I had a post in mind about the relationship between Sabres fans and Canes fans - never fear, Canes fans, there was going to be some criticism directed at both sides - but it was pretty negative in tone so I'm going to save it for another day. Because really, who wants to be negative after an 8-1 victory?
This game was supposed to be a girls' night out with some of my buddies but every single one of them bailed on me. Can you believe it? Kathy couldn't find a babysitter/had a broom ball conflict, Monica was feeling under the weather, and Sue took a spill last weekend and fractured her knee cap and a couple of vertebrae. (Okay, that last one is a pretty good excuse.) One of the girls was kind enough to give us her ticket however and Mark and I spread out across four seats and enjoyed the game. Some observations:
- I'm sorry Sue missed out because she's a big fan of Maxim Afinogenov and I think this was hands down Max's best game this season. He was wreaking havoc on an obviously tired Canes squad while being far more responsible with the puck than he has been. He was either getting it on net, finding teammates, or carrying it to open ice. I don't remember a single bad turnover. Nice to see Lindy reward his effort with the highest amount of ice-time for any forward, pretty impressive since it felt like we were short-handed for the entire second period. For all my griping about Max, it has been tough watching him struggle so I was pretty happy to see him playing so well. Maybe he's turning a corner?
- I thought the Afinogenov-Gaustad-Kotalik line seemed like a weird mish-mash of playing styles and I was pretty critical of it before the game but it worked. The whole line really had a good game. Al also had one of his better games of the season.
- Derek Roy continues to look much better. He was really buzzing and it was nice to see him bury that breakaway. What a beautiful pass by Tim Connolly. That said, Timmy needs to shoot more often because good things often happen when he does. He has such a nice little shot. It's not overwhelmingly powerful but he places it so well.
- Thomas Vanek was not overwhelming. I don't remember him looking terrible outside of the two bad penalties he took but he wasn't the Vanek who was dominating play in the couple of games before the St. Louis game. On one hand it's nice that we can win games without him chipping in a lot - for all the crying about Drury and Briere leaving, the Sabres still have the potential for very balanced scoring as seen tonight - it would be nice to see him playing a little more consistently. Just lighten up and shoot the puck, Thomas. It'll happen.
- Before the season I thought Brian Campbell had a good shot at wearing a letter, but he seemed like an unusual choice for December, since he's been a little bit of a mess in the last couple of games, his performance against Washington being particularly bad. But I thought Toni Lydman was an odd choice for November and that worked out pretty darn well with Toni playing like a friggin' beast all month. I wonder if Lindy is using the letters as a little bit of a "Show me what you got, kid" encouragement tool. Brian did lead the team in ice-time tonight and even more surprisingly to me, he led the team in short-handed time (according the NHL.com summary). I didn't notice any glaring mistakes so maybe the letter will look good on him.
- Jochen Hecht gets an A to make him a letter-wearer every month so far with Jaroslav Spacek getting the other A. I got no beef with either of those choices - Jochen has continued to play very solid hockey and I find myself being very pleased for Jaro. He now has more goals this season than he did all of last season. Good for you, Jaro. Let's see how many crazy interviews we can cram in this month, shall we?
- Nolan Pratt was in a foul mood tonight and I love it. I love the way this guy takes care of his teammates, especially Ryan Miller. When Dmitri Kalin and Henrik Tallinder are both back in the line-up I really hope it's Paetsch sitting and not Pratt. I think we need that little bit of edge, especially on the blue line.
Hockey Night in Canada did a really interesting feature on hockey blogs this evening. One of the things it discussed was how some teams like Washington are using bloggers as alternative media sources. Buffalo wasn't mentioned as one of the teams considering opening the press box to bloggers but someone in the organization really needs to take a look at it, I think. Buffalo isn't in the same situation as Washington - they get pretty much no coverage from local papers and TV - but Buffalo is a one newspaper town and as I've said before, I find much of the Buffalo News coverage to be negative and one-sided. The Sabres wouldn't be able to control what bloggers say but it might be to their advantage to help get some new and different voices out there.
Anyway, I thought the piece was well-done and pretty positive. If you missed it, scoot on over to Mirtle's and check it out. He has a video posted.