The Philadelphia Flyers survived their goaltending carousel to finally defeat the Buffalo Sabres in a series that went the distance. What can we take away from this matchup, and how do the Flyers' prospects look for the remainder of the playoffs?
The Sabres have been a powerhouse the second half of the season, with reigning Vezina Trophy winner Ryan Miller carrying the team on his shoulders and Thomas Vanek taking care of the offensive load in the absence of Derek Roy. The Sabres are built to exploit the Flyers’ glaring deficiencies, and it’s difficult to ignore the sizeable goalie advantage Buffalo enjoys in this series.
Buffalo in 6
As predicted, it was Ryan Miller that was the difference in this series. Unfortunately, his two shutout games earlier in the series cannot make up for his poor performance in Game Seven. The first goal was completely inexcusable for the top goalie in the NHL, especially during an elimination game.
What Happened To Buffalo?
They couldn't take advantage of the Flyers' glaring weaknesses in goal. When a team uses three goalies in a five game span, you know there are some problems. But the Sabres depended on Thomas Vanek to carry the offensive load. Vanek was brilliant, but the losses of Jason Pominville and Tim Connolly before Game Seven really hurt their chances. Derek Roy's return after four months made for a good story, but he wasn't enough to close the talent gap between these two offenses.
What Have We Learned About Philadelphia?
They're likely in trouble for the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Flyers are starting to get healthy on defense and still have enviable offensive depth, but banking your playoff hopes on one of three goalies getting hot for the stretch run is not a very likely path to success. Danny Briere, Claude Giroux, and Mike Richards will be forced to score early and often to keep the Flyers on track in the next series. The return of a healthy Chris Pronger should help their cause as well.
Philadelphia is a tough team to read. On one hand, they are loaded with talent. But that talent struggled against an inferior Buffalo team. The Flyers are very flawed team, but that doesn't mean they aren't dangerous. They could still advance on the strength of their offensive depth alone, the strongest remaining in the Eastern Conference (along with the Tampa Bay Lightning, if they advance). In a conference filled with good (but not great) goaltending, that just may be enough.