Hello Philadelphia. Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It is no surprise who your first (ahem, and hopefully only) opponent is the Buffalo Sabres. Tim Redinger here, and if you don’t know it I am the Senior Editor over at SabreNoise and the Voice of Fansided on Rink Side Rants. I am filling in for Eugene today, who is filling in for me over at Sabrenoise. Check out what he has to say about the Flyers here.
One complaint that I have about the modern NHL is that there are no true rivalries left in the NHL – but for some reason there is always a little extra energy when the Sabres and Flyers meet in the playoffs. Maybe orange is to Buffalo’s like red is to bull’s.
I grew up in an era of Sabres hockey well past the Broad Street Bullies days, and well after the Stanley Cup Finals series between our beloved franchises, but that doesn’t mean I have any less disdain for your hockey team. But I know the feeling is mutual – so here we go, heres a look at what the Flyers need to focus on in order to get out of the first round.
I don’t have to tell you twice, but the magical run of the Flyers during last year’s playoffs has been on the minds of many players, and it doesn’t sit well, so they are going to try and be like the Pittsburgh Penguins, and win the Stanley Cup the year after they lost in the finals. The ease at which Philadelphia flew out of the gate this year put them on easy street early, and we know what happens to teams when that happens. But this isn’t about the Philadelphia Flyers, it is about the Buffalo Sabres, and what the Flyers will need to do in order to defeat them.
Lets start with the crease and work our way out. If anyone of you have heard the name Patrick Lalime – you can erase that name from your memory. While still on the Buffalo roster, it will take a great deal of injury for him to see the crease. The net will be minded by the Sabres six million dollar man Ryan Miller. Poor performance or not, Ryan Miller is going to be the starter for every game in the playoffs – and rightfully so. His resume is full of playoff appearances and Olympics – but he has never won the big one. If Ryan Miller plays true to his playoff and Olympic form during this years playoffs, Philadelphia will struggle to beat him. If Ryan Miller plays like he has all year while battling injury, the more shots that Philadelphia takes, the more likely it is Miller will be beaten. The only way Ryan Miller comes out of the net is if he has an injury that he cannot play through, in which case Jhonas Enroth will man the pipes. While the kid has no NHL playoff experience, he is calm cool and collective, and stepped in and won in playoff atmospheres.
Defense is suspect. The Buffalo Sabres did very little to repair the defense that was hinged upon the workings of Toni Lydman and Hank Tallinder. With their absence, the Buffalo Sabres brought on Jordan Leopold and Shoane Morrisson. Leopold has panned out, but is injured, Morrisson has been about as useful as an extra ear or a sixth finger. The tree like phenom of Tyler Myers has struggled in his second season – so we will see what to anticapate out of the kid in the playoffs. The trio of Chris Butler, Mike Weber, and Andrej Sekera have had their moments in the sun, but have also coughed up a lot of turnovers. Pressure these kids in the corners and they are going to throw the puck to the front of the net. Don’t know why – they just do it. There is plenty of offensive talent on the Flyers that a hard forecheck will cause the Sabres headaches in their own end.
Offensively the Buffalo Sabres are going to be a challenge for the Flyers with our without Pronger in the lineup. While the Flyers have the advantage of size on their size, the Buffalo Sabres have a set of forwards that are playing like they have something to prove. AHL callups and rookies like Nathan Gerbe and Tyler Ennis are playing for roster spots on a team that is evolving from a change in ownership. Plenty of guys on the roster are coming up on free agency and will be looking for payday. The Flyers will have to get the offensive frustrated early, or risk allowing the Buffalo offense to start running the score up.
Key Factors for Flyers:
- Use your size. Kaleta, Gausted, and McCormick are the only real physical threats, but Gerbe likes to play big too. Pushed around though and the Sabres game might not be good enough for playoff hockey.
- Goaltending. Keep shots away from Sergei Bobrovsky, the Sabres are going to shoot from everyone on the ice, and the kid’s performance lately has been less than stellar.
- Forecheck. Take advantage of a off Ryan Miller and a suspect defense.
- Take the Sabres out of the games early. The Flyers lost the last two games of the regular season against the Buffalo Sabres because the Flyers let the Sabres hang around in the game. The Sabres are going to attack, but at the same time they are going to pick their spots and take advantage of any Flyers miscue.
The down side for the Flyers is the fact that they played so well early on, they have seemed to coast the last portion of the season, I mean getting blown out against the Islanders and the Senators? Having your goaltender chased by bottom feeders? No control. If the Flyers wake up and take the game to the Sabres, their might be no contest – but the Buffalo Sabres have not lost back to back games since the new owner took over, and have one of the best if not the best record in the Eastern Conference this year (since the start of the new year). The Sabres are clicking on all cylinders; before the Flyers can beat them they have to figure out how to make this well oiled machine misfire.
Good luck, thanks for having me, and hopefully we get a ton of great hockey over the next few weeks! This is the time of the year we live for, and I think the NHL finally got an ad campaign right. History will be made.
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