The seats were slightly different, but it was good to be back.
Thursday’s game versus Phoenix wasn’t a spectacular showing against a weak opponent. In fact, it’s hard to know just how strong or weak anyone is at this point. Just two games is such a small sample size, so we really don’t know much about any team, let alone the Sabres.
And maybe that’s why the crowd was so dead. There was a level of disinterest on Thursday that was hard to place, but maybe everyone really is in “wait and see” mode just like I am. Sure, let’s see how the lines shake out. Sure, let’s watch what Tyler Myers can do. Sure, we need to see how Miller holds up, but win or lose, we’ve only seen just over 120 minutes of hockey from this Sabres team.
What we did see on Thursday was important. The power play coming through when it really counts, with Vanek getting the late goal to secure the win. We saw a true third line dominate the Coyotes, with Gaustad/Hecht/Grier making a ton of noise in the offensive zone. We don’t need goals out of that line, but what they did on Thursday was textbook third line play. Good to see.
(Sidenote on Gaustad: This is his big chance to make an impact with the letter. We’ll have a post on that in a few days, but he’s doing a good job so far.)
The big story coming out of this game is Kaleta’s hit on Prucha, which completely changed the complexion of the game. Phoenix was too busy running after Pat to get things together for most of the night, and despite the power play issues, it really made a huge difference in the game.
Still, it was just nice to see Patty lay a clean hit and answer the bell when Handzel goes after him. That’s the kind of work we need Kaleta doing night in and night out. I mean, listen to the audio from that Kaleta hit: he’s not sneaking up on anyone anymore. Teams know what Kaleta is all about, and they are going to be more prepared than ever. It’s a tough job for sure, but Thursday showed that he looks up to the task.
It was a good win, but I still have my concerns. However I will save those until the sample size becomes a bit bigger. Nashville will be an interesting game, and we will reassess before Detroit comes to town.
Still… good to be back.