Saturday, October 17, 2009

It Took Them Long Enough

The title of this post can refer to a number of things:
  • The fact that it seemed to take the Sabres forever to really put the Islanders away tonight - I was honestly feeling scared until there was about a minute left in the third period. It's going to take sometime to get used to the idea that they can actually hold a lead this season.
  • The feeling of relief that came from beating a team they were supposed to beat. It took a season, but I hope they're getting the hang of not playing down to their competition. Good teams win on nights when they aren't their best because they still find some way to compensate - and tonight the Sabres played like a good team in that regard.
  • The notion that maybe the team is finally understanding that Ryan Miller needs to be defended when people try to push him around. It's nice to know that the lesson learned last season after the Gomez incident has gotten through to them - even if it did seem to take about 82 games too long to get the point last year.

Really, though, this post is talking about how long it took for Lindy and whoever else decides these things to give Paul Gaustad a letter. If there was any doubt about his ability to lead and step up when called upon, it should have disappeared tonight after he demolished Tim Jackman for bowling over Miller:

That was passion, pride, and a sense of responsibility to one's teammate on perfect display. It was everything I want in a leader, and everything this team needs on the ice that it lacked most games last season.

Yes, he's my favorite player, and I am so biased it's ridiculous when it comes to Goose. Still, I think it's obvious that what he did tonight is what a good leader does when his goalie - the heart and soul of his team - is interfered with.

I know most people want to talk about Tyler Myers or Jochen Hecht tonight, but, as it usually is, my attention has been on Goose. He may not have scored a goal, but he did something even more important to exorcise last season's demons from our minds. He saw a chance to stand up for his goalie and didn't back down. He showed character and heart - two things that are becoming more and more present in this group that had seemed to be missing them.

Tonight, he was a leader. He may have earned his "A" earlier, but tonight, he reminded us why it belongs on his chest.

No comments: