Playoff hockey is all about the match-ups. Which D-pair will face the top line and which center will take the important draws?
The Sabres – Flyers series offers a myriad of different matches that could produce some interesting situations.
The Flyers depth at forward makes them a difficult team to beat. Mike Richards centers a line that can match your top scorers while being a legitimate scoring threat. Danny Briere, Claude Giroux and the likes also are players who need to be watched closely.
The Sabres will likely counter with Paul Gaustad’s line and the pairing of Tyler Myers and Chris Butler/Andrej Sekera.
One question is if the Sabres have another line capable of checking the remaining scoring depth that the Flyers have. Cody McCormick, Pat Kaleta and Rob Niedermayer offer another strong checking line, but they will probably see limited ice time – mainly because Niedermayer is slow as death. Why Matt Ellis was sent down perplexes me.
Buffalo has two lines capable of checking the Flyers’ top scorers. The Myers pairing is as close to a shutdown pair as you can get. What is concerning is the remaining defensemen. Lindy Ruff’s second best pair is likely going to be Weber and Sekera. Not exactly a confidence instilling set. This is the type of matchup that could ultimately hurt Buffalo through the duration of this series.
As for Philly, everything pretty much hinges on Chris Pronger. If he returns quickly, Peter Laviolette will match him against the Connolly, Vanek, Pominville line along with Mike Richards & co. That leaves the heavy lifting Drew Stafford, Tyler Ennis and Brad Boyes. If these guys see a favorable matchup between forwards and defensemen, they will need to provide the necessary scoring for the Sabres. If they can exploit their opponent it will take a lot of responsibility away from The Atlas Vanek line, which is a very good thing.