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. This is part one which will focus on the Sabres Forwards against the Bruins defense.
After two seasons without playoff hockey, you would think that four days would be a short time. That hasn't been the case. We are only on day three and I can't stand waiting for the puck to drop on Thursday night. I'll do my best to help you get through the next day and half by throwing out some numbers and possible matchups between the two clubs.
In my post the other day I showed the stats for each team in their six games against each other this season and the numbers did not look good for the Sabres. Those numbers can show trends that might help a teams confidence but they won't show a whole lot more. There needs to be a much larger sample size and the way a team has played recently will mean a lot as well.
Many of us have considered the Sabres to be one of the weaker offensive teams in the league but they finished the season with 231 goals, which was good for 10th in the league. How did the Sabres manage to finish the season 10th when many of us felt they struggled offensively?
They did it by getting hot in the last month of the season and they did it by beating up on weaker opponents. While there is no shame in beating the teams on your schedule I do have some concern over the Sabres lack of scoring against the stronger teams in the league.
Buffalo scored 109 goals in 44 games against teams that qualified for the playoffs and they scored 122 in only 38 games against non-playoff teams. What this means is the Sabres averaged 2.82 goals/game in the regular season but they averaged just 2.48 goals/game when they played against the other 15 playoff teams.
This is a concern for the Sabres as they head into a series against a team that allowed only 2.33 goals/game which was second in the entire league. Combine that with the lack of success the Sabres had against Rask this season and you have a legitimate concern.
Despite the numbers I displayed above, the Sabres should like their chances against the Boston Bruins. The Sabres offense will not to be great in this series they will only need to be good. With a few players getting healthy, the Sabres should be comfortable with were they are at offensively.
They scored 55 goals in the Month of March when they had to make a push to make the playoffs. Two of their best players (Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek) have been playing great with Vanek scoring five goals in the final two games of the season.
The Sabres have also been very good at even strength this season. While they are 10th in the league in goals scored, that number jumps to 7th at even strength. Much of this series will be played at even strength which should benefit the Sabres forwards.
Sabres Forwards to Watch
#26 / Left Wing / Buffalo Sabres
Jan 19, 1984
|2009 - Thomas Vanek||71||28||25||53||9||42||10||0||6||0||182||15.4|
#9 / Center / Buffalo Sabres
May 04, 1983
|2009 - Derek Roy||80||26||43||69||9||48||10||1||6||0||215||12.1|
#29 / Right Wing / Buffalo Sabres
Nov 30, 1982
|2009 - Jason Pominville||82||24||38||62||13||22||8||0||2||0||252||9.5|
I listed three of the top offensive players for the Sabres but the Sabres will only be successful if they score by committee. Buffalo had four players reach 20 goals this season and they have 11 players that hit double digits. Ironically enough they are likely to play Tyler Ennis in the top six and he had only three goals in 10 games played in his rookie campaign.
The Bruins were one the stingiest teams in the league allowing goals. They allowed only 191 goals (2.33/game) this season and much of that was because of their rookie netminder. Injuries are an area of concern for the Bruins heading into this series but they play a very defensive style of hockey that is meant to frustrate their opponent.
The key for the Bruins defense will be to keep the puck to the outside and prevent traffic in front of Rask. Rask has proven he is a great goalie and he is almost impossible to beat when there is no traffic in front of him.
Players to Watch
#33 / Defenseman / Boston Bruins
Mar 18, 1977
|2009 - Zdeno Chara||80||7||37||44||19||87||4||0||1||0||242||2.9|
#55 / Defenseman / Boston Bruins
Jan 19, 1984
|2009 - Johnny Boychuk||51||5||10||15||10||43||0||0||0||0||96||5.2|
I'll have to admit not knowing a lot about the Bruins defense. I was trying to figure out who to highlight besides Chara and came across a guy named Johnny Boychuk. His stat line is pretty impressive and he brings along some size as well. I don't need to say much about Chara, he is a great player and he has been very impressive against the Sabres this season.
Advantage: Boston. I think the Sabres forwards can have some success against the Bruins but I think in the end the defense rules. The Bruins have been a good defensive team all season and I don't see an opportunity to change that in this series.