Saturday morning I said right here that Maxim Afinogenov and Derek Roy needed to be broken up. Saturday night they played on different lines. Coincidence? I'm not so sure. (Hi, Lindy!)
Seriously, I was glad to see that move made and I think Max and Drew Stafford both looked better on their respective lines tonight. Max and Tim Connolly have played successfully together before and Tim and Ales Kotalik have established chemistry as well. I have mixed feelings about Pominville being buried on the third line with lesser skilled players but he does play well with Jochen Hecht and Jochen can set him up pretty well. I'd definitely like to see these lines stick for a few games to see how they gel.
Let me preface this next statement by saying that I'm in no way suggesting this caused the Sabres to lose because they were totally flat in the first period which is pretty sorry considering how poorly they played the previous night but... the officiating tonight was horrid. It was chintzy and worse, it was inconsistent. (At this point the only consistent thing about the officiating is that it's inconsistent.) Nathan Paetsch got called for interference for body checking a guy coming in for a shot - which some of us have been dying for a d-man to do for about a year now - and just a few minutes later a Montreal player played Max exactly the same way and there was no call. In fact, Max ended up getting called for roughing. And how was the puck that bounced in off of Toni and Ryan not negated by the Montreal player tripping Toni in the first place? I'd be curious to know how much time in this game was spent 5-on-5. And while I'm not fully into the "The NHL Hates Buffalo" conspiracy, I don't think the Sabres made it through an entire powerplay without getting called for something that evened things up.
It was really one of those games that you hate to lose because I'm not sure they really deserved to. Like I said, they were pretty flat in the first period, but they picked it up as the game went on and I wouldn't say the Canadiens outplayed them. Montreal got all the bounces tonight - those are some crazy boards they have behind the nets - which happens sometimes. It stinks but there it is. Hopefully the team looks sharp from the beginning against Carolina on Wednesday though. I'll admit, I'm a little nervous about that one.
The one thing that does really continue to bother me is the way no one seems too concerned with opposing players running and whacking at Ryan. I don't care if you have to take a penalty, the next guy who touches Ryan should get a beatdown, no questions asked. (And no, bringing up Patrick Kaleta is not the answer.)
On a totally different subject, I guess there really is some debate about whether the Sabres involved were in on the joke in the Sportsnet video I linked to a few posts back. I mentioned that in my original commentary although I was mostly joking. If you watch though it is debatable. Something about the way Tim Connolly fake laughed and looked around made me think he was wondering whether the interviewer was being serious or not. The storm-offs are obviously fake but maybe the guy interviewed them and then explained what was going on and filmed the endings. I don't know, I guess I can kind of understand why the players were annoyed. (If they were. I haven't heard any of them comment on it.) If you have to sit down and do a billion interviews, you probably don't want to be wondering if you're being jerked around. And the subject matter probably didn't help because I'm sure every one of those guys was tired of being asked about Drury and Briere before preseason even started. That said, I don't know how you watch the finished product and not think it's both complimentary to the guys left behind and really, really funny. Honestly, considering how poorly most of these guys act in commericals and stuff, it's probably funnier with them not knowing what was going on.