New Year's Eve Showdown
The Sabres head to Boston to take on the NHL’s top team
Buffalo Sabres (17-14-2) vs. Boston Bruins (28-4-3)
Puck Drop: 1:00 PM EST | TD Garden | Boston, MA
Radio: WGR 550
SB Nation Bruins Blog: Stanley Cup of Chowder
Know Your Opponent
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.
How Many Goals Will the Sabres Score?
|2 or less||37|
|5 or more||8|
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.
Jeff Skinner - Tage Thompson - Alex Tuch
JJ Peterka - Dylan Cozens - Jack Quinn
Casey Mittelstadt - Tyson Jost - Victor Olofsson
Kyle Okposo - Peyton Krebs - Zemgus Girgensons
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
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Jake DeBrusk
Pavel Zacha - David Krejci - David Pastrnak
Taylor Hall - Charlie Coyle - Craig Smith
Nick Foligno - Trent Frederic - AJ Greer
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