We’ve had the video of the Vanek incident on the site for some time due to our lack of content. That’s an issue, but while it sat there all that time I couldn’t help but wonder something: should the Sabres get retribution for what happened to Vanek?
Now what Boychuk did may or may not be intentional, but that’s not the point: the Sabres best forward was injured on the play. You can argue intent to injure until the cows come home, but the damage has been done and the question remains: Should Buffalo go looking for revenge tonight?
So much of the pre-series discussion revolved around matching the intensity of the other team. Whether it be on the forecheck, in the corners or around the crease; the Sabres had to be as physical as Boston if they were going to win this series. Game One saw plenty of intensity, and guys like Mike Grier and Raffi Torres provided a nice boost on the forecheck while Pat Kaleta did his thing. Even Toni Lydman didn’t back down against Milan Lucic, something you have to appreciate given Lucic’s reputation.
Still, the Sabres let Boston bump Miller on a number of occasions and didn’t do much about it, something that continued throughout Game Two. One of Boston’s major objectives in this series is to get to Ryan Miller, and you could certainly argue that they did on Saturday. There weren’t the awful goals that prove a goaltender’s lack of focus, but Miller was screened, bumped, and unable to see a number of shots on Saturday. If not for some key shot blocks, the game could have turned out much worse.
But what does this have to do with getting retribution for what happened to Vanek? Well, everything.
Think about the last time a Sabres player went down at the hands of an opponent’s nefarious actions? We were pretty damn hard on the team for not running Henrik Lundqvist or do much of anything, for that matter. That injury killed any hope of the Sabres making the playoffs, but it also was a telling moment in an entirely different manner: either no one was willing to do anything about Scott Gomez, or the coaches wouldn’t let them. Either way you slice it, that says a lot about the team’s mentality and how they operate when things like this happen.
The more I thought about it, I really had a hard time remembering the last time the Sabres truly went after anyone for anything. The obvious exception in this is the Drury/Chris Neil incident, but we all know about that. Think back further: when was the last time the Sabres ran a goaltender becuase Miller/Biron/Lalime/et all were targeted? Yeah, I’m having a hard time coming up with a date, too. The name Mathew Barnaby is coming to mind, but that’s far too long if you ask me. It seems to be something the Sabres just don’t do, and I suppose that’s their prerogative.
So no, I suppose the Sabres don’t have to go after anyone. Johnny Boychuk shouldn’t be a bigger target than Chara or Lucic or Rask, and no one has to go fight the guy to exact revenge for Tommy. Jason Pominville can “stay gold” but something does need to change here. Going into Game Three, on enemy ice, the Sabres need to have a response ready for the next time Lucic or Chara or anyone else goes after a Sabres player. They don’t have to take penalties, they don’t have to do anything stupid, but what they cannot do is back down. What happened to Vanek is done, but no one did much of anything when Tyler Ennis was run into the Bruins bench after the first period ended on Saturday, and I’m still waiting for a hit bigger than one the Bruins landed on their own player. The intensity just wasn’t there on Saturday, and you can blame the building or losing Vanek or whatever you like. It’s still no excuse: the Sabres have to respond.
It may not be with fists, but it better be something. The Sabres are the more talented team in this series, even with Vanek out. Still, the Bruins are getting much closer to changing that. Buffalo has to make some changes of their own before it’s too late.