Buffalo's defense comes into the postseason underrated. With no big names, it is easy to overlook the Sabres' blueline.
Although many of them may be journeymen, this is a solid group that plays well together. Calder Trophy favorite Tyler Myers leads Buffalo in almost every defensive category. Through 82 games, the "Big Easy" has lit the lamp 11 times, dished out 37 helpers, is a +13, and averages the most minutes out of any Sabre (24:44 T.O.I.).
Henrik Tallinder, paired with Myers for most of the season, is a solid penalty killer and a fan favorite. The Swede has played in all 82 games and owns a feel-good +13.
Buffalo will look for these two to lead the charge in the postseason. Myers, a monstrous 6'8'', 220 pounds, is a physical force that wins puck battles.
Inconsistency plagues Toni Lydman and Craig Rivet, both veteran blueliners. Rivet has just 15 points through 78 games and Lydman is prone to take bad penalties. Rivet, the captain, must step up his game if Buffalo wants to make a deep push.
Offseason acquisition Steve Montador has been a mystery all season. Some games, the Will Ferrell look-a-like rushes the offensive zone, utilizes his cannon shot from the point, and scraps like a bruiser. Others, he fails to show up and play. Buffalo needs the gritty Montador to dress come Game 1 against Boston.
Headlining the Bruins' blueline is reigning Norris Trophy winner, Zdeno Chara. The 6'9'', 250 pound Slovak combines brutal physicality with a 100+ mph slapshot—it is safe to say he'll be a force like he has all year.
However, Boston's defense is in trouble. With four regulars injured, it will be left to Chara and journeymen like Johnny Boychuk to lead the way for the Bruins.
Dennis Wideman, a former Buffalo draft pick, scored against the Sabres on April 8th when the two teams met. He has 30 points on the season, but a brutal -14 means Buffalo needs to attack full force when he is on the ice.
On paper, Boston's defense is one of the best in the League. They gave up a mere 191 goals this year, second only to the New Jersey Devils. When leading after two periods, Boston has gone 22-4, so the defense knows how to lock it down in the third period.
Boston's defense is stellar. Chara's size could create matchup problems—it has all season when these two teams meet.
Buffalo's defense is comprised of journeymen and young gunners with no superstars. (Toni who?)
In the end, Boston's defensive injuries will ultimately be it's downfall. The Sabres have too much depth and are more consistent.
THE EDGE: BUFFALO