BUFFALO SABRES (1st Northeast Division, 3rd Eastern Conference)
Quick Look Back:
The Sabres wrapped up their second Northeast Division title in the last four years... among playoff teams, they had the best penalty-killing percentage (86.6) and ranked second overall in the League (behind St. Louis -- 86.8%).
A New Playoff Look:
It has only been three years since their last playoff appearance, but the Sabres return to the playoffs for the first time since 2007 with a roster that has turned over by 50 percent in three years. The biggest change is on the blueline where they enter the post-season with only two holdovers from 2007 ( Henrik Tallinder
and Toni Lydman
), as GM Darcy Regier
has added a combination of experience -- captain Craig Rivet
and Steve Montador
and youth -- Tyler Myers
, Chris Butler
and Andrej Sekera
, to the defense corps since their last playoff appearance. The Sabres reduced their goals-against by 12% from a year ago while getting their best offensive production from the backline since 2005-06.
The M & M's Factor:
While the win totals look similar (41) -- fifth straight year with 30-or-more wins; it is the goals-against average (2.22) and save percentage (.929) -- both second best in the League -- that are perhaps the most impressive of the five years that G Ryan Miller
has been the Sabres' #1 goaltender. For the third straight year, Miller's GAA has dropped significantly, while his SV% is a career best. Miller got a jump on playoff-like competition at the 2010 Olympics, leading all goalies with a 5-1 record and 1.35 GAA while leading the U.S. to a silver medal.
6'8", 222 lbs. D Tyler Myers
prepares for his first Stanley Cup playoff action after having done it all in his rookie NHL season. Playing most of the season as a 19-year-old (he turned 20 on Feb. 1), Myers ranked 11 th among all defensemen in points and tied for 12 th in goals. As impressive, he ranked 23 rd among all skaters in average ice-time per-game (23:44) and was less than four minutes behind the overall League leader (Joni Pitkanen
) while appearing in all 82 games.
The longest active tenured coach with one franchise (and 3rd all-time behind Al Arbour
and Billy Reay
), Lindy Ruff
will step behind the Sabres' bench in the post-season for the seventh time. Ruff's.591 playoff winning percentage ranks third among active coaches behind Dan Bylsma
(.667) and Mike Babcock (.644). In the six years that Ruff has guided his teams into the post-season, they have reached the Conference Finals three times and the Stanley Cup Final once.
Big O Boost:
Prior to the final weekend of the season, 22% of the Sabres' goal-scoring production has been missing since Mar. 28 with injuries to LW Tomas Vanek (23 goals), C Tim Connolly
(17 goals and team-leading 65 points) and RW Patrick Kaleta
(10 goals). The Sabres offense got a big boost on Saturday with Tomas Vanek’s four-goal game against Ottawa after a six-game absence.
BOSTON BRUINS (3rd Northeast Division, 6th Eastern Conference)
The Bruins qualified for postseason play for the third straight year but in a very different position than a year ago when they were the top-ranked team in the Eastern Conference... Boston had the League's second best defense (2.43 GAA per-game); second fewest road losses (13); third best penalty-killing unit (86.4%) but the 29th ranked offense (Calgary was 30 th ).
The Daily Double:
The Bruins set a new League standard with two different goaltenders leading the League in both save percentage and goals-against average in consecutive seasons. Last year, it was Tim Thomas
(2.10 GAA and.933 Save %). This year, Tuukka Rask
leads with a 1.97 average and.931 save percentage. The last time a team had different goalies lead the League in just GAA was Montreal in 1980-81 (Richard Sevigny
) and 1981-82 (Denis Herron
Rookie Goalies in 2010 Playoffs:
G Tuukka Rask
is one of several playoff rookie goalies who qualified for postseason play, including Eastern Conference netminders Brian Elliott
and Pascal Leclaire
of Ottawa and Michael Leighton
Setting New Goals:
The Bruins were the 29 th ranked offensive team in the League (2.51 goals per game). Only one team has ranked lower in the League in the last 20 years and qualified for postseason play -- in 1988-89 the Vancouver Canucks
' 251 goals were last in the then 21-team League.
Who's Been Out:
The Bruins finished the season with four regulars out of the lineup -- a trio of defensemen -- Dennis Seidenberg
, Andrew Ference
and Mark Stuart
, as well as C Marc Savard
. The Bruins have had a full roster available with no injured players for just six games this season.