The much improved Buffalo Sabres will be in TD Garden Saturday night to face the Boston Bruins in the first meeting of the season between two of the hottest teams in the NHL. Buffalo currently occupies second place in the Northeast division and fifth place in the Eastern conference with a 10-5-0 record and four consecutive wins.
The Sabres are led by a goaltender, but that goaltender is not Ryan Miller (who’s struggled with 5-5-0 record). Jonas Enroth is third in the league with a 1.34 goals against average and in save percentage which stands at .956. The 23-year-old has a pristine 5-0-0 record.
Up front, the line of Jason Pominville (19 points), Thomas Vanek (19 points) and former Boston College Eagle, Nathan Gerbe (9 points) have combined for 45 points while the team’s other three lines have combined for 45 points. Pominville and Vanek are tied for seventh in league in scoring. Vanek’s 10 goals is tops on the Sabres.
Buffalo’s special teams are enjoying success which is customary for a team that resides in a playoff position. Their power play ranks tenth in the league at 18.6 percent. The penalty kill is third best in the NHL. They have killed off just over ninety percent of their times shorthanded on the year.
The Bruins appear to have shaken the Stanley Cup hangover in going on a four game win streak. The team has gone from 3-7-0 to 7-7-0 and they’ve jumped from last place in the Eastern Conference standings to 11th by defeating Ottawa (5-3), Toronto (7-0), New York Islanders (6-2) and Edmonton (6-3). The Bruins have jumped out of last place in the division and second-to-last in the League.
The Bruins have found their scoring touch and are currently the third most productive offense in the NHL by scoring an average of 3.21 goals per game. The B’s have also improved to eighth in defense allowing an average of 2.36 per game.
Between the pipes, Tim Thomas has played in 10 games and has compiled a 5-4-0 record. He is eighth in the NHL with a .931 save percentage and ninth in goals against average that stands at 2.00. Thomas’ teammate, Tuukka Rask has won two consecutive outings which has improved his record to 2-3-0. His save percentage stands at .908 while his goals against average is 2.63.
Offensively, Tyler Seguin continues to lead the club with 17 points, good for 11th in the league. He leads the NHL with a plus-11. Milan Lucic has been making good things happen around the net. He is second to Seguin on the club with 14 points. Both players have contributed eight points in the team’s last five games. Captain Zdeno Chara has picked up seven assists in the last five games and Nathan Horton, who is beginning to feel better with each game has scored two goals and three assists in the Bruins last two games.
The Black and Gold’s special teams are climbing up the NHL ladder. The penalty killing units have allowed only seven goals against while being shorthanded a total of 57 times on the season. This 87.7 success rate has the team ranked eighth in the National Hockey League. The power play, once the bane of the Boston Bruins is getting better with each outing. It is currently motoring along at 18.5 percent and is in 13th place in the league.
This is a game many in the hockey world have been waiting for throughout the season. The Buffalo Sabres made some big changes in the off season (grabbing Christian Ehrhoff, Robyn Regehr and Ville Leino) with the intent to be able to compete with the Bruins on a level playing field. Both teams are highly skilled and fast. The contest may come down to special teams and goaltending. Enroth is expected to try to continue his strong play in the Sabres’ net. With Rask putting together a win streak, look for him to receive the opportunity to continue that streak against Buffalo.