I love Henrik Tallinder. I know, that's not a newsflash, right? He's a combination of all the things I love in a professional athlete. (Minus the sex scandal perhaps.) He's talented (when playing well), he's appealing to watch (beautiful skater), he comes across as very pleasant and likable in interviews, he plays an underrated style and position.
Despite that unabashed affection, however, I feel like I've always been able to step outside myself and look at Hank at least somewhat rationally. I understand why a lot of fans are down on him. I understand why the Sabres allegedly looked at trading him in the offseason and then again at the draft. I would understand if they traded him before the season is over, and if they don't, I'll understand when they don't re-sign him. I get it. He has definitely not turned into the defenseman we all thought he would be. I do think Hank has turned into a little bit of a whipping boy for everything that ails us, but I get it.
Which is why I was so confused after Saturday's game. I've said before that I really want Hank to have a good season, and after the Montreal game, I was pretty happy with his play. Certainly he wasn't the best Buffalo defenseman on the ice, but he wasn't the worst either. (For the record, I thought Andrej Sekera was.) He didn't have any major blow-ups, he wasn't on the ice for either of Montreal's goals (such as they were), and he showed pretty good chemistry with Tyler Myers. I don't need him to play with Toni Lydman all the time, but I think there's a pretty good reason they almost always end up together. In the past they've both struggled to find any chemistry with anyone else, at least quickly. Heck, Hank was even jumping in offensively and he had a shot on goal. So yeah, I was feeling happy.
And then I started reading comments on other blogs and message boards. Now I usually try not to read too much until after I've done any blogging I'm planning on doing, just so my opinion doesn't get too muddied, but it was the first game, I was excited to hear what everyone was talking about, I ended up reading places I haven't even gone in a couple of years. Almost every place I wandered to, Hank was getting hammered. Not lightly criticized, HAMMERED. Destroyed. Decimiated. Better off dead type comments.
I have no idea what to make of this. I don't know if my Hank goggles need adjusted or if everyone else's does. I don't know if my fandom is making me see less than everyone else or if Hank has been so firmly established in Can't Do Anything Right Ever territory for so many people that they're seeing more than is there. I don't know. Maybe the truth lies somewhere in the middle?
I don't know what my point is other than this. I'm not sure I'm going to believe anything you tell me about Hank's play this season. It's too much. Whipping boy. But I guess maybe you shouldn't believe anything I say about him etiher. If you ever did. Heh.