How important is a win for your backup goaltender? If you watched the scrum around Patrick Lalime last night, you’d say it is pretty important. Say it with me, everyone: Patrick Lalime was the difference last night.
It’s something that we all needed to see, especially for the team itself. Ryan Miller needs a reliable backup, and Darcy Regier has made it pretty clear that Lalime needs to be the guy. Lindy hasn’t given him much of a chance this year, but he threw him to the wolves last night with a matchup with a really good hockey team.
I mean, how good was Lalime? In the first period he saw 17 shots, with 15 of those coming in the first 10 minutes. He was everywhere, making cross-crease pad saves on the power play and smartly picking off redirected shots. He gave up some big rebounds, but he kept the Sabres in a game they didn’t deserve.
Let’s be honest, the Blackhawks play some good hockey. Their forecheck was ferocious, almost nonstop. They really attack the puck, and practically smell disorder from the other team. There were times that all three forwards were attacking the play while the Sabres had posession, and they never seemed to get caught in an odd man rush because of it. The first period was textbook hockey from Chicago, but Lalime kept the puck out of the net and gave them a chance.
Then in the second, things reversed a bit. In a game that had plenty of back and forth action, the Sabres dominated the second period and got two goals out of it. It was nice to see a little bit of Atlas from Thomas Vanek, who wouldn’t be denied in front despite a pair of defenseman trying to move him off the puck. We’ve been hoping Vanek “gets going” over the last few games, but it was nice to see him make the scoresheet for once.
The second goal was by far my favorite of the night. It doesn’t show up on the highlights and you won’t see it on the scoresheet, but that goal was all Tim Kennedy. Forget the vision he has to find MacArthur and the lucky bounce they got, twenty seconds before Tim makes that pass across he’s lying flat on his back.
We talk so much about Kennedy filling roles and making an impact on the team, but how tough is this kid? Despite being one of the smallest players on the team he’s always working, always trying to forecheck someone bigger or stronger than him. Last night he got knocked around, but instead of going off on a change he sticks around, makes a play out of the corner and sets up the game winning goal.
And then there’s Patrick Kane. Look, I have no problem with people booing Kane. No one needs a lecture on when to cheer and when to boo, and I’m not going to be the one to give it. In fact the more I thought about it, the more it makes sense. Kane as a villain works. He just signed a contract extension. He’s not playing for the Sabres anytime soon. No one cheers for the Leafs just because Lee Stempniak suits up for them, and I’m not going out and buying a Kane jersey anytime soon.
I don’t hate Patrick Kane, but he’s not scoring goals for this team anytime soon, and so when he hurts the Sabres and gets some boos I have no problem with it. He got the third star and didn’t want to hit the ice, and so he got a nice chorus of boos for it. You can excuse his “mistakes” and say he’s grown up and all that, but the honeymoon’s over and that makes for some good drama.
All of a sudden the Sabres do as well. A day off for Miller no longer means an automatic loss, and the superstar winger just may be heating up. They may not be from Buffalo, but at least they’re ours.