NHL Playoffs 2011: 5 Predictions for the Sabres vs. Flyers Opening Series

Erik PaulCorrespondent IApril 12, 2011

NHL Playoffs 2011: 5 Predictions for the Sabres vs. Flyers Opening Series

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    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    The opening of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals will mark the start of another chapter in the Philadelphia Flyers and Buffalo Sabres playoff rivalry that dates back to 1975.

    The Flyers lead the Sabres with five series victories in eight attempts, but the Sabres have won the last two matchups–2001 and 2006.

    While the Flyers should have a definite edge with their second seed, they struggled to close out the season, winning just seven of their final 20 games. The Sabres, on the other hand, went on an impressive 16-4-4 hot streak to make the playoffs.

    The teams matchup reasonably well–the Flyers' forwards are deep and talented, their defensemen are big and physical and their goaltending is a question mark. The Sabres' forwards are small and fast, their defensemen are underrated and their goaltending is spectacular.

    So what's going to happen?

1. Ryan Miller Will Post at Least 1 Shutout

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    Dave Sandford/Getty Images

    Last season's Vezina Trophy winner and Olympic MVP Ryan Miller will shut out the powerful Philadelphia offense at least once in this series.

    Miller's game hasn't been as good as it was last year, but he'll step up in the playoffs to give the Flyers everything they can handle.

2. We'll See More Than 1 Flyers Goalie Play

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    Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

    Philadelphia Flyers rookie Sergei Bobrovsky will struggle at some point in the first round. He'll be pulled in favor of Brian Boucher during one of the games when Buffalo's offense is dominating.

    Bobrovsky hasn't played a single minute of NHL playoff hockey and the pressure will get to him in the first round.

3. Thomas Vanek Will Lead the Series in Goals and Points

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    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Austrian Thomas Vanek is the Buffalo Sabres' biggest game breaker and that isn't going to change when he leads this series in goals and points.

    Vanek finished off the regular season as the first star of the week. He had 20 points in 17 games down the stretch, including six points in the final two games.

4. The Flyers Will Win 3 Games on the Road

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    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Both the Philadelphia Flyers and Buffalo Sabres are better on the road than they are at home. Philadelphia is the best road team in the Eastern Conference, and they're going to take advantage of that.

    Philadelphia will win games three, four and six in Buffalo at the HSBC Arena after losing game one at home.

5. The Flyers Will Win the Series in 6 Games

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Ultimately, Philadelphia's depth, especially on offense, will overpower Buffalo in six games. The Flyers just have too much skill throughout the lineup for the Sabres defense to keep up with.

    The Sabres do still have an outside chance if Ryan Miller can "Pull a Halak" and absolutely steal the series like Jaroslav Halak did for Montreal in the first two rounds last year.

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