In his 10th season with the Buffalo Sabres, Lindy Ruff is the longest-tenured coach in the NHL. Ruff is a hockey institution in Buffalo, having played 10 of his 12 NHL seasons there. He guided the Sabres to the Stanley Cup Final in 1999, and three times to the Eastern Conference Final, including the two previous seasons. Ruff gives his thoughts on the eight first-round playoff series exclusively to NHL.com:
Boston vs. Montreal --
|Buffalo's Lindy Ruff knows a thing or two about the Stanley Cup playoffs. He has guided the Sabres to three Eastern Conference finals in 10 seasons as their coach.
This series will come down to special teams and goaltending. I think goalie Carey Price
is a superstar. Montreal's power play has been lethal. A power play in the playoffs is a very powerful thing. That's the one thing I would point to in that series.
Ottawa vs. Pittsburgh --
You want to go into the playoffs on a roll; you want to go in on a high, with some momentum. Ottawa has been struggling for the second half of the year trying to find momentum, where Pittsburgh has gained speed and played well in the second half of the year, and since Ty Conklin
went into the net, they've been one of the League's best teams. They've got depth up front, Gonchar has been very good, their defense has been good.
If Ottawa doesn't find its game and it haven't had a lot of success down the stretch, if that young Pittsburgh team gets any kind of confidence … the Senators are in a tough situation.
Philadelphia vs. Washington --
It's almost the opposite of what the New Jersey-Rangers series will be. You're going to see outnumbered rushes, you're going to see scoring chances, you're going to see teams go hard at each other both ways. Each team has real good speed and that leads to teams that want to forecheck.
I think the Capitals are going into the playoffs on a real nice roll. They have a lot of things going for them. They've tightened things up defensively. They've got a superstar that can win them games. They brought in another veteran goaltender, Cristobal Huet
, that obviously has proven playoff experience along with Olaf Kolzig
, and they've got good size, good mobility, and yeah, I don't think it's luck that they won down the stretch. They beat some good teams down the stretch, and that record was very impressive. I think they're going to be as tough as anybody in the Eastern Conference.
New York Rangers vs. New Jersey --
Playing New Jersey has turned into most of the time a low-scoring affair. It's a very good defensive team, good speed. The Devils are deep with their lines. The Rangers with Henrik Lundqvist
, same thing. For me, it's similar. This series of games will stay very tight and very close. You've got two goaltenders in Martin Brodeur
and Lundqvist, if Brodeur is on his game, he can take any team as far as he wants to take them. I think it's going to be a matchup up for me of who can take advantage of mistakes.
Nashville vs. Detroit --
Watching Detroit and playing the Red Wings is a bad feeling. You can go long stretches without even getting a shot on goal. When they were up and running, by far they're the best team in the League.
I like Nashville. The Predators had plenty of time to quit this year, but they never did. I think this could be a very interesting series.
Calgary vs. San Jose --
I like San Jose. The Sharks have proven themselves with the finish they had to the regular season. I'm not sure those last two losses will be indicative of how they'll play in the playoffs. They were able to win tight games and that's like what you'll have in the playoffs. They should have a lot of confidence in themselves.
"I think this could be a very interesting series." -- Lindy Ruff on the
Red Wings-Predators matchup
The two players, when you think of Calgary, you think of (Miikka) Kiprusoff and Jarome Iginla
. He (Iginla) is one of top four or five all-around players, from scoring, leadership, physical play. I don't know if you can hand a better player to a coach.
Colorado vs. Minnesota --
Colorado is probably as good as anyone with three guys cycling, making those four- or five-foot passes. No other team is as good as the Avs group of forwards, as far as making all the plays in tight and keeping the puck down low. They can put numbers on the board in a hurry.
The challenge they face is they're facing a very well–trained and well-coached team that plays as well as anyone in its own end. If you make a mistake and give the Wild a break, you've got Marian Gaborik
, one of the fastest guys in the League. And with Nicklas Backstrom
in goal, they could be as scary as anybody.
Dallas vs. Anaheim --
We played Anaheim and played a great period, and in the second period, the Ducks physical game was relentless. I think Dallas can play with that. If the Stars young defensemen are able to withstand that constant physical pressure, it's going to come down to which goalie will be better.