So here we are. It’s April 14 and the Bruins start the push for the Stanley Cup tomorrow against the Buffalo Sabres. That’s right no Washington, no Pittsburgh and no Brodeur either! Instead, we get Team USA goalie Ryan Miller and the Sabres. Could be worse right? Yes, the Bruins worked hard the last week of the season to better their position in the Eastern Conference to sixth.
The Black and Gold started to get it all going in the last few regular season games. They finished strong with a 3-game winning streak. The power play has still been rather ineffective but when you can score three short-handed goals in just over a minute who needs a power play? If only it was that easy every game. The Bruins will need to get their power play going in order to be successful in the postseason.
And then there is Michael Ryder, the man who had been non-existent in the last month or so of the season. He had done nothing until the last game of the season. Better late than never I guess. Ryder finally showed up to play against the Capitals scoring two goals and actually playing hockey. Number 73 needs to continue playing the way he can in the playoffs in order to help this team advance to the next round.
So let’s take a look at the first round matchup between Boston and Buffalo. Buffalo’s greatest asset is goalie Ryan Miller, no question about that. However, outside of their amazing goalie, the Sabres do not have much in the form of an explosive offensive player. Of the top four teams in the Eastern Conference, this is the one team that, on paper, the Bruins have a legitimate chance against in the playoffs. The Bruins won the season series against the Sabres 4-2 but all the games were close and look for much of the game in the postseason.
Boston goes into the playoffs missing key parts of its lineup. On the offensive side, Marc Savard will be out but we can’t think about this because he has been out for the last part of the season and the rest of the team has picked up the slack. Defensemen Dennis Seidenberg and Mark Stuart will be out for the Sabres series which leaves a huge void on the blue line for the Bruins. Seidenberg has been a solid trade deadline pickup and Mark Stuart has been great all season long. Andrew Ference may return sometime during round one but with his health unpredictable, there is no use on depending on him to make an impact on the lineup.
With half of our top defensemen out, the youngsters will have to step up their games. Hunwick has certainly turned his game around playing much better at the end of the season than he did at any point during the season. Boychuk is playing like he can and it looks like Wideman is hopefully over his defensive woes. As always, Chara is Chara and is logging a lot of minutes. McQuaid will most likely fill the number five spot on the blue line and will bring an aggressive but solid defensive game and will certainly mix it up with any Sabre who gets too close to Rask or Thomas in front of the net. The sixth spot seems to belong to Andrew Bodnarchuk who played the last few regular season games with the Bruins. He might not get a lot of playing time during the playoffs but he has to be solid when he does get the chance to play. Jeff Penner may also see time on the blue line if Bodnarchuk underperforms.
My prediction for this series is the Bruins take it in seven games. They have certainly made me doubt them plenty of times this year but they seem to have it all together now and I think they can take out the Sabres. It will take a complete team effort and excellent goaltending for Rask (or Thomas, I guess). Boston will just need a few Chara or Boychuk bombs tipped by Recchi to win against Miller. He’s not going to be able to stop everything. He can’t stop what he can’t see!
As for the other games, the Caps lose to Montreal, Devils lose to Philly, and the Pens lose to Ottawa. Sounds good to me. If only we lived in a perfect world. Right now, the other games do not matter. If the Black and Gold don’t beat the Sabres, there is no need to care about who they are going to play in the next round. Game 1 tomorrow will set the tone and let’s hope the Bruins come out with intensity and take it to the Sabres.
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