Now that the Sabres are all but assured of making the playoffs, let’s take a look at their most likely combatants. There’s a few possibilities here, as the Sabres could be anywhere from 6th to 8th. 7th is the most likely spot to finish in.
First up is the Washington Capitals. The season series with the Caps was 1-2-1, with Miller going 1-2-0 with a 2.32 GAA and .924 SP. Jhonas Enroth played the game last week, losing in OT (sandwiched between those 2 outstanding games for what it is worth). The win, if you recall, was the game that Thomas Vanek dazzled John Carlson and Braden Holtby for the OT winner. I’d be curious to see what a seven game series against the Caps would look like, as Buffalo is playing much better lately, and Washington has some injuries of their own they are dealing with, including Mike Green, Dennis Wideman and Tom Poti on the blueline.
Next up in the likely opponents list is the Flyers. Unlike the Caps, the Sabres have one more game against the Flyers this Friday, going 1-2 in the first three. Ryan Miller has played all 3 games against Philly, and the numbers aren’t great – 4.03 GAA, .881 SP. Again, a couple of those were earlier in the year and the most recent game is a 5-3 win. The Flyers are 2-3-3 in their past 8 and who knows what’s going to happen with their goaltending tandem. Bobrovsky is the likely starter for the playoffs, though you have to think Philly wouldn’t hesitate long to put the more veteran Boucher in there if ‘Bob’ struggles. They’ve also been missing Pronger and Briere, though Briere might be in for the Sabres game Friday. Pronger hasn’t played since March 8th and had a ‘minor setback’ in rehab that puts his earliest return game 1 of a potential playoff matchup at the earliest.
The other likely foe would be the Boston Bruins. This probably happens if the Sabres can overtake Montreal for 6th in the conference. Buffalo has gone 4-1-1 in the season series, with Miller posting the 4-0-1 portion of that, with a 3.01 GAA and .911 SP. Those numbers are skewed a bit by the 7-6 SO win where Stafford scored with 30 seconds to go to tie the game. Tim Thomas took back the goaltending job from Tuukka Rask and had a Vezina-caliber season. I’m really hoping they end up playing Montreal, though. It would be great drama, not to mention they are likely to beat each other up.
As of today, it is still mathematically possible to see the Lightning (and an even smaller chance to see the Penguins) but it’s so unlikely that there’s no reason to worry about it. Looking at the potentials, there’s nobody there that this team, they way they are playing can’t stand toe to toe with. There’s a lot of variables right now with the health of key guys up and down the Eastern conference, including the Sabres with Miller, Pronger as I mentioned, and the Washington D. Boston has the best goaltending situation, but the Sabres still have a great record against them. I know the excitement builds with every passing day, and I expect tonight’s home game crowd to blow the roof off the place. Let’s send this team streaking into the playoffs.