Friday, October 10, 2008

Now That's What I Call a Statement Game

Hey guys, it's group hug time!

Final Score: Sabres 2, Canadiens 1 SO

I swear, if this pace keeps up, I'll be dead of a heart attack by November, but at least I'll die happy.

It's amazing how much one game can do to erase the past, the nagging fear that this season would be nothing more than the last. There were so many things that needed to happen for this team to appear to rise above the past season, and, tonight, they seemed to do everything that we asked of them and that they asked of themselves:

They didn't let an early goal take the momentum away from them. They bounced back quickly and passionately, something which speaks to the growing maturity of the guys and the calming leadership of Teppo and Rivet.

Thomas Vanek looked like the Thomas Vanek from the last half of 2007-2008. His goal was a thing of pure beauty and smart playmaking. It was nice to see him take the shot instead of looking for the pass. His celebration into the boards proved just how much starting strong means to him; you could almost see the monkey being ripped off of his back as the smile grew on his face.

The PK unit stopped a deadly powerplay unit. Sticks were in passing lanes and players seemed hungry for the puck, which was missing against the Canadiens for much of the last season.

They showed that they wouldn't be pushed around. Danny Paille made some amazing checks, especially his first one. Pat Kaleta was on the warpath as usual. Criag Rivet was yanking people out of the Buffalo crease. They were drawing penalties like crazy and making a strong team lose their cool without abandoning their own.

We won a close, defensive struggle. The entire team bought into the newly installed importance of playing well in the defensive zone, and that was evident in some very nice backchecking and the limiting of a very good offensive team to under 30 shots on goal.

Ryan Miller looked focused and ready to stop everything in sight. He truly deserved the first star in the game for all the times he kept us in the game with a quick glove or by not allowing rebounds. I've said it on numerous occasions, and I'll say it again, he is just going to keep getting better, last year was an anomaly because of all of the personal tragedy in his life.

We won in the shootout! Shootouts are all about confidence, which I hope this gives all of them. Our shooters did their homework, and Miller looked like he was back in top form. Maybe I can stop counting these as automatic losses now.

What is most important to me, though, is the heart and fire these boys showed. Whether it was in Vanek's ecstatic celebration, Paille's physicality, their emotion as they went to hug Miller, or their smiles in the lockerroom, you could almost feel their passion for winning and see the heart on their blue and gold sleeves. This desire to get a "W" no matter what made me feel proud to be a Sabres fan tonight.

Of course there were problems: Connolly has a broken spine (a fractured vertebrae to be exact) and the powerplay looked powerless just to name two. However, this win was a testament to both the hard work of the team and the coaches who preached and practiced a gritty, defensively responsible approach.

In closing, after every game, I want to name my Unsung Hero of the Night. Tonight, that title goes to Toni Lydman. Without him, the game never would have gone to a shootout. His quick thinking to get the puck out of the crease preserved the tie and, ultimately, the game.

Congrats, Toni; I know it's the accolade you've always wanted.


Shelby Rose said...

I wish it was Monday already, guh. I'm so excited for their next game after that win last night!

Everyone played so well tonight...the three stars were well deserved, but I think any of the boys could've gotten a star. I give them all stars.

I said it in my own blog, but I have this feeling that this season is going to be amazing. They started it off right, that's for sure.

Katie said...

I'm so excited for their next game after that win last night!

That's the great thing about winning; the next game can't come fast enough!

I have to admit, Shelby, I, too, have a feeling that this season is going to be one heck of a ride. I can only hope that we'll both be right!