Niagara Gazette

Sports

March 30, 2006

TIM SCHMITT: Surprise! Connolly is key to Sabres success

Buffalo — You saw him bob and weave until it made you seasick. You saw him shudder in the corner when wingers two inches shorter and 20 pounds lighter lightly leaned in with a shoulder.

And you — like everyone else who gave serious thought to naming your first born “Jeanneret” — had less faith in Tim Connolly than you did in ports owned by Dubai.

What’s that about patience?

With the Sabres reeling and desperate for a win, The Guy Who Drove Us Nutty showed Wednesday he’s become The Guy The Sabres Can’t Live Without.

Seriously.

Connolly didn’t give the Sabres an Earl Monroe-limping-down-the-tunnel lift in a 4-3 victory over the Bruins. He’s not an emotional leader. Few through his years in Buffalo would say he’s led by example.

In fact, the knock on Connolly has always been that he doesn’t go all out, often tensing up in the corners when play gets physical.

When the Sabres traded Mike Peca for Connolly, though, fans wanted someone who motored like Captain Mike, dishing out punishment and emotion along the way.

That’s not Connolly’s game. The difference on this team is it doesn’t have to be.

Connolly’s calm, often misconstrued for lack of intensity, was exactly what the Sabres need to get their finger off the panic button, helping to end a six-game skid.

Coincidentally, Connolly’s missed the last seven.

“Timmy brought a great dimension to the game today,” said Ryan Miller, who still let in three goals, but made big saves when it counted. “He brought a lot of patience to the power play.”

Course, it didn’t hurt that the Sabres had seven chances on the power play, something Miller attributed to harder work.

“In the Rangers game and some other past games, we’ve been in the box a lot,” the goalie said. “When you start getting on that side of it, referees start looking at you as a team that’s not skating and not working. (On Wednesday), we skated, we worked, we deserved some calls and we capitalized.”

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