A View From the Roost: Boo Birds

by Ryan

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.

Blackhawks Sabres Hockey

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.

Blackhawks Kane Hockey

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.

5 Comments

  1. NoUseForANickname

    As a team, the Sabres have Lalime to win games on his own all year (and arguably the year before too). Of all the games I’ve watched him play, he was on his own out there.

  2. Brad

    No shock here. I’m no Lalime fan, per se, but I’m a fan of goaltending in general. So, I have to say, Lalime is capable of tending goal in the NHL (unlike Thibault). The difference is skills – not win/loss record. Thibault was bad. Lalime is not. I lost a ton of respect for the Buffalo hockey media over the last few weeks since they’ve been advocating for Lalime to be traded and for Regier to pick up a “better” back up goalie. I understood it last season when Miller got hurt. But this season it started afted Lalime played his first game. One game and you want the guy traded? First of all, no other fan base I’ve ever heard of has this type of obsessive focus on the backup goalie. Second of all, Lalime has been perfectly adequate as a backup goalie. People are quoting is GAA – he’s only played 3 games! 3 fucking games! Let’s talk about his GAA after 30 games. Third, Biron’s GAA is also over 3. So, pick up Biron and you still have to score 4 goals per game to win in his rare starts. I know Biron was great with the media, but he’s an average goalie. Lalime is comparable, and Lalime makes less money. Biron is not a significant upgrade and he costs more.

  3. PKB

    Brad,

    People are critical of Lalime because his numbers last year were atrocious (there’s no disputing this). After getting lit up in his first two starts this year, everyone except for you apparently assumed things weren’t about to change. Media and fans suggested the team to bring in another backup because the bottom line is that the points the Sabres gave away when Lalime was in net last year were the difference between making the playoffs and not. Whether or not Biron is better is debatable but whether or not Lalime’s production as a backup for the Sabres has been good enough, is not.

    It’s not so much that his numbers totally reflect the quality of goaltender he is, but they are what they are in front of this team. The Sabres need more than what they’re getting from Lalime the past two season. They got it on Friday. I’m really, really happy about that. It was a huge, rallying win for this team. But I’m not willing to completely stop discussing this issue quite yet.

  4. Brad

    PKB,

    I think you are approaching this the wrong way. This is not a referendum on Patrick Lalime. It doesn’t matter how good he is, or is not. What matters is that the team wins games. I’m sure we agree on that. You look at it and say, “The team does not win with Lalime, so we need to get rid of Lalime.” I look at it and say, “The team does not win with with Lalime, so they need to play better hockey.” I want the GM to spend his time looking for a way to upgrade the forwards on this team. Not the backup goalie.

    Regardless – let’s look at this realistically. Who are you going to get who will be better than Lalime? Because, the way people talk about it, they just want Lalime gone out of spite. Nobody seems to have thought about it any deeper than that. You need somebody to sit on the bench for 65 games a year and also post a .920 save pct. when called on to play, all while making close to the league minimum. Who the hell is going to be that guy?

    You can’t just throw anyone else in there and hope it works out better. You need to change the mindset of the guys in front of the goalie if you want to see W’s from your backup. Is a new backup goalie really the key to this team’s success? Is that really the one thing that will make it all fall into place finally? It’s a short-term solution at best. When the team can’t win with their 2nd string goalie, they have problems that go beyond just the goaltending. Trading away the backup goalie sends a message directly to Derek Roy and the rest of the guys who have a tendency to take unscheduled days off, not backcheck, lose assignments in the D zone, turn the puck over constantly and play soft at their own blue line: “Keep it up, you guys are great. It was all the goalie’s fault.” In the interests of long-term success, that isn’t the message I want those guys to get.

  5. NoUseForANickname

    Great post Brad…The Sabes still aren’t over thier tendency to find a reason to phone it in on occasion – and whomever they send out as the backup is still seen by the team as enough of a reason. We’ve seen a lot more character from the guys this year, but this is still one of those cases where they don’t feel like they have to play a full game (that game against Atlanta was so terrible I’ll be hard pressed to ever scrape it from my mind).

    While I take PKB’s point that Lalime’s numbers were terrible last year – I remember watching games and seeing all kinds of shotty play. Giveaways, lack of effort, phone a friend passes – shit that ends up costing goals over and over again. When Lalime was in net, he was the only guy on the ice that was playing defense, so of course the stats were terrible. So when you talk about the fact that he was the difference between making the playoffs, I find it a convienent excuse to explain away a truly awful team effort (also seen when Vanek went down last year). When your starting goalie goes down, the whole team has to pitch in.

    Lalime is no Thibault.

    When I see the team play a great game in front of Lalime, it’ll go a long way toward my gut feeling that this team is for real, and will win the hard games in the playoffs (Didn’t see Friday’s game).