After going 1-4 to start their 9 game exercise against their Northeast counterparts, the Buffalo Sabres are right back into the thick of things.
You have to love the way they are playing the last 3 games. Scoring first, getting big goals when needed, and a total commitment to solid two-way play has led the team on a 3 game winning streak, all against teams ahead of them in the Northeast.
Thomas Vanek continues to get better. Big goal finally helps get the monkey off his back.
Dan Paille is fastly becoming one of my favorite players. hes got grit, a mean streak and an offensive upside to boot. Closest thing we have had to Mike Peca in years.
Max Afinogenov had his best game of the year. Seemed to have that extra spring in his step tonight and was solid all around. Same goes for Ryan Miller, who kept them in it after a slow second period.
Big gut check tomorrow night tho as they head to Montreal. A road win would do a world of wonders for their confidence.
I think Connolly has a lot to do with Afinogenov's improvement. He's the type of center Max needs to be playing with. Gaustad's a grinder, and Max doesn't play that game. When Connolly's on the ice, it forces opponents to key on him, and that opens up a ton of space for Afinogenov to work. When he gets the space, we see what he really can do. I really like that combination of Connolly-Afinogenov-Kotalik (when Stafford comes back, of course).It also does good for Gaustad as well. He plays his best as a 4th line grinder. He's an energy type player, not a skill player, and thus plays better with guys like Mair, Paille, and Mike Ryan. He really doesn't belong on the same line as Afinogenov. It's two completely different styles of play that don't mesh well at all.