The Buffalo Sabres are in the fight of their lives. For whatever flavor-of-the-day reason we’re blaming for the atrocious first half of the season (injuries, bad luck, no heart, lack of change, coaching, rainy weather, etc.), the fact remains the team is still nine points out of a playoff spot with thirty-two games to go. For them to climb back into the top 8, with such a hill to climb, would be unprecedented and, quite frankly, a miracle.
If there’s enough gas in the car to put forth thirty-two more efforts like the one we witnessed last night, then things may get interesting. Either that or, depending on your patience threshold, they’re just messing up their draft position (FAIL FOR NAIL!).
Last night, however, I saw a level of determination in the Sabres 3-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens that hasn’t been witnessed in weeks, if not months. Guys were playing their roles precisely, but others were playing out of character, too. Players who had not shown a willingness to go into the dirty areas of the ice were all of the sudden filthy nasty (Ville Leino perhaps had his best game of the year, while Tyler Ennis, taking a turn at Center, was a blue and gold tornado). Players who haven’t been putting points on the scoresheet were chipping in with goals, assists and multiple point nights. And the players who are normally paid to play physical and agitate the opposition did just that.
Just ask Montreal Forward Max Pacioretty.
Near the end of the game – and versions differ depending on who you ask at any given minute – Pacioretty apparently asked Sabres forward Paul Gaustad “Where’s Lucic?”, in reference to the infamous incident from November in which Gaustad didn’t respond adequately when Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic ran Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller. Gaustad, in response to Pacioretty’s taunting inquiry, retorted back with “Where’s Chara?”, referring to the vicious hit Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara laid on Pacioretty, which left the Montreal forward with a severe concussion and fractured fourth cervical vertebra in his neck.
In the locker room after last night’s game, Montreal All-Star goaltender Carey Price didn’t take too kindly to Gaustad’s remarks, saying, “He’s got a big mouth and he likes to run it. What can you do. Can’t worry about what he’s got to say. He doesn’t do much out there”.
In my eyes, The Canadiens weren’t ready for the assault the Sabres unleashed on them last night, started to become increasingly frustrated as the game wore on, and responded the only way they could. With trash talk. The Sabres thoroughly dominated play from whistle to whistle, peppering Price with 40 shots on goal, not including four pucks off of goal posts and/or the crossbar.
I give credit to Gaustad (and I haven’t said that more than once this season) for not backing down, saying what needed to be said, and backing it up with his best all-around game of the year.
Whether or not you, the reader, thought it was a classless comment is another matter altogether. I, for one, was glad to see it. These were the “mean” Sabres, and I loved it. This is what the fans have been begging for all season. A team that finally dictated play, finished all of their checks, while playing an in-your-face, high-tempo style of game that had the Canadiens reeling. It looked as though they wanted the win, and were going to use whatever advantages Montreal gave them to achieve their goal, physically or verbally.
It was tit-for-tat, Max, and like Gaustad told the Buffalo News earlier today, “You have to have thick skin in the NHL…just move on”.
Moving on then.
The Eastern Conference leading New York Rangers are in town tonight for a 7:30PM tilt down at First Niagara Center, and hopefully the Sabres bottled some of whatever it was that they dumped all over the Bell Center last night in Montreal.
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Topics: Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Carey Price, Max Pacioretty, Milan Lucic Hit Ryan Miller, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers Vs Buffalo Sabres, Paul Gaustad, Sabres/canadiens Trash Talking, Zdeno Chara Hit Max Pacioretty