On a night of offensive explosions, the play of the day doesn’t even make the Sabres’ highlight reel. Try this one:
As Sabres fans we should address the legality of Kronwall’s hit. For some reason it seems that every time he lines a guy up he leaves his feet, and if the score ended up differently perhaps you would hear more people saying something about it. However, what happens after the hit is much, much more important, legal or not.
There was no retribution fight, there was no headhunting by Kaleta or any other Sabre. He took his lick, played out his shift, and recovered at the bench. The only major change was the tempo of the game, and that’s exactly what should happen when big hits are executed.
Of course the rabid hockey fan in you wants immediate revenge. I know I did. I wanted Kaleta to get someone back, hit them harder than Kronwall hit him, and maybe even take a penalty if it means revenge. It’s a moment of irrational retribution, and when you’re out on the ice that moment can take over. If anyone sitting at home or in the crowd feels it, you know for sure that Pat did as well.
But he did nothing, and in hindsight it was the most growth I’ve seen out of him this year. I’ve been one to criticize his passive nature, but so far he’s done just about everything right on the ice. Laying clean hits, not taking himself out of the play, drawing penalties and playing good defense; Kaleta’s been everywhere in the season’s first four games.
He didn’t respond by being physical right away, but one period later he follows up on a great rush by The Franchise Defenseman and answers on the scoreboard.
And that’s the kind of game you want to see from Patrick Kaleta. Every game. Night in and night out. It’s not a pipe dream because he has the ability to play that way. We’ve seen it in flashes here and there, but if this team really is going to get it together they need Kaleta doing that 70-80 times a year.
We’ve had countless debates about Kaleta’s utility over the years, but I think we can all agree that this is how he should be playing. Perhaps keeping his head up a bit more, but playing smart, physical hockey and contributing on the scoreboard when he can. He’s going to get his chance this year, with guys like Grier, Ellis, and Gaustad supporting him on a checking line they can do some real damage.
Four games is an incredibly small amount of time in the wider spectrum of an athlete’s career, but I think this could finally be an optimized Pat Kaleta. The ceiling for this kid is high, and it’s about time he starts climbing the walls.