This will be a three-part series over the next day to highlight the matchups we will see on the ice when this series finally begins on Thursday night. Part Two will focus on the Sabres defense and goaltending versus the Bruins forwards.
Part I - Sabres Forwards vs. Bruins Defense
I don't need to be the one to tell you that the Sabres and Bruins have two of the best defensive teams in the entire NHL. It's easy to see where this post is going but I'll try to back up each point with some statistics to prove it.
I could probably spare you a whole lot of reading and just say that Ryan Miller is the key to the Sabres defense. While that is certainly true it is about a whole lot more than Ryan Miller. Miller is good because he was helped by his defense this season and a large part of the credit has to go to Tyler Myers and the resurgence of Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman.
I was looking at some advanced stats today and could not believe the numbers of Toni Lydman this season. He has flown under the radar and gets little credit for what he has been able to accomplish this season. Lydman finished the regular season with a plus-10 rating and opponents scored only 35 goals while he was on the ice this season.
Anytime you have to face Ryan Miller there is some concern and that concern is even greater for the Boston Bruins who scored less than every team in the NHL. While the number jumps slightly at even strength the Bruins are still close to the bottom in goals scored.
The Sabres have relied heavily on Tyler Myers and Henrik Tallinder as their top defensemen this season. I wouldn't consider them to be a shutdown pair for the Sabres but they bring enough offensively to counter their defensive deficiencies.
The chart below is courtesy of Behind the Net.
|Player||Qual Comp.||GA ON/60||GA OFF/60||On/Off|
I felt this chart was important because it shows how dominant Toni Lydman has been this season but it also shows that he has not played against the same competition as Tallinder and Myers. It also shows that Montador and Rivet have been better than many people want to give them credit for.
The Sabres entire defensive corps is underrated and a large part of that is playing in close games. Every defensive breakdown is magnified in a one goal game and the Sabres style promotes playing tight low scoring games.
Players to Watch
|2009 - Tyler Myers||82||11||37||48||13||32||3||0||1||0||104||10.6|
|2009 - Henrik Tallinder||82||4||16||20||13||32||0||0||0||0||53||7.5|
The Bruins are going to rely on scoring by committee much like the Buffalo Sabres. Unlike the Sabres, the Bruins don't have a long list of guys that have put the puck in the net. Marco Sturm is the only player that has scored 20 goals this season and only eight players had at least 10. One of the players that netted 10 goals was Marc Savard and he will not be in the lineup this series.
Players to Watch
|2009 - Patrice Bergeron||73||19||33||52||6||28||0||1||4||0||184||10.3|
|2009 - David Krejci||79||17||35||52||8||26||6||0||3||0||156||10.9|
|2009 - Marco Sturm||76||22||15||37||14||30||4||1||2||0||203||10.8|
Advantage Buffalo. This matchup heavily favors the Sabres defensively. While many fans, including myself, fear this matchup because of Tuukka Rask, I feel that Lindy Ruff loves the matchup because he knows he has Ryan Miller between the pipes.