The Buffalo Sabres over the last couple of months have put on quite a show. Since February 4th, Buffalo’s record is 20-8-5. Overall, that’s 45 points tallied up after the NHL All-Star break!
It’s been a different story for the Flyers. Philadelphia has been average at best, going 14-11-7 since the beginning of February. Include 2 losses to the Sabres and we might as well call it a night, right? Buyers Beware, the record doesn’t show the whole story!
The Flyers are a dangerous team to reckon with! The only position Philadelphia lacks is goaltending. Philly is equipped with a star studded blue line, 7 forwards with 20 or more goals and a coach that knows how to win in the playoffs.
I am not in any way saying the Sabres cannot beat Philly. But if Buffalo were to knock off the Flyers in the first round, then this would be a heck of an accomplishment! Critics from around the league could no longer say Buffalo lacks leadership or heart.
If there is one thing Sabres fans have learned over the past five years, goaltending can be the difference between winning a series or going home. Look no further than the year 2005-06 NHL Season. The Senators were loaded with talent. Jason Spezza racked up 90 points, Danny Heatley scored 50 goals and Alfredsson had over 100 points. Zdeno Charo and Andrej Meszaros were dressed in a Senators jersey. Even Wade Redden was of use for Ottawa.
Just like the Flyers, the Senators were stacked at every position except goaltending. Unfortunately for the Sens, Ray Emery played just as well as swisscheese.
Sabres 7 Senators 6 (Link to 2006 game one Sabres vs Senators. Website refuses to let me post youtube video for some odd reason).
Brian Boucher is an average experienced backup goaltender for the Flyers. Michael Leighton was a big reason as to why the Flyers made it to the Stanley Cup Finals last year. However, Leighton has only played in one regular season game the whole entire year. Sergei Bobrovsky is an average to below average goaltender who ranks 23rd in both goals against average and save percentage.
And for those who were wondering, Ray Emery played 39 games during the 2005-06 NHL Season, posting a 2.82 goals against average and a save percentage of .902. Brobrovsky fairs slightly higher posting 2.58 goals against average and .915 save percentage in 54 games.
Ryan Miller has had an off year. In fact, Miller is tied with Brobrovsky with 2.59 goals against average and ranks 18th in save percentage (.918). If Miller cannot turn his season woes around against Philadelphia, look for Jhonas Enroth to try and salvage the series.
I am sure Tim and some of the other writers will go into more depth on the Sabres vs. Philly series. But the point I wanted to bring across is this: Goaltenders Matter! Despite his stats, I feel as if a well rested and playoff experienced Ryan Miller will frustrate Danny Briere and the Philadelphia Flyers! But in the end, I just don’t see Buffalo pulling off the upset.
Buffalo lacks players who have a tendency to step it up a notch during the playoffs such as Briere, Pronger (if he plays in this series), Hartnell and Versteeg. Sure, Miller can make an incredible out of position save from time to time or give up a five-hole. And that Vanek kid has developed into a good two way player. Gerbe, Stafford and Ennis have really stepped up their game offensively as well. Sekera used to give fans migraines. Now he leads the rush and gives the Sabres an opportunity to put a point on the board.
This series will be a true test to see what Sabres player wants to contribute to the team or giveaway the puck in Buffalo’s own zone.
Prediction: Flyers win series 4-2. I hope I am wrong!
Don’t forget to follow Sabres Noise on Twitter!