Leino Wants Perfect Setting for First Goal
Buffalo Sabres center forward Ville Leino is known for ending Buffalo’s seasons; he scored the goal for the Philadelphia Flyers that eliminated the Sabres in the 2011 playoffs, and he is the entire reason why they didn’t make the playoffs last year (at least if you ask fans). The $4.5 million cap hit suffered a hip injury two days before the 2013 season opener and is nearing a return, and is already thinking about when he should score his first goal of the season. For someone like Leino, it can’t just be any goal.
“All this time spent waiting, first with the lockout and then with the injury,” Leino revealed his desire for the elusive perfect first goal to BBG staff, “I don’t want to rush it. I want to make sure everything is just right.”
The Sabres signed Leino because he was known for scoring big points in big games. In 2010-2011, Leino scored 54 points with the Flyers, but is quick to point out that it was the quality of those points that mattered. He scored 2 goals and 8 assists in the last 5 minutes of regular season games, and scored 2 goals and 7 assists in what Yahoo! Sports refers to as “clutch”…which near as I can tell means “when the Yahoo! Sports stats guy was excited about the game”.
Those advanced stats explain why Leino does not want to rush his first goal this season. He wants to make sure it’s special.
“Just look at Marcus [Foligno] last night. Wow. What a goal that was,” Leino sat up straight with a toothy grin, “Game-tying, between the legs, at home, against Lundqvist…just…wow. What a waste his first goal was. His first goal this season…some rebound shot against Washington? To make it 1-3? They lost that game in regulation. What a waste…”
Leino trailed off, shaking his head for a moment.
“Just imagine if last night’s goal was his first of the season…how much better that would have been.”
Some fans argue that Leino cares more about the quality of his goals than the quantity, and that quantity is what leads teams to win games. Leino politely and quietly disagrees.
“I do not resent fans for thinking that more is better. But that is not the case,” the left wing warmed some brandy in a shifter while shifting his weight, “I remember my first goal last season against Anaheim. It was perfect. I was at home in Finland. I’d eaten at my favorite childhood restaurant hours before, and visited the park where I first fell in love. There was a crispness in the air that couldn’t be matched. I had the puck on my stick and it didn’t feel right, but then when the Ducks tried to clear it and the defender kept it in, I knew it was time. It ended up being the game winner.”
“Sadly, I don’t know if I will ever be able to match that perfect moment,” Leino stared off into nothingness, to which everything returns, and a single tear streaked his cheek, ”Everything was lined up so well. Everything fell in to place. I even watched it later and heard RJ’s voice crack. There was nothing missing.
“It haunted me. Like listening to a piece by Liszt or seeing my first van Gogh [painting], its beauty scared me. That may be why I went thirteen games before scoring again, and even then what was my next goal? I scored our fifth in a 5-1 win against Ottawa. What is that? That…that may have been my lowest point.”
When asked why he waited so long to score again, when there were many beautiful moments that could have sufficed, Leino regained his calm stoicism and breathed deep. His moment of vulnerability, of remembering that goal against Anaheim and the mistake of scoring against Ottawa, vanished. Saved for when next he needed an emotional outlet, most likely in private.
“The Finnish snipers did not waste their shots when the Soviet army attempted to invade,” Leino’s stature regained, beaming with pride for his heritage, “And because they waited for the perfect moment, they were not conquered. I bring that mentality to the ice. Where there is rush, there is regret.”
You can’t blame Ville Leino for wanting to make sure his goals are timed and set perfectly. When you are paid $562,500 for every goal scored, you want to make sure each one counts.