I admit, I never really warmed up to Mike Grier when he was last in Buffalo. I understood his role on the team, I understood why he was important, but I just didn't care for him personally. I don't know why really. When I heard he had signed with the Sabres again, I assumed, like most people I think, that he wasn't getting offers from anyone else. Surely that meant he was old and washed up. I figured his presence would mostly be felt off the ice and I was mostly okay with that. I thought if he could keep everyone else on the team moving, he'd be worth what we're paying him.
Tonight was my first trip to HSBC of the season and you know, I was super impressed with Grier. I don't know how his game came across on TV, but in person I thought there was just so much to like. He's as slow as he ever was but he definitely uses what he has. He really is one hard-working guy and he's so steady. I get a little leery when the Sabres go into protect mode with a one goal lead, but I loved him out on the ice with a minute or so to go in the game. Somehow he was always there, breaking up a play, scooting the puck down the ice, and never looking that stressed about it at all. Just chugging away like it was the easiest thing in the world to be on the ice for the end of a close game.
I'm also willing to give him full credit for the Sabres staying in the game at all. We had about eleventy billion good scoring chances and couldn't bury any of them. When Phoenix scored in the third I thought, "Well, there goes that game. This is o-ver." Because last season that absolutely would have been the case. The Sabres would have either starting panicking and doing really, really stupid things with the puck in a desperate attempt to make something happen, completely unraveling in the process OR they would have checked out completely, mentally already on the flight to the next game. Either way a 1-0 deficit is suddenly a 3-0 deficit and we're all wondering how a team goes from a decent effort to a Timbit team in the span of a few minutes. (Side note: During the Timbits intermission thing tonight, Sabretooth tried to poke check one of the Timbits, inadvertently taking out the kid in the process. That's right, Sabretooth destroyed a five-year-old.)
But that is so not what happened tonight. Phoenix scored and somehow the Sabres stayed composed and kept chipping away. They didn't change what they were doing, they just stuck with it. And they ended up winning a hard fought one goal game. Seriously, how often have we seen that in the last couple of years? I'm telling you, it's the power of Mike Grier. He's not going to score a lot of goals and his contribution probably won't show up on the score sheet very much, but he's going to make a difference.
Brief programming note. I'm leaving tomorrow for a long weekend in Toronto so I probably won't see the game Saturday and definitely won't be blogging again until Monday or Tuesday. If I owe you anything like an email or say, a blog banner, you probably won't see that until Monday or Tuesday either. Sorry.