There are two sides to every story. That’s what you learn pretty quickly watching sports, and the examples are numerous. For every call is a non-call, for every save is a missed goal, and on and on. The point is that if you were watching tonight, I’m sure whatever you saw for your team another fan saw from a completely different angle.
For example, did the Penguins “let” the Sabres win this game, or did the Sabres “come back” to win? Or what about the first two Penguins goals? Was that a case of Malkin making great plays or did he take advantage of bad defense? Was Sabourin soft or did the Sabres crash the net like good teams do? Was Vanek having an awful game or was he working hard, too?
Of course the answer to all of those is “both”, but that’s just too easy. One thing I know is this: you are going to go elsewhere and read that the Sabres didn’t deserve this game, that they are a bad team that got lucky, and that they shouldn’t even be in the same league as the Penguins. Here’s what I’m telling you right now: don’t believe a word of it.
The Sabres absolutely deserved to win tonight, and I don’t care what anyone else saw. For the first time in weeks they put forth an effort that made me proud, and exactly the kind of road game that deserves two points. Without some major players this team played a tough, physical style and great defense down the stretch to avoid any comebacks.
This is what it’s about right here. Thomas Vanek flying back to break up a scoring chance. After two penalties and difficulties on the offensive end, Vanek made up for it all by playing his heart out on every shift. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’ll take a hard working win over superstars any day of the week. That’s what the Sabres put forth tonight, and that’s why there’s suddenly a lot to like about this hockey team.
The effort wasn’t perfect, of course, but they overcame quite a bit to even get it back to 3-3. I’ll save my thoughts on officials for later, but there were some issues with a lot of what I saw. Still, the penalty kill did an excellent job and Miller showed up when he had to. After all that was made of Miller and Ruff’s difference of opinion, Ryan certainly has stepped up his game.
And then there’s that fourth goal. I’ve heard a lot of people say Vanek is simply a garbage goal scorer, but I will defend him to the death on that front. How many goals have you seen Malkin or Crosby score from the doorstep throughout their careers? The uncanny ability of a player to be in the right place at the right time is a big part of that mythical “goal scorer’s touch” people love to talk about. Vanek scores “garbage” goals because he knows where to go. It’s a strength, and any superstar has the ability to do exactly what Vanek did tonight. It doesn’t make him a superstar, but it gives Atlas another game winner, and right now that’s all that matters to any of us.
Tonight was a strong win against a normally strong team. This wasn’t a flashy comeback like we’re used to seeing from this team, it was a hard fought, hard working, and well deserved three goals against a team they had to beat. Everything from Sekera making plays on the boards, Goose getting to that extra faceoff, and even Gerbe giving Sid an extra jab along the wall made the difference tonight.
This was a team effort, and tonight this team got the inches they needed.