Tag:Buffalo Sabres
Posted on: April 26, 2011 10:42 pm
Edited on: April 27, 2011 3:42 am

Brian Boucher makes (very) early case for MVP

Could Brian Boucher be the Conn Smythe frontrunner?

Sure, the never-ending first-round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs won’t conclude until Wednesday and there might be more obvious choices out there, like teammate Daniel Briere (six goals, one assist). But the Philadelphia Flyers goalie --- not the All-Star netminder on the other ice the ice, Ryan Miller --- was the one still in net as the Philly seized a 5-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres in Game 7 on Tuesday. 

Boucher improved to 4-1 in the postseason -- two wins coming in relief -- as he stopped 26 of 28 shots fired his way on Tuesday. Miller was chased early in the third period after a Ville Leino goal made it 4-0. Miller allowed four goals on 28 shots before Jhonas Enroth entered. 

"It's just nice to win," Boucher told The Philadelphia Inquirer. "This is why you play hard all season long, to try to get home ice in a situation like this. And I think it was all the advantage in the world tonight."

Boucher dropped his goals-against average to 2.10 and.934 save percentage. Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth is tops in both categories, but the only goalie with a start in the playoffs in saves percentage is Montreal’s Carey Price.

But Boucher has been more about numbers. He’s solidified the starting job ---- twice --- already this postseason. First, he came in after rookie Sergei Bobrovsky struggled in Game 2 and then came into to do the same thing in Game 6 for Michael Leighton.

-- A.J. Perez 
Posted on: April 26, 2011 3:50 am
Edited on: April 26, 2011 1:40 pm

Game 7 breakdown: Sabres vs. Flyers

No. 7 Buffalo at No. 2 Philadelphia

Time: 7:30 p.m., ET

TV: Versus

Road to Game 7

This series hasn’t lacked drama. Whether it’s who will be in goal minute to minute for the Flyers, blown leads and the propensity for games to reach overtime, this series has hardly been dull. The Flyers and Sabres have either been tied or separated by just a goal 87.5% of the playing time, according to the NHL. That’s the highest percentage among the eight first-round series.

In net

Ryan Miller (Buffalo) vs. Brian Boucher (Philadelphia). Both goalies are 0-1 in Game 7s, but Miller does have another pressure-packed game on his resume: the gold medal game at the 2010 Winter Games as he took Team USA to OT. Sure, Canada won, but Miller put in a stellar effort. Miller has started every game this series, while the Flyers have started three goalies -- Boucher, Michael Leighton and Sergei Bobrovsky -- so far. Boucher gets the nod after coming into Game 6 in relief of Leighton.

Injury report

Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger (out of the lineup since March 8 with a hand injury) made his return in Game 6, although he played all of 4 minutes, 33 seconds. He’ll likely be back for Game 7, but Flyers forward Jeff Carter (lower-body injury) is out. Sabres forward Derek Roy, out since December after he underwent surgery to repair a quad injury, is expected to play. The Sabres, however, will be without Jason Pominville, who is likely done for the season after he was cut in the leg by a skate in Game 5. 

Our picks 

A.J Perez: With the fits the Flyers have given the Sabres the last couple games, I’m going to have to go with Philly. Buffalo just can’t hang onto a lead. Now that Pronger is back in the lineup and there are plenty of players left from year’s Flyers squad that came back from three games down to beat the Bruins en route to the Stanley Cup Final, it's hard to go against the Flyers. 

Brian Stubits: This series has been back-and-forth from the start, so you'll have just as much luck guessing a coin flip as this game. When push comes to shove, I will always look to the net, and, despite some rough games in this series, I'll take Miller any day of the week over Boucher. Scoring hasn't been the Sabres' problem so far, but this time I have a hunch Miller makes their tallies stand. I give little credence to Game 7 experience; if you've played in one elimination game, you've pretty much played in them all.

Posted on: April 24, 2011 9:34 pm

Brian Boucher tapped as Flyers starter for Game 7

The Philadelphia Flyers have their man, again, in net. 

Brian Boucher, who came into Sunday’s Game 6 in relief of Michael Leighton and backstopped a 5-4 Flyers OT victory over the Buffalo Sabres, was tapped as the starter for Tuesday’s decisive Game 7, CSN Philadelphia reports

“I can’t say enough about him,” Buffalo coach Peter Laviolette said. “Brian expects to start, and I respect that about him. He had an opportunity tonight to come in and help this team live for another day, and he was tremendous.”

Leighton was the third different goalie to start in the series. The Flyers entered the series with Sergei Bobrovsky in net. After he flamed out in Game 2, Boucher got the starts in Games 3-5 before Leighton -- who carried the Flyers deep in the playoff a season ago after Boucher went down with simultaneous knee injuries -- got the start in Game 6. 

Here’s more from CSN Philly:
Laviolette’s three-headed goalie monster this series is the first time in Flyers history that the team has used a trio of netminders in one playoff series, but Boucher is used to the juggling.

“Isn’t it always bizarre in Philadelphia with goaltenders?” Boucher said. “I mean, it’s nothing new. I’m pretty used to it. I know when I came back here I knew what I was getting myself into, so you just roll with the punches and deal with it.”

Despite the revolving door in the crease this series, one thing is for sure – the Flyers don’t change their style when a new mask appears between the pipes behind them. Philadelphia’s ferocious forecheck gave the Sabres fits Sunday, especially in the second period when they rallied to tie the game on Danny Briere’s power-play goal 8:43 in.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s Bob, Boosh or Leights,” Meszaros said. “It’s the playoffs.”

“Brian brought us a sense of calmness when he came in,” winger Kris Versteeg said. “That’s what we needed. Being down so quickly I think sometimes your emotions can get the best of you. We knew that we had a team that can score goals, we just had to stick to the plan.”

Leighton allowed three goals off eight shots before he replaced by Boucher after the first intermission on Sunday. Boucher probably would have liked to have that one goal he allowed on 25 shots --- a volley from the point by Buffalo’s Nathan Gerbe in the third period that deflected off a Flyers defenseman’s stick -- but he provided the steadiness in net that settled the Flyers en route to another comeback. 

-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: April 24, 2011 9:33 pm
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Posted on: April 12, 2011 2:12 pm
Edited on: April 12, 2011 5:47 pm

Preview: No. 2 Philadelphia vs. No. 7 Buffalo

The Flyers and Sabres meet after splitting the season series, Philly winning the points battle five to four. But the Flyers limped to the finish line, going 7-14 (hey, if shootout wins count as wins, then shootout losses will count as losses here) down the stretch. Buffalo, meanwhile, comes to the postseason playing some of its best hockey, winning eight of the final 10 games in spite of Ryan Miller sitting for some of that stretch.

Here's the breakdown.

Forwards: The Flyers are very talented and very deep up front. Led by Claude Giroux's 76 points and Jeff Carter's 36 goals, there's hardly a time there isn't a threat on the ice for Philly to put the biscuit in the basket. If there's a weakness it might be up the middle with the centermen after Mike Richards. No Flyer ranked inside the top 50 this year in faceoff percentage, an important stat that is often forgotten. For Buffalo, Thomas Vanek enters the playoffs scorching, earning one of the NHL's three Stars for the final week. Top to bottom, the Sabres don't have the firepower that Philly does, but that could be mitigated by the fact they're playing better entering this series.

Edge: Flyers

Defensemen: Offensively speaking, there's decent enough production for both teams from the blue line. However, it has to be concerning that Buffalo is waiting on injury news for Jordan Leopold and Andrej Sekera, two of their three most relied-upon defensemen. Philadelphia is, of course, waiting on their own bit of injury news as Chris Pronger was recently labeled as day to day. His return would give a nice boost to the Flyers on the back end, who have a nice pairing of Matt Carle and Andrej Meszaros, both boasting a plus-30 rating on the year. Of the two groups, the Flyers are a bit more physical and do a better getting in the shooting lanes.

Edge: Slightly to the Flyers

Goalies: The Flyers are somewhat of an amazing animal in net. They made the Stanley Cup Final last season despite not having what most would consider a reliable goalie. But the collective effort was strong enough. They had hoped to have that solved this season with rookie Sergei Bobrovsky, who was outstanding early. But he struggled a bit to make it to the end, being pulled in his final start after surrendering three goals on 10 shots against the Islanders. Brian Boucher will be ready at the call if Bobrovsky can't snap out of his funk. You know Buffalo's goalie. The 2009-10 Vezina winner did have a dip in his stats following that oustanding season, but he is still one of the best in the game. He didn't play much down the stretch, so it gave backup Jhnoas Enroth a chance to show what he can do. After he posted a 9-2-2 record this year, the Sabres have to feel pretty comfortable with their secondary option.

Edge: Sabres

Special teams: Not much stands out for either team, but Buffalo was a tad better in both power play and penalty kill. Led by Drew Stafford and Vanek (11 power-play goals each), the Sabres were 13th in the league when on the advantage. With the talent it has up front, you might expect a little more from Philly, so that's why it would love to get Pronger back. A power-play quarterback, more than half of his career goals have come on the man-advantage. Something to keep in mind -- and something Philly fans will remind you of -- the Flyers are usually called for a lot of penalties, checking at 24th in the NHL this year with 13.6 minutes per game.

Edge: Sabres

-- Brian Stubits

Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: April 10, 2011 10:30 pm
Edited on: April 11, 2011 1:58 am

NHL Playoffs: Eastern Conference breakdown

No 1. Washington Capitals vs. No. 8 New York Rangers

Season Series: Washington 1-2-1; Rangers 3-1-0. 

Player to watch: Alex Ovechkin, F, Washington Capitals. He’s coming off his lowest-scoring season in the NHL and the captain has a lot to prove this postseason. 

X-factor:   Caps goaltending. Coach Bruce Boudreau has had a quick hook the last couple postseasons and while the young three goalies put on the ice this season --- Semyon Varlamov, Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby --- have all been stellar in stretches, there is no clear No. 1. 


Game 1 - Wednesday (7:30 p.m.) NY Rangers at Washington 
Game 2 - Friday (7:30 p.m.) NY Rangers at Washington 
Game 3 - April 17 (3 p.m.)  Washington at NY Rangers                
Game 4 - April 20 (7 p.m.) Washington at NY Rangers 
*Game 5 - April 23 (3 p.m.)  NY Rangers at Washington
*Game 6 - April 25  (TBD)  Washington at NY Rangers    
*Game 7 - April 27 (TBD)  NY Rangers at Washington  

No. 2 Philadelphia Flyers vs. No. 7 Buffalo Sabres 

Season series: Philadelphia 2-1-1; Buffalo 2-2-0

Player to watch: Ryan Miller, G, Buffalo Sabres. He missed four games in a row with an upper-body injury before he played in the final two regular season games. While Jhonas Enroth was stellar in relief, the Sabres will be leaning heavily on Miller.

X-factor: Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger’s status. Out since March 8 with a broken hand, Pronger will likely make it back at some point in this first-round series. The team certainly struggled down the stretch without him. 


Game 1 - Thursday (7:30 p.m.) Buffalo at Philadelphia
Game 2 -  Saturday (5 p.m.) Buffalo at Philadelphia
Game 3 - April 18 (7 p.m.) Philadelphia at Buffalo
Game 4 - April 20 (7:30 p.m. ) Philadelphia at Buffalo
*Game 5 - April 22 (7:30 p.m.)  Buffalo at Philadelphia
*Game 6 - April 24 (3 p.m.) Philadelphia at Buffalo                         
*Game 7 - April 26 (TBD)  Buffalo at Philadelphia  

No. 3 Boston Bruins vs. No. 6 Montreal Canadiens  

Season series: Montreal 4-2-0; Boston 2-3-1

Player to watch: Zdeno Chara, D, Boston Bruins. The Norris Trophy winner seems to be an unflappable character, but it will be interesting to see how he responds to returning to the Bell Centre in Game 3. He was ejected after a check that sent Max Pachoretty off a divider, a collision that resulted in a broken bone in the Habs forward’s neck and a concussion in March. To say it created quite a stir in Quebec and elsewhere would be an understatement. 

X-factor: The Canadiens’ defense. The Habs will have to rely on rookie PK Subban and Co. along with the goalie Carey Price. The team lost veteran blueliners Josh Gorges and Andrei Markov to knee injures earlier in the season. 


Game 1 - Thursday (7 p.m.)  Montreal at Boston
Game 2 - Saturday (7 p.m.)  Montreal at Boston
Game 3 - April 18 (7:30 p.m.)  Boston at Montreal
Game 4  - April 21 (7 p.m.)  Boston at Montreal
*Game 5 - April 23 (7 p.m.)  Montreal at Boston                         
*Game 6 - April 26 (TBD) Boston at Montreal                         
*Game 7 - April 27 (TBD)  Montreal at Boston          

No. 4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. No. 5 Tampa Bay Lightning  

Season series: Both teams 2-2-0.

Player to watch: Martin St. Louis, F, Tampa Bay Lightning. He compiled the most points (99) since the 2006-07 season, five fewer than this year’s Art Ross Trophy winner Daniel Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks

X-factor: The Penguins’ health. Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma already said that he’s not counting on captain Sidney Crosby, out since early January with a concussion, to be back for the playoffs. But for a team that also lost forward Evgeni Malkin to a season-ending knee injury, staying healthy this postseason is at a premium. Defenseman Brooks Orpik played the final six games of the season after missing nearly a month with a broken finger. 

  Game 1 - Wednesday (7 p.m.)  Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh                        
Game 2 - Friday (7 p.m.) Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh                        
Game 3 - April 18 (7:30 p.m.) Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay                        
Game 4 - April 20 (7:30 p.m.) Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay                        
*Game 5 - April 23 (TBD) Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh                        
*Game 6  - April 25 (TBD) Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay                        
*Game 7 - April 27 (TBD) Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh                        

* - if necessary. 

Posted on: April 7, 2011 2:14 pm
Edited on: April 7, 2011 2:38 pm

Playoff Watch: Thrashers still have role in East

WHO CAN CLINCH:  Three teams can clinch tonight without even being on the ice. The Nashville Predators can secure a playoff berth if the Dallas Stars lose to the Colorado Avalanche (regulation, overtime or a shootout). The Phoenix Coyoteswill clinch a playoff berth if Stars lose or if the Stars win in a shootout. The Anaheim Ducks are in if the Stars lose in regulation.

ALREADY IN:  Vancouver, Montreal, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Boston, Philadelphia, San Jose, Tampa Bay, Detroit and Washington.     

GAME OF THE NIGHT: Atlanta Thrasher (33-34-12) at New York Rangers (43-32-5), 7 p.m. ET

The Thrasher may have been eliminated a few days back, but they still have a major say who gets the final couple playoff spots in the East. Atlanta, which is on a two-game skid, faces the Rangers tonight and the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday. The Thrashers have won two of the first three meetings. 

This will be the first game for the Rangers since Ryan Callahan went down with a broken ankle suffered in Monday’s 5-3 victory over Boston. Defenseman Matt Gilroy will be moved to the wing to fill in for Callahan, the Rangers’ second-leading scorer. The Rangers enter with wins in back-to-back games 

ALTERNATIVE VIEWING: Colorado Avalanche (29-42-8) at Dallas Stars (40-28-11), 8:30 p.m. ET

The Stars, who have won two in a row after a six-game slide, can pull to within three points of the idle Chicago Blackhawks with a victory. While the Avs have been at or near the basement much of the season, they have won the two previous meetings between these two clubs. The Stars also face the Avs on Friday. 

GOLF WATCH:  No new teams can clinch tonight. Calgary, Toronto, Atlanta, St. Louis, New Jersey, Minnesota Columbus, Ottawa, Florida, New York Islanders, Columbus, Colorado and Edmonton are already mathematically eliminated.  

-- A.J. Perez
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: April 6, 2011 5:25 pm
Edited on: April 6, 2011 5:27 pm

Playoff Watch: Carolina faces another test

WHO CAN CLINCH: The idle Buffalo Sabres will seize a playoff berth if the Carolina Hurricanes lose to the Detroit Red Wings tonight (in regulation, overtime or a shootout). The Phoenix Coyotes will clinch a playoff berth with a victory over the Los Angeles Kings in regulation, also by any means. Conversely, the Kings can secure a playoff berth with a victory. 

ALREADY IN:  Vancouver, Montreal, Pittsburgh, Boston, Philadelphia, San Jose, Tampa Bay, Detroit and Washington.     

GAME OF THE NIGHT: Detroit Red Wings (46-23-10) at Carolina Hurricanes (38-30-11), 7 p.m. ET

The ninth-place Hurricanes can’t let many more points slip away. The 'Canes enter with 87 points, four behind the idle, eighth-place New York Rangers. Both the Rangers and the Hurricanes will have two games left in the regular season after tonight. 

This is the one and only meeting this season between these two clubs and the Red Wings have an edge in the series, 32-25-8-0. Detroit has bounced back from a 10-3 beat down by the St. Louis Blues last Wednesday and has netted two wins in a row. 

ALTERNATIVE VIEWING: Phoenix Coyotes (42-25-12) at Los Angeles Kings (45-28-6), 10:30 p.m. ET

One of these two teams can clinch a playoff berth with a victory tonight. The Kings are looking to bounce back from an ugly 6-1 loss to San Jose, the first game since both Justin Williams and Anze Kopitar went down to injury where Los Angeles was out-classed. 

GOLF WATCH:  The Calgary Flames can be eliminated couple different ways tonight. They’re out if the Chicago Blackhawks defeat the St. Louis Blues in regulation combined with a Flames loss. The Flames can also be ousted if they lose in regulation and the Blackhawks lose in overtime or a shootout. Toronto, Atlanta, St. Louis, New Jersey, Minnesota Columbus, Ottawa, Florida, New York Islanders, Columbus, Colorado and Edmonton are already mathematically eliminated.  

-- A.J. Perez

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com