2011 Playoffs: Philadelphia vs. Buffalo

This article can be found published on Chicks Who Give a Puck.

Stanley_Cup_Playoffs

Written by Candice Monhollan and Megan Leach, who will be covering the Flyers and Sabres respectively during the 2011 NHL playoffs.

The Flyers and Sabres have faced each other eight times prior to this meeting with the Flyers holding the advantage, winning five of those series – the first of which was in the Cup Finals in 1975. Though lately, the series seems to be in Buffalo’s favor with them winning the last three out of four.

Flyers

Veteran goalie Brian Boucher will support rookie Sergei Bobrovsky as he gets the start for the playoffs. (NHL.com/Getty Images)

Veteran goalie Brian Boucher will support rookie Sergei Bobrovsky as he gets the start for the playoffs. (NHL.com/Getty Images)

The Philadelphia Flyers find themselves the 2011 Atlantic Division Champions on their last game after struggling to capture the title for the last week of the regular season.  They head into the Stanley Cup playoffs for the 10th time in the last 11 seasons and the 35th time in the franchise’s 44 seasons in the league, the most appearances out of all expansion teams. Although out of all those seasons, the team has only won two Stanley Cups: their first in 1973-74 and the second in 1974-75.

The Flyers are coming off last season’s historic run to the Cup Finals and they hope to produce the same run (although hopefully with less dramatics) and capture those final two victories and bring Lord Stanley’s Cup back to Philadelphia for the first time in 36 years.

It would be difficult to be an opponent looking at the roster and not have the urge to shudder. The Flyers are stacked in every position except one. They offensive depth is tremendous. No player may be in the running for the Rocket Richard or Art Ross, but no other team can boast about having eight – yes, eight – players with more than 20 goals (and one who finished at 19). The Flyers don’t need a high-scoring superstar when they can easily roll out three dangerous lines. The defensive corps is arguably the best in the league. Peter Laviolette can feel confident putting any pairing out against the other team. There won’t be worries of wearing down either veteran Kimmo Timonen or Chris Pronger with the ice time being distributed relatively evenly.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: goaltending. The Flyers enter the playoffs with a rookie and a journeyman. That doesn’t sound very reassuring, but then again, both Sergei Bobrovsky and Brian Boucher have played well enough to keep the Flyers at or near the top of the Eastern Conference almost the entire season. Can the “Dynamic B’s” keep it up in the playoffs? Also, if Chris Pronger is not healthy enough to return in the first round, it could prove costly to the Flyers. What could be a detriment to the team is their lack of a power play. They finished the season 19th, clicking at just 16.6 percent.

Sabres

Does Ryan Miller have what it takes to lead the Sabres to their first Cup win? (Cheryl Adams/HockeyBroad.com)

Does Ryan Miller have what it takes to lead the Sabres to their first Cup win? (Cheryl Adams/HockeyBroad.com)

After clinching their playoff spot in an overtime win to the Philadelphia Flyers in the second-to-last game of the season, the city of Buffalo is pumping at another chance to get into the playoffs. After falling to the Boston Bruins in the first round of the 2009-2010 playoffs and an abysmal start to the season, the Sabres are prepare to make changes and bring the cup to Buffalo.

The Buffalo Sabres have a notoriously tragic history of the playoffs, a 40 years of history that are near misses for a team hungry for the cup. The Sabres have only been to the Stanley Cup Finals three seasons in their storied history, the most recent being the memorable 1998-1999 season that brought the Sabres the painful memory of “No Goal.”

As a result of this tortuous history, the Buffalo Sabres and their fans approach the playoffs with some caution, constantly prepared for the chance that heartbreak could befall the city.The tone of the Sabres this year, however, is seemingly lacking in anticipation as they enter in the back of the pack at 7th seed in the 2010-2011 playoff series. Still flying in the wake of the Terry Pegula takeover, there is hope that this might be the year.

The Buffalo Sabres are notoriously strong in goaltending, and this year is no different. Despite a shockingly weak season for Ryan Miller, the team has brought up more than capable back-up Jhonas Enroth. Although somewhat of a wildcard, the small goaltender has won nine of his fourteen games dressing for the Sabres, and has been a reliable relief for Ryan Miller. The team has had a total change of face from the beginning of the season, and is offensively solid, with the leadership of Thomas Vanek, recently named alternate captain since the departure of Craig Rivet.  Two 30 goal scorers and two more 20 goal scorers show a core of feisty offensive masters who can find the back of the net with ease.

The one thing that the Sabres always have to worry about is their defensive strength.  Weak at times, the Sabres could cross the states with how many times Miller, Lalime and Enroth have been hung out to dry. With injury to veteran and highest scoring defenseman Jordan Leopold, pressure will be put on the likes of Tyler Myers and Steve Montador to lock up the blue line.

Despite their weaknesses, the Sabres have been feuled by their fans and the excitement of this new era of play. The team has played better at home and on the road, not once losing two games in a row. For the superstitious, the Sabres are also getting an edge from the late Rick Martin, and have not lost a game at home since the number 7’s were placed behind the nets.

The two teams both won two games against each other this season, though the Flyers were able to skate away with five of eight points after dropping the last game in overtime. Scoring-wise, the teams are almost identical with the Flyers holding a slight 16-14 goal advantage.

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Categories: Ice Hockey, NHL, Sports, Stanley Cup Playoffs

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