Ah, the comfort of the expected. Heading into the game you knew all the factors against the Sabres; the short rest, injury troubles, the likelihood of starting the backup goalie. Throw in the Sabres’ record on Saturday nights and you were looking at a good bet for our first loss of the year.
It didn’t really feel that way though, did it? Sure, the Sabres “lost” in the skills challenge, but what we saw was a team overcome its flat start and mount a comeback, as well as a pretty strong performance by a backup goaltender. When you consider how badly the Thrashers were outplaying Buffalo in the first period, it actually becomes a pretty impressive game, and a point that may turn out to be big in a few months.
Sure, you could say the Sabres should have won a game against a bad opponent. That’s an argument I can’t refute, but with all of the above mentioned, a point is a point. I always hate when pundits say the games “matter most” in February and March because they are closer to the season’s end. Points always matter, and when it’s April and the Sabres are off the pace a few points I always look back to games much earlier in the season as missed chances.
Tonight could have been one of those chances. Instead, it’s a point. Sure, we are an Atlas shot wide and a Lalime five hole away from two points, but how much more can you ask for from those two guys? Lalime was shelled in the first and Buffalo was constantly shorthanded but he stood strong. Kovalchuk and Little are the major scorers for Atlanta, and those guys ended up on the score sheet. After 19 shots in the first, the Sabres were lucky they were the only two on it.
And what else can you say about Atlas Vanek? Was there even a doubt in your mind that he was going to make some noise tonight? I mean, I keep saying over and over that he can’t keep this up, but, he can’t keep this up, can he? Shootouts and breakaways are his most notable weakness, but I’d take another 77 games worth of this Thomas Vanek any season. Is he worth $8 million this year? Hell and yes.
I think after a week like the Sabres had you have to take the positives out of this game and just hope they come back strong on Tuesday. We learned that Patrick Lalime is a reliable backup goaltender, and I don’t have to swallow my tongue when he gets the nod in net. We also learned that there isn’t much quit in this team, even down two on the road on short rest. Those are good signs, and I’ll take nine points five games into the season and run with it.
Oh, and Slava Kozlov blows.