Cool Drury keeps finding the puck, scoring big goals
UNIONDALE, NY (LGS) — Just once — one time, please, Lord — when Chris Drury is asked why he scores so many big goals, I want the man to brush the hair away from his eyes, stare a hole through the annoying questioner, clear his throat and announce:
Drury has four goals so far against the Islanders, including the game-winners in Games 1 and 4.
"Because I'm a helluva hockey player."
You know, deep down, Drury wants to say it.
He won't speak the truth and set himself free, of course. He never would say it that way, or at all. Asked the question for the bazillionth time on Wednesday night after scoring two goals against the Islanders in Game 4, including the game-winner, the 14th of his playoff career, Drury stayed in character.
He gave his pat answer: he doesn't know. Pressured a bit on the penalty kill, asked if "anticipation" had anything to do with it, Drury dove on the ice, blocked the question and sent it right back to the point man.
"Maybe if I did sit back and think about it, maybe that (anticipation) would be a factor, but I'm certainly not going to sit around and think about it," he said. "I'll let you guys try to figure it out."
OK. I'll let the question come to me and give it a whack.
Why does Chris Drury score so many big goals?
For one thing, he doesn't think too much — unlike the media class that constantly tries to solve this skating conundrum.
His philosophy is that if your body and mind are ready for a game, everything else takes care of itself, and there's no reason to be nervous, although he did admit to getting some butterflies like everyone else.
"If you've taken care of that, sometimes a lot of it is already predetermined. If you're not ready to go from the beginning, there's no sense worrying about it," he said after the Sabres took a strangehold 3-1 lead in a series in which the co-captain has scored four goals and been the MVP.
Why sweat it? Why end up being another "before shot" in Brian Campbell's next commercial for The Center for Excessive Sweatiness and Clamminess?
Suffice to say, Drury's hands are neither cold nor clammy. He'll leave the sweating to the goaltenders. And he'll certainly spend very little time trying to understand how he earned his reputation as Captain Clutch.
Lindy Ruff thinks he has an answer: pucks tend to find him.
Drury tends to find them. He reads plays magnificently, goes to the net, keeps his stick on the ice and his Roman nose to the grindstone, and a bunch of other hockey clichés that are eluding me today like they are pucks and I'm wearing Rick DiPietro's equipment.
In Game 4, on his first goal — which came less than two minutes after Thomas Vanek knocked a rebound out of midair to tie the game at 1 in the first period — Drury, like Ryan Smyth and Brendan Witt, watched Dainius Zubrus do his magnificent thing behind the net. He read the play, peeking around Sean Hill out front, Hill, who was just as transfixed as everyone else — except you know who.
Waiting for the puck to come to him in the slot, not by the hand of a hockey god but a man playing like a Hockey God, Zubrus, Drury's mind and body were ready, not a bead of worry on his face.
His back to the goalie, Drury had deflected another uncanny Zubrus offering off the outside of the left post late on a power play at midperiod, failing to tie the game, but this time he faced down DiPietro from the goal mouth and beat him cleanly inside the right post to give the Sabres the lead.
It's what the co-captain after the game called being in the right place at the right time. But, for crying out loud, he wasn't abducted by aliens and transported to that location after they probed him in all manner of ways, trying like the rest of us to figure out what's inside the guy, was he? No, he simply pulled out the MapQuest directions he had printed out on the bench before his shift.
With this guy, everything is planned, nothing left to chance — like his repeated reminders late in the game to referee Mike Leggo that his original call was no goal, just in case the ref came down with amnesia at the scorer's table.
Drury's second goal also saw him drive to the intersection of Right Time and Right Place.
Mike Sillinger had scored very late in the first period to tie the game, but Drury filleted the heart right out of the Fishsticks with a goal 39 seconds into the second when he deflected Brian Campbell's point shot on DiPietro, then whipped around and sniffed for the puck in the slot. Some will say the thing found him — The Modest One said it "had eyes" for his stick — but I'll say he courted it, that he knew exactly where that puck was heading off the pad of the goalie.
Yes, there might have been a touch of luck involved, but after Drury snapped the puck between the skates of Tom Poti, past Witt and over DiPietro, there was only the residue of hard work on that particular patch of fresh ice.
How does he do it? It's unexplainable, I guess. How does Giada De Laurentiis know when a cannoli is done to perfection? How does Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Yesica Toscanini know to make her eyes do that?
Or, moving away from the subjects of food and sex, if we must, how does Thomas Vanek know to back up while the carom of Teppo Numminen's point shot is flipping toward him so that his stick is in precisely the right position to catch the puck a millisecond before it lands on the ice?
How does Brian Campbell know when to pull the chute on his spinorama at exactly the right time to allow one of the Islanders to make himself a permanent part of the end boards at Nassau Coliseum?
How does Ryan Miller, doing a reverse snow angel on the ice, seemingly down and out, know to extend his right leg behind him just enough to cancel out Viktor Kozlov's certain goal?
There are no good answers. There never are when it comes to the mystery of artistic brilliance.
As Chris Drury has learned, some questions are best left unanswered.