While the season is already two games old, and the Hawks have yet to earn themselves a "W", I think it's safe to say that the 2010 campaign wasn't finally brought until a close until Saturday night, and all the fanfare therein. This is far from apologist rhetoric on my end, it's simply a fact of the matter when the Hawks were the first defending champion to open on the road in fuck knows how long, and then came all of the misty-eyed reminiscing on Saturday at the U.C. Teams have a habit of getting trounced in banner ceremony games, and the Hawks were stacked against it further by missing two key members of the team in action in Patrick Sharp and Brian Campbell. But enough of that already, the slog that is the rest of the regular season starts tonight in western New York.
In stark contrast to the Hawks, the Sabres witnessed very little roster turnover over the summer, watching blue line fixtures Toni Lydman and Henrik Tallinder find pay days elsewhere, as well as letting rookie Tim Kennedy walk after his arbitration ruling. Mercifully, the Sabers also gave the reviled Slug his walking papers. In return they brought in Rob Niedermayer and Jordan Leopold, two names that carry a bit of cachet with them....if there were 2002. For the most part, the Sabres stood still, and they're going to rely on the same mix of completely interchangable undersized forwards, pray that Tim Connolly and Thomas Vanek don't get hurt, and allow Ryan Miller to continually bail their asses out of games. Tyler Myers will be counted on to take significant strides from his Calder trophy winning performance on the blue line last year, and emerge as a premiere all around defender. Currently Myers is saddled with a -3 rating while playing 23 minutes a night through two games, but the Sabres as a whole have only scored 5 goals in those two games, one of which was a 6-3 pecker slapping at the hands of the New York Rangers. Even still, the Sabres are always dangerous with the up-tempo game Lindy Ruff prefers, and will look to exploit some of the Hawks less mobile defensemen, namely John Scott and Nick Boynton.
For our Men of Four Feathers, hopefully their heads are now clear and get back to the task at hand. Patrick Sharp will be back in the lineup tonight, once again centering Patrick Kane and Fernando Pisani. If Sharp can continue to play like the holy terror he had been prior to Saturday, his linemates may have no choice but to keep up. Kaner has been quiet thus far, but had good games in his hometown in two trips there. On the opposite side, it's Pisani, who's been invisible to this point that will need to make his presence felt more, specifically retrieving pucks for his two skilled linemates. The fourth line, which led the way in Corsi on Saturday by a fairly wide margin to the other lines, figures to warrant more ice time as a unit, or perhaps even supplant players in the top 9 individually. Jack Skille and Viktor Stalberg have shown the speed that they were billed to have, and Jake Dowell has been a more than adequate pivot providing some grit. Notice Nick Leddy lugging a +9 on that chart as well from Saturday. One would hope that would warrant his getting more time on the advantage where he's truly put to best use, rather than the pig fuck that has been the fourth forward manning a point, goals not withstanding. I know what I'm seeing, and it's not one that's going to sustain it's current 25% conversion rate the way it looks. The power play has to begin to hum, and fast, as with the team scoring depth reduced, the top end guys are going to need to convert on more chances. Corey Crawford gets the start in net tonight, which puts us in a no-win situation. Should the Hawks lose, well, that would suck, just because the Hawks losing sucks. If Crawford wins, then we have the genesis of yet another goalie controversy from those most impatient among us, sample size and track records be damned.
Games against the Sabres are always a fun watch, so strap in for a track meet. Let's Go Hawks.