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New Year's Eve Showdown

The Sabres head to Boston to take on the NHL’s top team

Buffalo Sabres v Boston Bruins Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Game 34

Buffalo Sabres (17-14-2) vs. Boston Bruins (28-4-3)

Puck Drop: 1:00 PM EST | TD Garden | Boston, MA

TV: MSG

Radio: WGR 550

SB Nation Bruins Blog: Stanley Cup of Chowder

Know Your Opponent

Boston Bruins

Record: (28-4-3)

Last Game: 3-1 win vs Devils

Division Ranking: 1st in Atlantic Division

PP: 29.4% (2nd)

PK: 73.2% (25th)

What to Watch

1. Tall Task

The Bruins have been the NHL’s most dominant team at home this season by far, going 18-0-2 up to this point. Buffalo has already had a tough time against Boston the past few seasons, only winning once in the last 18 matchups, so going into the Garden on Saturday will be a challenge with both a talented Bruins roster and the daunting recent statistics going against them.

Although the Sabres have shown a lot of improvement this season and have scored around the same number of goals the Bruins have (133 and 135, respectively), Boston has been more consistent, and has given up the least amount of goals in the NHL this year (78). While games between these two Atlantic Division rivals have been intense in the past, this one has a chance to take it to a whole new level, as Buffalo has much more to prove this season compared to others. Saturday afternoon in Boston will be a great test for the Sabres as their league leading 4.00 goals per game will take on the Bruins league leading 2.14 goals against per game.

2. Ullmark the Ultimate

While the three goalies the Sabres have put on the ice this season have played decently and shown signs of promise, many fans agree the biggest hole that needs to be filled on the roster is a franchise goaltender. And unfortunately, Buffalo let one slip through their fingers.

Sure, a number 1 goalie isn’t the Sabres only need of improvement, but how nice would it be to have one this season like Linus Ullmark as the offense is starting to explode. While Boston does have an incredible defensive core that can limit chances and opponent pressure, Ullmark has been nothing short of incredible so far this season, leading the league in wins (20), save percentage (.938%) and GAA (1.90). Not only is he playing like a franchise goalie, you could also make the debate that he’s been the best in the NHL through close to the midway point. Just when it seemed like the Bruins were going to have to figure out a new goaltending situation after Tuukka Rask retired, Linus Ullmark stepped in and hasn’t missed a beat. If Buffalo wants to go into Boston and steal a win on New Year’s Eve, they’ll have to figure out Ullmark, who should also have extra motivation going against his former team.

Poll

How Many Goals Will the Sabres Score?

This poll is closed

  • 33%
    2 or less
    (37 votes)
  • 39%
    3
    (43 votes)
  • 19%
    4
    (21 votes)
  • 7%
    5 or more
    (8 votes)
109 votes total Vote Now

3. Special Teams Impact

One key aspect that will have an impact in Saturday’s game will be the special teams units. Both Buffalo and Boston have a top 5 power play at 29.4% (2nd) and 27.9% (4th) respectively, and really heavily on scoring goals with the man advantage. Where they differ, however, is on the penalty kill, as Boston is 2nd in the league and only allows a goal on 15.6% of opportunities, while Buffalo has struggled and allowed a goal on 26.8% of opportunities, good for 25th in the league.

If the Sabres want to improve their chances of beating the Bruins their going to have to capitalize on the powerplay, where they are good enough to do so despite a strong Boston penalty kill. On the flip side, Buffalo will also really want to limit the number of penalties they take to make sure the Bruins don’t get ample opportunities on the man advantage. In a game featuring high powered offenses, every powerplay and penalty kill will be big, so Buffalo will need to play their best on both sides to make sure they have a good chance to win.

Projected Lineups

Buffalo Sabres

Forwards

Jeff Skinner - Tage Thompson - Alex Tuch

JJ Peterka - Dylan Cozens - Jack Quinn

Casey Mittelstadt - Tyson Jost - Victor Olofsson

Kyle Okposo - Peyton Krebs - Zemgus Girgensons

Defense

Mattias Samuelsson - Rasmus Dahlin

Owen Power - Kale Clague

Jacob Bryson - Ilya Lyubushkin

Goaltenders: Craig Anderson (projected starter), Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen

Scratches: Vinnie Hinostroza, Rasmus Asplund

Injuries: Eric Comrie, Henri Jokiharju

Boston Bruins

Forwards

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Jake DeBrusk

Pavel Zacha - David Krejci - David Pastrnak

Taylor Hall - Charlie Coyle - Craig Smith

Nick Foligno - Trent Frederic - AJ Greer

Defense

Hampus Lindholm - Charlie McAvoy

Matt Grzlecyk - Brandon Carlo

Derek Forbort - Connor Clifton

Goaltenders: Linus Ullmark (projected starter), Jeremy Swayman

Scratches: Jakub Zboril, Anton Stralman

Injuries: Tomas Nocek