Finally, the NHL playoffs are here, and the Boston Bruins have drawn the Northeast Division-leading Buffalo Sabres in the quarterfinal series that begins Thursday night at HSBC Arena.
On paper, this series looks like it will be a goalie duel, pitting the No. 1 and No. 2 goals against averages during the regular season against each other.
Boston’s Tuukka Rask finished with a league-best 1.97 GAA in 45 games played.
Buffalo’s Ryan Miller , who is a favorite to win the Vezina trophy as the league's best goaltender, was close behind the 23-year-old Rask with a 2.22 GAA. Miller was between the pipes for 69 of the Sabres' 82 games this season, as well as back-stopping Team USA to an Olympic Silver medal, bringing considerably more weight to his strong numbers.
The Bruins were able to defeat the Sabres in four of their six meetings this season, including a 3-1 victory last Thursday (Apr. 8) at the TD Garden. Even though things look optimistic, with the B’s taking the season series, the numbers don’t tell the whole story.
With Miller in net for the Sabres, which he is sure to be every game, the teams split four games, winning two each. Rask was the winning goalie in all four of Boston’s victories.
Boston did outscore Buffalo during the six meetings, 15-11, but produced a paltry 2-for-17 on the power play, which will have to improve exponentially if the Bruins hope to advance deeper into these playoffs.
To have success, Boston will need continued production from their top scorers. Patrice Bergeron (19G, 33A) and David Krejci (17G, 35A) led the Bruins’ offense with 52 points each. B’s captain Zdeno Chara (7G, 37A) was third on the team’s list with 44 points. His contributions, both on offense and defense, will be monumental in the Bruins’ success or failure this postseason.
The other Eastern Conference matchups are as follows: Washington Capitals-Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils-Philadelphia Flyers, and Pittsburgh Penguins-Ottawa Senators.
In the West, the San Jose Sharks play the Colorado Avalanche, in addition to Chicago Blackhawks-Nashville Predators, Vancouver Canucks-LA Kings, and Phoenix Coyotes-Detroit Red Wings.
Let the quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup begin!