Sabres Start Out With Win; PSU Rolls

Given that the Habs are very good and favored by many to get to the Stanley Cup, that the Sabres started the 2008-2009 season with a 2-1 shootout win over Montreal in Buffalo Friday night was very encouraging for a few reasons.  The first is that the Sabres won against a quality opponent, obvious enough.  Importantly, the Sabres have some questions along the blue line, and answering those will do much to solve what has been wrong with the Sabres the last two years–they’ve been a bit soft on defense ever since losing four of their top six defensemen in the last three games of the 2007 Eastern Conference finals, blowing a 3-1 lead in the process.  This year, the Sabres have six good, mobile defensemen, none who are known as very physical, but it’s still a good unit to keep pace with a fast skating team like Montreal.  That the Sabres held Montreal to one goal, which was scored in the first three minutes of the game, is a testament to much more than goalie Ryan Miller’s abilities, not inconsiderable (don’t drop to the knees so quickly, Miller).  It speaks to a revamped defense that is, as my good friend and big hockey (and football) fan Captain Pat would say, a little “long in the tooth” but experienced and mobile enough to match up well with Montreal, Pittsburgh, Ottawa, and other quick teams. I like the addition of defenseman and new captain Craig Rivet from San Jose.  However, as astute Sabres fans know, captains don’t always have a long shelf life with the Sabres–see current coach Lindy Ruff, Pat LaFontaine, Stu Barnes, and co-captains Chris Drury and Daniel Briere. One game, but a good start.

Penn State continued to roll, blasting Wisconsin 48-7 in Wisconsin in a relative, and relatively unexpected, cakewalk.  I have to admit that I was a little concerned when Derrick Williams dropped what would have surely been a big gain early in the first quarter.  Yet that the Nittany Lions kept the Badgers pinned in their own end, that I literally might have been able to punt as well as Badger punter Nortman (who kicked one all of 15 yards), and that the Badgers attempted all of one pass in the first quarter (not counting a sack on another pass attempt), certainly kept PSU in charge of momentum and field position early. I started getting that good feeling when Kevin Kelly kicked a 50-yeard field goal with ease to start the scoring. After Daryll Clark took a big hit as he pitched to Evan Royster for a two-yard TD untouched to make it 10-0, and a scant half-minute later Williams returned a punt for a touchdown to make it 17-0, the rout was on. Unlike some of their teams about 5-7 years ago, PSU is just more athletic than most of their opponents, especially on defense.  Plus, Daryll Clark is more than just a tough, athletic QB, but increasingly an accurate one.  Additionally, as the Badgers simply refused to stretch the field, PSU imposed themselves on the defensive line as well as on offense, controlling both lines of scrimmage to just shove a decent Wisconsin team around as the game wore on.

I feel that PSU got screwed–again–in the polls, moving up from #6 to #3 but Texas, who impressively beat former #1 Oklahoma 45-35 in essentially a home game, moved from #5 to #1.  It’s less this move than the fact that the Lions got no consideration for #1 in the AP poll–none, even though Alabama, who looked great in upsetting Georgia but wholly underwhelming against Kentucky, got all the #1 votes Texas didn’t.  PSU has Michigan and Ohio St. coming up, games PSU can win but in which they’ll be challenged.  Alabama at #2, on the other hand, has Ole Miss, an away game at Tennessee, and a home game against Arkansas State before going to Baton Rouge against current #13 LSU.  Texas is in the middle of one hellacious stretch, having beaten #1 Oklahoma but facing #11 Missouri, #8 Oklahoma St. at home, and #7 Texas Tech on the road in the coming three weeks.  Should PSU continue to win, my money is on one of the top two teams dropping at least one to allow PSU to move up.  But they need to take care of their own business first and foremost.

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Published in: on October 12, 2008 at 2:42 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I’m seriuosly putting Manny on the 2009 roster. We haven’t had anyone hit in the post season for the last three years. Manny is on a vengence in pursuit of Boston. Whom’ would have predicted Lester and Beckett flopping?

  2. I know Ramirez is a masher, Leo, one of the greatest righty bats in the history of the game. But he’s a flake and a quitter, he’ll come at a very steep price when the Yanks have pitching and first base to worry about more, and he’s a defensive liability. Plus, I can’t stand his selfishness and preening. His offense is great, but I say pass. The Yanks have more pressing needs.

    True about Beckett, who is not healthy, and Lester. The Rays are looking tough and really clicking. I had other obligations and didn’t see any of the 9-1 win, but they mashed at Fenway. It would be amazing to see them in the Series after their decade plus of misery. If it happens, I certainly can’t begrudge them it. They will have earned it.

  3. it really is fun watching him hit for the dodgers, but i have to agree with jason leo–he can’t be counted on- when something doesn’t go his way he comes down with a phantom injury–knee usually. we need to get younger and more agile in the outfield. i’d take andre ethier over manny in a hot minute.


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