The Sabres came oh, so close to the second round.
Unfortunately, most of the guys in Blue and Gold got closer to the infirmary throughout the opening series against Philadelphia. Wounded, battered, and thoroughly broken, the Sabres exited the playoffs in Game Seven like only a bunch of warmed over cadavers can do – by taking it lying down.
Before the grisly death of the 2010-11 Buffalo Sabres, I had a conversation with the guys over at “Days of Y’Orr,” a popular Bruins blog, on what a potential Sabres/Bruins match-up would look like.
Of course we never got to fight the Bruins (the only thing close to that idea right now is trying to get that bear on the loose in Amherst), but the conversation was fun, it revealed interesting points about the Sabres first round exit, and it makes for what now is a good Sunday offseason read.
We coulda' been somebody! We coulda' been a - contender!
OK, take it away, Days of Y’Orr…
*My comments are in italics.
Bruins vs Sabres
If the Bruins met the Sabres in the playoffs, we’d prepare ourselves for a bunch of lame “well the Sabres beat the Bruins four out of six times in the regular season!” arguments. Regular season is over. This is the playoffs baby!
And it still is the playoffs, for the Bruins – who just dropped Game One in the Conference Finals against the Lightning. Take that, DOY.
Would be a fine matchup of the last two Vezina winners, though Thomas is about to win another. No contest. We love making fun of the Sabres at Days of Y’Orr. Especially Miller. Obviously we’re biased towards Thomas and we would give the edge in goaltending to Thomas and the Bruins. Why?
Thomas is more mentally focused. That probably sounds weird when you’re talking about a guy who has tackled forwards before but Miller seems to lose control more often when people are in or around his crease and screening people. It is easier to throw Miller off his game. He’s lashed out at the Bruins several times this season. Taking a goalie out of the game mentally is a huge advantage.
In other words, we missed out on a potential goalie fight between Thomas and Miller…? Likely not, but anything is possible in a “what if” article. I’d have to put my money on Thomas in this fight. He’s just too frighteningly zippy. He’d jump Miller as Ryan slowly mentally prepared himself for the brawl.
Definitely going to have to give the each to Buffalo here. Neither team is especially great on the powerplay or the penalty kill but the Bruins are simply painful to watch on the power play. Kaberle has done little to improve the PP and has made it more predictable. Pass, pass, pass, pass, Kaberle fakes, passes to Chara for slapshot. Rinse. Repeat. Chara has a cannon but when teams know what is going on the goalie is better prepared.
It is not talked about enough, but the Bruins penalty kill has reaaaaaaally fallen off in recent months. We went from not ever being concerned when they were down a man to pissing our pants 70% of the time. They have mostly the same personnel so no idea what happened.
Sigh. We have absolutely nothing to piss our pants about anymore.
The Bruins scored one more goal than the Sabres in the regular. One. When the Bruins are on, their offense looks beastly. But they have a tendency to get disinterested or easily frustrated. When they face a hot goalie they have a tendency to shoot from long range and hope for rebounds… except they don’t have anyone in front of the net to, you know, get those rebounds.
The Sabres had two 30+ goal scorers. The Bruins had one. Lucic. Both teams spread out their offense. Except when they play each other. Then Drew Stafford scores all the goals. He scored two hat tricks against the Bruins this season. Stafford is apparently like kryptonite to the Bruins. But really their offenses are kind of a wash. Neither team is really that intimidating on offense.
Someone send Stafford to Amherst to get that bear.
Chara. Boychuk. McQuaid. The Bruins defense is big and bad. Not much gets by the Bruins defense. The Sabres defense is prone to more leaks. And any team that prominently features Steve Montador is at a disadvantage. Don’t give us this plus/minus. The guy is awful. Ask any Bruins fan about Montador and they’ll recall how many awesome assists he had in the 2009 playoffs. Stevey and Eric Staal had fantastic chemistry. Unfortunately for the Bruins they were on different teams. Boston’s D is more physical and locks down the front of the net better in our humble opinions.
Incredibly spot-on. Montador was a healthy scratch for Game Seven. Well played, DOY, well played.
Sabres main advantage
Speed. The Bruins do not handle speed well. This is no secret. Guys like Gerbe have the potential to run wild on this Bruins team.
Gerbe runs wild over everyone.
Bruins main advantage
Brute force. The Bruins are one of the most physical teams in the league. Fighting, checking, post whistle roughing. They got it all. They frustrate teams with that when they are on their game. In their season series the Bruins often roughed up the Sabres. Problem was the B’s concentrated too much on that while Buffalo was setting up plays.
On and Patrick Kaleta. He helps the Bruins. He likes to take runs at Boychuk and Chara…. and fail miserably.
Kaleta. His chirp to Briere and Hartnell about their (ex) wives likely turned the series in the Flyers favor in Game Six. Oh, it wasn’t proven that it was Kaleta who said it? Whatever.
The Bruins have a chip on their shoulder. They are a punchline in NHL playoff history after last year. Thomas has a lot to prove after his down season last year and calls from fans to trade him. The whole team wants to prove they are better than last year. That kind of focus can go a long way.
Buffalo came into the playoffs playing their best hockey all season. Momentum and chemistry cannot be overstated. If you’re a Flyers fan, you should be worried about Buffalo in the first round. They’ve got swagger.
Swagger? That’s the “Pegula Bump.” Get used to it, Boston, because Pegula has big plans for next season.
So there it is folks, your series that never was, in a nutshell. Had the Sabres survived Round One against Philly, they would’ve had to skate with their sticks as crutches. The Flyers took the series, but after the cage match against the Sabres, they had nothing left to give and were swept handily by none other than the dastardly Bruins.
What if the Sabres actually met the Bruins in these playoffs?
Boston in 5.
At least we would have done better than Philly. Maybe.