking, "wow, that kid is really good."

Heather B. said...

Courtney, hi! I was wondering about you the other day when I was reading something about Teppo. Hope things are good with you. Glad to know you're still around :D

Kate, not even the Sabres could drive me to do dishes. But I am glad I'm not alone in occasionally leaving the room. For some reason I find listening to RJ from afar more comforting than actually seeing the game in those moments of high stress.

Vanek's Hair, no apologies necessary. I would like for all of Buffalo to get over you-know-who and you-know-who. No matter who takes the blame, they're not here and they're not coming back. Let's move on.

Elise, I have to admit, I'm a little jealous that I can't say, "I remember when I first saw Vanek way back..." I remember nothing, not even Rochester.

Oh, Sam! Even my Roy-Z loving self didn't notice that little jump so thank you so much for pointing it out! Yay, Roy-Z!

Sam said...

It really was awsome. I think anyone jumping on ice and landing on their feet is awsome anyway and it was so critical tothe play...

and Robi talked about it and broke the play down tonigt before the game. Woohoo for a little Royzie love! :)