I’m not going to lie, I’m almost afraid to say it. I’ve been trying to hold off on this for some time now, but I can no longer deny the truth, no matter what the consequence: Tim Connolly is having a good season.
It’s only 14 games. It’s only 13 points. It’s only 17% of a very long season, but it’s not hard to argue that Tim Connolly has been the Sabres’ best player this year. Very quietly he’s averaged just under a point per game and played every time the Sabres take the ice. He’s had points in 9 of 14 games so far, and extended a four-game point streak in last night’s win against the Oilers.
For some reason, last night I couldn’t help but pay special attention to Tim Connolly. Try as I might, Connolly is still one of my favorite players every time he takes the ice. I know where Thomas Vanek is going to be, and I know how special he is; but I never quite know what Tim Connolly will do.
He wasn’t fantastic last night, but he was worth the time I spent watching him. The ease with which he seems to win faceoffs, the velocity on his quick shot from the point, the creativity he never seems to lose: these are the things that make Tim Connolly special. He had two points last night that may feel insignificant, but he was the one that seemed to do the hard work on the first two Buffalo goals.
That quick little backhand pass out in front while the defender is out of position. The pair of shots that get blocked and slide out to Montador in the (very) high slot. Maybe these are easy plays, but they are plays that only Connolly makes last night. The point is that Timmy has been there all year, and that’s a great sign for the team down the line.
There is a “however” floating around all of this, and it barely has to be said: there is still time for Tim Connolly to get hurt. Despite averaging just under a point per game last season, Connolly only played in 48 games. Connolly’s first season with Buffalo was a full 82 games, but since then his games played (80, 63, 2, 48, 48) has gone down considerably over the last four years.
Concussions. Stress fractures. Knee injuries. The last few years Tim Connolly has been a time bomb waiting to explode, the wick running out sooner rather than later. This year he’s off to a great start, but it’s hard not to wonder just when it all falls apart. So far he’s been well worth the $4 million Darcy handed him at the deadline, but when does the flame reach the powder?
Perhaps that’s why I’ve been so perceptive of Connolly’s good play. I want him to be useful, I want him to succeed. So far he has, and in a way it vindicates all that waiting, wishing, and praying. Tim Connolly is the real deal if he’s healthy. When he’s healthy. In a way I think part of me wants to justify the purchase, to solidify the memories of his skill for the next time he goes down.
If and when he goes down he won’t be worth that $4 million, but at least I’ll remember why we keep coming back for more.
A few other things about the game:
– The crowd was beyond dead for most of the game. Chalk it up to a Wednesday game against a non-conference opponent, but there were plenty of half-empty sections in the 300 level corners, including the always-full section 303. Bad news bears.
– If you want to know why the Sabres dominated possession most of the game, you can find your answer here. Gaustad went 13/16 (81%) on faceoffs for the night, including two consecutive faceoffs where an Oiler player had his stick snapped in half. When your undersized left winger is the low man on the totem pole on faceoffs at 43%, you’re in good shape.
– Also, is Pat Quinn a bit slow? Dustin Penner went 0-11 on the night in the circle and he’s taking pivotal faceoffs for you with the clock winding down? Was that supposed to go well for them?
– I know I hated the pairing early in the year, but Myers and Tallinder were very good together last night. Myers made a few mistakes that Hank was there to cover, and they seem to compliment each other well. I still love watching Rivet play with Myers for a bit when the lines get juggled, but I understand the pairing an why it works.
– Ryan Miller continues to be the Sabres’ most important element. The team still hasn’t shown it can win without him, and they are going to have to do that sooner or later. Still a lot of questions left to be answered, that’s for sure.
– I suppose the five minute power play puts this game into the “character win” category, but the defense was great on the kill. Nice box, good coverage, and no panic in any of the players. I’d even say the penalty kill on the two-man advantage was pretty strong, despite allowing Edmonton’s only goal.
– Weird game, weird night, but two points nonetheless. Calgary will be a lot of fun, but a completely different animal. There’s a level of firepower on the Flames that I don’t think the Sabres have seen yet this year. Edmonton sure didn’t have it, that’s for sure.