The Bruins Playoff Outlook & Who are the Buffalo Sabres?

The Bruins have made it to the NHL Playoffs by playing over 0.700 hockey through the last 11 games of the season. Wavering even slightly would have put the Rangers in, without question, however the B’s were able to accomplish what made them so successful last year, riding a high horse into the first round. The Bruins played Claude Julien’s system, and through my hibernation of shame after the lack of revenge game versus the Penguins, and through my constant dismissal of management all season, for their failure to wean me off of Tim Thomas respectably, or obtain goal scoring at the deadline, they have managed to pull me out of my den to see my shadow, and what I see, is 6 more weeks of hockey for the B’s. (Maybe 8 if we truly believe in Miracles) I do not think that the Bruin’s feel like anything after this, is all gravy. Similar to Tiger Woods’ choice to play the Masters, they have entered into this first round to win, or leave a message; if not to win, they wouldn’t be here at all.

What to expect from the Bruins?

Tuuka Rask will be your starter, no questions asked. (Tim Thomas did show his talent and tenacity in what may be (gulp) his final performance as a Bruin. This is of course an entirely different discussion to save until the off-season.) Rask, however, is young, and with youth comes “Carey Price” syndrome. (Jarislav Halak has successfully beaten out Price for the Canadians starting job in net going into the playoffs.  Too bad he will get eaten alive by the Capitals, not for being a cry baby like his counterpart, but for the simple fact the Capitals may not be able to be beaten.) The syndrome I speak of, is the inability to keep regular season focus or form when entering into your rookie playoff debut. The Playoffs are a different game. There will be jamming at the net, and there will be a constant requirement for Rask to handle the puck. These are both his weak points, and though he has the ability to stop almost anything glove side, or outside the faceoff dots, he will show these weaknesses. It will be on the shoulders of the Bruins’ defense to control these holes in Rask’s game, and if successful at that, Rask will be successful in net. On to the defense, I am not a fan of harboring a rookie core, however there is very little that can be done, when most of our defense,  reminiscent of last year’s playoff picture, is either playing injured or sitting injured. With only Wideman, Hunwick, Boychuk and McQuaid completely healthy, Chara is going to have to fight through his nose, which is falling off, keep his monster balance, and hit everything. Checking is a huge question mark in dealing with young defenseman, and if Mark Stuart can’t return to form, look for a lot of forwards trying to step it up through center ice, and look for Buffalo to exploit these forwards out of position. It will not be all wreckless abandon however, and carrying through on Julien’s philosophy, the second reason, to Rask that is, that they are even in these playoffs,  their ability to forecheck and play offensive defense will enjoy its continued success. This style, is played correctly, results in what I like to call accidental goals. The Capitals can score all day, with snipers and finishers, but the B’s depend on positioning and cycling, and this has been stronger than ever recently, and at just the right time. Other aspects working for the B’s going into the playoffs, have been the lead passes from these young, very offensive minded, defensemen and their ability to jump into the play. (Dennis Wideman has actually stepped up his game lately, and I for one am looking forward to watching him control a lot more ice through the playoffs. An angel just lost his wings.) The Bruins can skate, and in fact, can match any team on a fresh sheet of ice if everyone has their skates on. That being said, and repetitively I’m sure, do not expose yourselves, because though Buffalo is weak offensively, they will score on Rask if given one too many odd man rushes. The last thing to watch for is the patience of the select few who I feel will step up their games, and are playing strong and (knock on wood) healthy hockey. Miroslav Satan, David Kreijci, Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi. Yes, the “Wrecking Ball” brings the experience, Satan and Kreijci bring a European, unmatched finesse, worthy of controlling what NEEDS to be a strong and desperately improved powerplay, and Bergeron brings himself, along with a handful of others which will prevent Buffalo from getting anything done on their own powerplay. If Rask can maintain, and the system stays within the boundaries of itself, and the youth stays IN POSITION, goals will be scored, rushes will be matched, and physicality will not be questioned. Finally, I expect Lucic to take every Sabre’s head off, and I would like to now address just whose heads those will be.

Who are the Buffalo Sabres?

The Sabres are Ryan Miller. Should be Vezina Trophy winner, Miller, won 41 games for the Sabres, a team who has missed the playoffs for the last two years. Playing without an offensive threat, (don’t call Thomas Vanek anything more than an occasional finisher), and with the departure are Maxin Afinogenov, it will be the physical play of bruisers, Griere, Gaustad and Rivet that will be the constant game changing enforcers for the Sabres. I predict this physicality will be matched by the B’s. Look for Hecht, Roy and Pomminville to own the show for the Sabres in terms of leadership, however it will be Ryan Miller getting all the press and keeping the Sabres in check. This leadership will also be matched, by Chara, the largest captain in the NHL, and Bergeron, who, for the sake of reiteration, will come to play, and play to win.

I honestly feel like the Bruins are the favorite, in what will be a low scoring, physically defensive round one series, if one takes into consideration, or course, momentum, individual talent, and team chemistry. In conclusion it will come down to Rask vs. Miller, and if the young defense can prove critics wrong, one last time, and keep Rask out of the water, it will be the Sabres drowning in what will prove to be an overhyped, one man show of a season for Buffalo.

Boston needs to believe again, as I so humbly will be watching every second. When the Canadians get swept, and the Flyers get taken out by Brodeur, the Capitals will be waiting, restless, with quick skates, and an elaborate plethora of scoring strategies. They will waiting for the Bruins, I will be writing a post to detail the greatest upset of the season.

Prediction

Bruins in 7.

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2 Responses

  1. A few things from my perspective:

    *The big key is to get the power play going. They have been atrocious down the stretch. If they can’t convert some of these opportunites it will be a short stay in the postseason for the B’s.

    *Dennis Wideman has played cough well cough lately. If he has a great playoff, will that erase our memories of how terrible he was in the regular season?

    *Here’s to hoping Ryan Miller is going to have the Olympic hangover. He is better than Rask, no doubt and will be tough to score on especially for an offensively challenged team.

  2. *Agreed

    *No

    *He will crack

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