Funny thing. I zoned in and out of the Tampa Bay game. We weren't looking very good at all and the game was a bit of a snooze. As my buddy Joe pointed out, all you really needed to watch was the last minute or so of each period. Everything else was kind of a waste of time. But despite all that, when time was ticking down, I had a very distinct feeling that the Sabres were going to tie it up. They were starting to put on a lot of pressure and they were shooting the puck, but they were focused. They weren't losing their heads and skating around all wily nily like they have in the final moments of games in the last couple of seasons. I sat there and actually thought, "They're about to score." I... haven't done that in a while. As we all know, the team got off to a really good start last season so I've been trying to temper my emotions a bit. I told myself just a few days ago that they needed to play this kind of hockey through November. If we got to December 1, and they were still looking this good, then I'd get excited. But you know what? It's too late. I've totally bought into this team and tonight was just confirmation of that.
Even more importantly, tonight, watching the boys dogpile on Tyler Myers after his shootout-winning goal, I felt real affection for the team. I was laughing at Ryan Miller trying to get to Tyler, at Hank leaping onto the pile, at Tyler and Goose hitting the ice, at Harry Neale yelling, "Tiiiiimbeeeer!" and I was overcome with warm fuzzies. At one point last season I blogged about how I was cheering for the team out of loyalty but that I didn't really like them. I didn't feel bad for them when they lost. I felt bad for me. I don't feel happy for them when they won. I just felt relieved that they didn't lose again. This season has been different, and I really hope it stays that way because lord knows it's way more fun when you actually love the team you're cheering for.
But while we're talking about Tyler Myers' shootout goal, I do not understand why Lindy Ruff insists on using guys who are historically not very good at shootouts. I think Derek Roy's numbers are probably okayish - I know there was a string of games last year where I groaned upon seeing him skate to center ice only to be surprised when he scored - but I feel like Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville have never scored in a shootout ever. We've been doing this long enough now to realize that the shootout is a weird little skill. Being a great in-game offensive player doesn't equal being good in the shootout just like being a great in-game goalie doesn't equal being good in the shootout. If the d-men are the best at the shootout drills in practice, for the love of all that is good in this world, let them shoot in the games. Why wait until we're six shooters in and the opponent has used their best shooters? I spent the whole shootout yelling for a d-men (Hank and Tyler specifically). Hopefully Lindy reads this.