I’m not going to lie to you. I was very nervous about tonight’s game. Ottawa seems to always have our number, especially in the regular season the last two years, and they just made a pretty big trade.
Mike Commodore and Cory Stillman joining the Senators ranks is scary now, and they’ll get scarier come playoff time. Commodore can be a monster in his own end on the physical end and Stillman’s a clutch veteran with two rings.
But none of that mattered tonight. Ottawa looked flat from the get-go, Emery was pretty shaky and the Sabres got the break-out game from the guy they needed it from the most:
Vanek got the hat trick tonight, upping his season goal total to 20. He’s got six goals and seven points in his last five games. He’s gotten the game winner in the last two. His goals tonight were what you might call “Vintage Vanek” from last season. His first goal was a slap shot on his offwing, reminiscent of the “Eff you!” shot on DiPietro in this season’s opener. The other two came from where Vanek is best: in front of the net. He calmly used his reach to put his second goal in around Ray Emery with his back to the goalie almost the entire time and the third goal was scored on a nifty little deflection off a Tim Connolly shot. The last two goals came on the powerplay.
He’s been working hard all year, but it’s been a disappointing and frustrating season for him to say the least. However, he finally seems to be picking it up. If he lights it up down the stretch, all past sins may be forgotten.
The team currently sits in eighth place with a Bruins loss tonight. Vanek has the ability to carry this team over the next (ironically) 26 games. Ever since he’s gotten Derek Roy back on his line, he’s been a man on fire. And Roy hasn’t been half-bad either. The two are the future of this franchise and to see them coming together at the right time can help a fan breath a little easier.
The Sabres have collected 16 of a possible 18 points over the last nine games, dating back to the steal in Dallas. They’ve been streaky all year, but now is the perfect time to get hot.
Eight of the next ten games are on home ice at HSBC Arena, starting with tomorrow’s contest against Toronto. The last time the Sabres played the Leafs, they went into an early 3-0 hole and slowly climbed their way back into it until Jason Blake scored rally-killing goal with seven minutes to go. At that point, I was almost ready to call 2007-08 a lost season. But the recent stretch has proven me wrong…so far.
Hey, maybe it’s Vanek’s new haircut..