Playoff Preview: Round 1 – Buffalo Sabres @ Philadelphia Flyers
As many of you may know, my past game previews are pretty much world famous. Alright, so they may not be world famous but my mom really enjoys them. With that in mind, I present to you the first ever TRW Playoff Preview! Basically this is a game preview but based around the whole playoff series.
The Sabres come into this series after clinching the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference. Buffalo has a bit of a hot hand as of late. They are currently on a four game winning streak and haven’t lost since their overtime bout against the Washington Capitals on April 2nd. The Sabres haven’t exactly been dominant in the span (they only outscored their opponents 15-10 during the streak) but wins are wins and that is what matters.
Philadelphia, however, has been a bit of different story the past few weeks. The 2nd place Flyers are coming into the playoffs after a 7-4 win over the New York Islanders. Due to Philadelphia’s performance prior to the win, this game can not be used as an indicator for their recent performance. The first problem with this win is that it came AGAINST THE ISLANDERS. This past season the Isles finished second last in the East and further proved that they are a joke. The second problem with using the aforementioned win as a benchmark is that the Flyers lost five games prior. Despite the fact that they are one of the elite teams in the East, the Flyers lack consistency and are surprisingly weak.
In their season series the Sabres and Flyers split with each team going 2-2. The Flyers slightly edged the Sabres out in scoring. Philly outscored Buffalo 17-14 throughout the 4 games.
Instead of talking about who is hot right now, I’m going to discuss who for the Sabres performed well against the Flyers and vice versa.
Nathan Gerbe – Ever since his college days, Gerbe has proven he can step up when the time is right. I watched Gerbe manhandle the rest of the collegiate world on his way to a national title in 2008. In the AHL Gerbe proved yet again he was the real deal when he won AHL rookie of the year. Nathan stepped it up yet again this past season by earning a permanent spot on the Sabres roster. Gerbe proved his worth on the roster by contributing in nearly all aspects of the game. Against the Flyers, specifically, Nate netted 3 goals and an assist. That’s 4 points in 4 games. Couple that with the fact that he was +4 and took a whopping 13 shots and it’s easy to see that Gerbe can be effective against Philly. Watch for Gerbe, who models his game after Danny Briere, to show Briere how a small man really plays.
Thomas Vanek – It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Vanek is listed here. After all, the Austrian has had a pretty fantastic year. Granted, Vanek’s 32 goals, 41 assists and 73 points are by no means stellar in comparison with the league leaders but those points are all good enough for the team lead in their respective categories. If they Sabres want to perform well in the playoffs they need Vanek to step up and be a consistent production machine. Luckily for Buffalo, Vanek performed quite up to par against the Flyers this past season. Although Vanek’s 2 goals in the teams’ 4 meetings this year doesn’t seem spectacular, his assists are quite important. Thomas tallied 5 assists total against Philly. That is a great stat because it is a well known fact that the Sabres need Vanek to be successful if they are going to be successful. Watch for Vanek to set up his linemates tonight against a weakened Philadelphia defense.
Danny Briere – Briere has every right to be listed here as a hot player for the Flyers. Sabres fans know all about how dangerous Briere can be in both the regular season and playoffs. This season, he was second on the Flyers in points with 68. He has proven time and again that he is in the upper echelon of forwards in the NHL. Briere had good success against Buffalo this season as well. His 8 points (5 of which were assists) were the best of any player for the Flyers during the series. Look for Briere to be a veteran presence for the Flyers as they look to go deep into the post season.
Jochen Hecht – Although statistics don’t always tell the whole story, Jochen Hecht’s stats against the Flyers this past season are pretty abysmal. Chokin’ Jochen managed to net zero goal and zero assists for a total of zero points. Normally I’d be alright with that because Hecht is a “two way” forward. However, one of the prerequisites for being dual forward is being solid defensively. It’s a bit difficult to do that, though, when Hecht was -4. That stat is good enough for worst of the series. Hecht needs to bring everything he has this series for the Sabres to go deep.
It was pretty difficult for me to find someone who outright didn’t play well over the course of four games for the Flyers. Perhaps that is a product of how deep of a team the Flyers really are. I almost took the easy way out and said that Oskars Bartulis was “not” but he only played in one game over the series. Plus, You would have been all “Who’s Oskars Bartulis?” and I would’ve been all “He’s some obscure player that you just wouldn’t understand” and then I would’ve turned my vinyl of Modest Mouse’s The Moon and Antartica up really loud just to shut you up.
douchebag defenseman Chris Pronger is injured for tonight’s game. As if Philly’s goaltending wasn’t enough of an issue, their defense just got even worse. Look for the Sabres to use their speed to tear Philly apart.
The Man, The Myth, The Miller makes his return in goal tonight for the Sabres. Ryan Miller could be a major key for the Sabres to make a cup run.
Between the pipes for the orange and black is Sergei Bobrovsky. And you’d be all like “Who’s Sergei Bobrovsky” and then I’d be… Oh wait. I already made that joke.
BOYCOTT THE ORANGE. GO SABRES.
Game is on at 7:30 on VS.