I totally admit it. I had pretty much given up. The Sabres weren't playing badly really but they only had a one goal lead. And then Henrik Tallinder got boarded and collapsed in a heap. (That gut-wrenching scream you heard around 7:48 or so was me.) And then the Flyers tied up the game. And I don't know, I was ready to throw in the towel. Andrej Sekera was killing penalties, Toni Lydman was playing on the powerplay. Our best defensive forward and best defensive d-man were out with injuries. I was ready to admit it just wasn't going to happen this year. I even had a post half-written in my head about how it might be a good thing in the long run for the team to miss the playoffs. And then it turned out that Sekera was playing pretty well. And Max came out of nowhere and started playing like he's capable of playing. And they won. The little rat bastards won and now I'm hopeful all over again. They're gonna be the death of me, these kids.
Don't get me wrong. I think if Jochen Hecht doesn't get back soon and if Hank is out for any extended time, we're pretty much screwed. At this point the team does not have a lot of games to fritter away. But it was good to see the boys take control of the game and push it out of Philly's reach.
According to Versus, the Sabres didn't really earn much of anything in this game. Every penalty was "sold" to the refs (which is not to say that the officiating was stellar because it was not and Philly got the worst of it) and every goal was because the Flyers screwed up. They didn't look great on any of the goals but they weren't responsible for the perfect tape-to-tape passes up the ice, the Sabres were.
And that never-ending interview with new NHLPA head Paul Kelly was awful. It was boring. He speaks in a monotone and he didn't say anything interesting. (Hockey players are "true human beings." As opposed to fake ones? Droids? Cylons?) And it took place over the play! I know it's a regular complaint that people make about Versus but good grief, guys, there's a game going on! Wrap up the interview or squeeze Boring Cliche Guy into the stops in play. Don't ignore Max going in on a breakaway. I doubt there are a ton of non-hockey fans tuning into a Tuesday night game on Versus but if they are, what are they supposed to think of a game that's so unimportant that the guys calling it can't be bothered to pay attention to it? Kelly also talked about the Sabres playing a blue-collar, physical style of hockey which proved that he hasn't seen much of the Sabres.
This is getting off-track but one of the unexpected side-effects of blogging has been how much more confident I am in my own opinion even when it doesn't line up with what other people are saying. I haven't really been following hockey for that long and often in the past if someone disagreed with me I automatically assumed they knew more than I did and were seeing something I was missing. One of the startling realizations I've had this season is that just because someone is in a position of power or is on a national broadcast, it doesn't make them right about everything. I know that is a super obvious thing but I don't know, it took a while to get through. Brian Engblom (just as an example) may be very knowledgeable about hockey and have insights to it that I don't since he is a former player, but he doesn't watch every game that every team plays. He can't! There's no reason for me to assume that he knows the Sabres better than me since I choose to torture myself by watching every single game they participate in. So when Keith Jones said tonight that Steve Bernier has the potential to be a fifty goal scorer I got really excited. And then I remembered that last week he called Brian Campbell one of the best open ice hitters in the NHL because he's seen two or three hits played over and over and realized that he might have no idea what he's talking about.
And speaking of opinions that don't often line up with others, I hated Dmitri Kalinin being scratched tonight. I hated it. It worked out okay in the end but I hated it. He and Nolan Pratt had become a very good pairing and then Campbell was traded and he switched partners. Now he's playing with someone who plays a totally different kind of game than Pratt and was maybe playing against competition that was a little tougher than he was accustomed too. To pick him out as the scratch seemed unnecessary to me. I will go to my grave arguing that Kalinin has too often been the scapegoat for poor play from the team during the past few years. He gets very little credit when he's playing well - even if he's one of the only ones playing well like during the first couple rounds of last year's playoffs - but the second the wheels come off everything comes down on his head. I would love for the Sabres to re-sign him. I think he's a solid defenseman who can chip in his fair amount on the offensive side, especially when paired with a partner he's comfortable with. But I also feel like it might be best for him to end up somewhere far away from the expectations Buffalo fans have that he'll never live up to. Maybe some fanbase out there can just be satisfied with Tri being the defenseman he is instead of fixating on how he's not the defenseman they wanted him to be.
I just read that Hank's definitely not playing tomorrow. Ugh. I'm unhappy. Who's gonna defend Ovechkin? And seriously, that wasn't boarding? And while I hate throwing around the word "classless" - a lot of behavior I've seemed deemed as classless is simply people pulling for their team/against the opposing team - a crowd booing a guy wobbling off the ice is pretty classless. What a bunch of douchebags. If you don't want to cheer, don't cheer. But don't be a douchebag and boo. Also, I'm still convinced that first goal was actually Hank's. I never saw it touch Pommers. (That wasn't boarding? Am I being too sensitive? Because I'm totally willing to admit I might be a little sensitve on this one.)