In Your Face

by Ryan

There are games you just know Pat Kaleta got to the other team. Maybe it was the hit he threw a half-second too late, or the in-your-face goal celebration he’s patented. Or maybe it was when he threw Chris Thorburn off of Ryan Miller and got punched in the face. Either way, when Pat Kaleta had the puck behind the net, Zach Bogosian had his hands high. After that it was merely a matter of time.

These are the games where you really appreciate what Pat Kaleta brings to the team. Everyone expected a strong effort in his first game back, but scoring the team’s only goal in regulation probably wasn’t on the expectations list. Kaleta got a good bounce, but without a great shot and some quick hands that puck never goes in. He continues to impress in the offensive end, and his physical presence is undeniable. Roy may have had the game winner, but Kaleta was the reason the Sabres pulled out a game they probably didn’t deserve.

We’ve used terms like that a lot this year. “Didn’t deserve” or “not a full effort”, implying the Sabres shouldn’t be winning hockey games like they do. You could say the same thing a bout last night, but I honestly can’t complain about the Sabres finding a way to win games like this.

There is a lot of talk about who the elite teams are in the Eastern Conference this year. New Jersey and Washington are discussed the most, but as the season progresses I can’t find arguments against putting the Sabres in that category as well. Other people can and will put Pittsburgh in that category instead.

Still, I’ve watched the last handful of Penguins games and can’t say I’m impressed at all. They’ve played crappy hockey against crappy teams and they haven’t won many of those games, either. Their power play is terrible, Malkin has been struggling, and their goaltending has been merely decent. Elite teams struggle, but the Sabres’ struggles have been few and far between.

Where this team has struggled, against weak teams like Atlanta and Ottawa, they aren’t losing as much anymore. Buffalo is fixing the problems that have plagued them the last two years, and this road trip could make the difference before the Olympic break. No one knows what happens after Vancouver, but piling up the points on the West Coast before that seems to be the best policy.

They haven’t even crossed the Mississippi, but they’re off to a good start.

5 Comments

  1. Steve

    That goal celebration was fun when he scored a shorthanded game winner, but he looks stupid doing it every time he scores.

  2. Agreed. Stupid celebration. He should cut it out if he’s going to score more than four or fewer than 40 goals in a season.

  3. Mike

    I like the goal celebration. Look, something we’ve complained about in the past couple years is how the Sabres seemed to lack an identity. If you look around the league, when teams see Buffalo coming up, they’re going to think of Miller and Vanek certainly, but they’re also thinking of Kaleta increasingly, because he has that reputation that makes other teams hate him. But it’s also more than that. Kaleta never takes a shift off, is pretty indefatigable (we hope) when it comes to injuries, and of course, never misses the opportunity to rub the opponents’ collective noses in it. Criticize me for not being a hockey purist, but without Kaleta, the Sabres are 100 percent more boring. He’s a big part of their identity, and that over the top goal celebration is a big part of his identity.

  4. Mox

    I enjoy the bowling ball celebration. Its fun and not so over the top it crosses the line of being unsportsmanlike. As long as Kaleta stays away from unnecessary dirty hits and continues to play hard every shift, I will continue to root for him. If he turns into a Sean Avery, or Jarko Ruutu then I’ll have an issue with him. He makes the Sabres that much more fun to watch and you know exactly what you’re going to get out of him every night and that’s a 100% effort which is more than you can say about some of the other players on the ice.

  5. Peter

    I’m a big Kaleta fan, I think the Sabres are a different team with him in the lineup…he fulfills the “goon” role while also scoring (unlike Peters who was useless)…he is often criticized for not fighting, but I think that is what makes him valuable, he lays the big hit, then draws the retaliatory penalty that puts the Sabres on the power play…my dad always taught me that the refs always see the cheap shot after the big hti, and I think Kaleta must have learned the same