Playoff Preview Game 1: Flyers / Sabres
Tonight the Philadelphia Flyers (47-23-12) hope to flip the so called proverbial switch that some seem to think exists and play like they did at the start of the season.
Nothing they did recently leading up to tonight's game would make you think they can accomplish this tough task , especially with questions about Chris Pronger's services , inconsistent goaltending , a horrible power play and soft forecheck.
The Flyers have talked about it and now it is time to buck up as they take on the Buffalo Sabres (43-29-10) at the Wells Fargo Center in Philly at 7:30 PM EST. These two teams are coming into the playoffs from two totally different directions.
The Sabres have been one of the hottest teams in the league down the stretch going 16-4-4 and are entering these playoffs on a four game winning streak. The Flyers on the other hand have faltered down the stretch losing hold of first place in the Eastern Conference to the Washington Capitals.
They lost 14 of 21 games and barely hung on to first place in the Atlantic Division by beating the Islanders on the last day of the season. The Flyers were 3-4-3 in their last ten games of the season while the Sabres went 8-1-1.
The Flyers and Sabres met four times this season, with the Sabres taking the most recent one on April 8th, 4-3 in OT . These teams would split the series this season with the Flyers success coming in the first two matchups, October and early January totaling eleven goals in those two games and six in the two recent losses in March and April.
This will be the ninth time these two teams have met in the playoffs, the Flyers hold a 5-3 edge one of which was a Stanley Cup.The Buffalo Sabres won the last two playoff series losing both in six games.
Those sixth games for the Flyers were no picnic either as the surrendered a total of 15 goals, an 8-0 shutout and a 7-1 home loss. In the last series in 2006, game one became the game that set the tone for the series. If you don't remember here is a video refresher;
Umberger would show his toughness in many ways as he came back to play in this series and got retribution the following year.
Buffalo has the advantage on special teams, especially on the power play where they finished ninth in the leagues with a 19.4% success rate. The Flyers came in at the 19th spot scoring 16.6% of the time.
When it comes to the penalty kill the Sabres are only slightly better than the Flyers . The Sabres finished in the 13th position with a 83% kill rate while the Flyers finished in 15th killing off penalties 82.8% of the time.
The way the Flyers ended the season with their power play struggling is not good for them, but definitely gives the edge to the Sabres.
The confidence level of the fans for this team right now should not be very high, but their optimism should be as their is a lot of hope in the air today. Hope that this team can tur this switch on. Hope that the power play comes alive and hope that Peter Laviolette can still get through to this team. It will be interesting to see how this series pans outs.
I for one think the Flyers will have a rough time especially with out Pronger and a sick Mike Richards. This team has issues scoring at times and you wonder what problems a banged up Miller and rookie Enroth will give the Flyers in this series. No matter how much depth they have on this team it seems when the Flyers get into that scoring funk, the whole team gets sucked in.
The Flyers will have to contain the speed of the Sabres and they will have to do something they haven't done lately and take the body. They need to hit people and hit them hard in both zones, their forecheck needs to be relentless and consistent.
They will also need to support Bobrovsky better like they do for Boucher. My theory here is the team feels they can let some opportunities in on Bob because they have more confidence in him then Boosh. When Boosh is in it seesm they try to help him more and block more shots almost like he needs the extra help, which he does.
Here is a video of the last time these teams met in the regular season, this should be fresh in everyone's mind as the Flyers let the Sabres run down the clock to grab the point they needed to clinch a playoff spot. Let's hope this does not come back to haunt them. Let's Go Flyers !!!!!
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