In the first of our four part series in looking at the Sabres and Flyers matchup in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, we take a look at the two teams goaltending. Over the past few years in the playoffs, major goaltending names have been less present in the Stanley Cup Playoffs while at the time no name goaltenders get on big runs and lead their teams to the promised land. The playoffs have made household names out of Michael Leighton, Antti Niemi, Semyon Varlamov, and others.
The Sabres and Flyers are at the opposite ends of the goaltending spectrum. Buffalo has an all-star goaltender in Ryan Miller that has some big game experience but has never led his team to the Stanley Cup Finals. Philadelphia has three goaltenders that they can rotate to find the goalie that gets hot. It worked for them last year and it could work for them this year.
After the jump are the team breakdowns.
There is one goaltender for the Buffalo Sabres and that is Ryan Miller. The team could very well go as how well Ryan Miller plays in the playoffs. Miller has not played well over the course of the season, ranked 23rd in the league in goals against average and 18th in save percentage, a far cry from the Vezina winning season he had last year. Miller had a 2.36 goals against average and .926 save percentage in the playoffs last year in six games against the Bruins. Miller's injury in the final few weeks of the regular season has given him a break as the team heads to the playoffs which could be much needed as Miller played in 66 of the team's 82 games this season.
The Sabres will also have Jhonas Enroth as a backup in the series and Enroth has played well in the regular season. He had an 9-2-2 record in his first real season as a goaltender in the NHL and led the Sabres to the playoffs when Ryan Miller was injured in the final few weeks. Enroth finished the season with a 2.73 goals against average and .907 save percentage. If Ryan Miller struggles early in this series, will coach Lindy Ruff consider throwing in the rookie for a spark?
The Flyers came into last season with same goaltending situation they have this season with the only difference is that they threw another rookie into the rotation. It worked for them last year too. The Flyers are most likely going to start the series with Sergei Bobrovsky in net, a goaltender that has played in the majority of the games for the Flyers this season, 54 total. Bobrovsky finished this season with a 2.59 goals against average and a 2-1-1 record against the Sabres this season. Bobrovsky has no Stanley Cup Playoff experience which could be a good thing or a bad thing. We haven't really seen him perform under the pressure as the Flyers have had the playoffs wrapped up since December.
The Flyers will also get Brian Boucher in the fold against the Sabres as well. Boucher finished the season with a better GAA, 2.42, and a better save percentage, .916, than Bobrovsky this season and also has the playoff experience. The Flyers have also recalled Michael Leighton, but Leighton has only played one game this season and has spent much of the regular season in the AHL. He could play a role in this series as well considering he was part of the tandem that led the Flyers to the finals last season.
in 2006 when Laviolette was with the Carolina Hurricanes, he used a goalie rotation with Cam Ward and Martin Gerber that worked well for the team on their way to the Stanley Cup. It was a hard rotation, after a goaltender gave up three goals the goalie was replaced. I wouldn't be surprised if Laviolette used the same tactic in these playoffs to keep their opponent on their toes.
The edge in goaltending goes to Buffalo though based on experience and talent.