There’s a history in this matchup, no question, whether it’s the 75 Stanley Cup finals, the 06 playoffs (can still hear RJ’s call of the Umberger hit to this day), and Philly and Buffalo look to add another chapter this week when they meet in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Aside from fanhood reasons, who you think wins this series is probably based on whether or not there is a ‘switch’ that a team can flip to start playing well. In the Flyer’s case, the switch is probably present in the form of lurking horror Chris Pronger, who never met an elbow to the head or stomp to the leg he didn’t like. Having seen Philly a few times recently, you can see that without Pronger they get a little squirrelly in front of Bobrovsky at times. If Pronger can steady things there, I can see the series going differently.
Wild Card for the Sabres: Nathan Gerbe. We know what Thomas Vanek can do, but as Gerbe demonstrated against the Flyers he can be a difference-maker. He, along with Drew Stafford, has been a big part of the Sabres’ surge in the second half of the year, scoring 9 of his 15 goals in the months of March and April after scoring only 1 from October to December. He’s had good chemistry with Paul Gaustad, who provides the bulk in front of the net to screen the goalies.
So, am I going full homer and picking the Sabres to win this series? Yes. I think Ryan Miller, even the slightly more vulnerable one of this year, is still a + over Bobrovsky (or any of the other goalies if he gets the hook). Both Buffalo and Philly are top scoring teams in the East, with Philly having a slight edge, though Buffalo is better in that regard more recently. I’ll tell you what, it’s going to be a very tight series, and I can’t wait for it to happen.