Conference Finals Analysis

Ok, it's finally going to come. Hopefully, it will be in depth and you can understand my reasoning.

Buffalo Sabres (1) vs. Ottawa Senators (4)
Prediction- Buffalo in 7 games
Anyone who has paid attention to the Sabres and Senators this year knows that this will be a crazy series. Both teams are exciting on offense, have at least one good pair on defense, and have goaltenders that have been absolutely great.

BUFFALO- The Sabres have everything they need to be a Stanley Cup champion, although their defense is more shallow then they would like. Offense- The Sabres can score from all four lines. The Sabres use Daniel Briere, Chris Drury, Thomas Vanek, Jochen Hecht, Maxim Afineganov, Dainius Zubrus, Tim Connolly, Jason Pominville, Drew Stafford, and Ales Kotalik are the "main offensive weapons." But Adam Mair, Derek Roy, Paul Gaustad, and Daniel Paille (if he gets called up more), who are normally on the checking line, can provide timely offense as well. Brian Campbell and Dmitri Kalinin are the most offensively inclined defensemen for the playoffs. Defense- The Sabres' incredible defensive responsibility is shown most by the fact that only 2 players are on the minus side, and both of them (Toni Lydman, Henrik Tallinder) are normally put up against the top offensive players for the other team, and are still only minus-1. Brian Campbell and Dmitri Kalinin are the offensive D-men, Lydman and Tallinder are put up against the opponents top offensive line, and the third pairing, Teppo Numinen and Jaroslav Spacek, can be put up against anyone. Every forward is in the plus rating except for Derek Roy, who is a main checking forward, and Daniel Paille, who has only played one game. Goaltending- The Sabres have used Ryan Miller for the entire playoffs, and will continue to do so unless he is injured. If he does get hurt, the Sabres are toast. Ty Conklin has struggled in his small playoff experience, and Adam Dennis has had an average rookie AHL year. Look for the Sabres to use a unit of Paul Gaustad, Adam Mair, and Jochen Hecht at forward, and Toni Lydman and Henrik Tallinder on defense, all against Ottawa's top line. They will also try and form two scoring lines since the Senators will use Anton Volchenkov and Chris Phillips against one.

OTTAWA- The Senators have plenty of momentum, but will it work? Offense- The Senators have less offense then the Sabres, and that may hurt them. Beyond the "give-us-a-name" line of Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza, and Daniel Alfredsson, the Sens only have Chris Kelly, Dean McAmmond, Antoine Vermette, and Mike Comrie with more than one goal. Some regular-season weapons haven't been reliable; Peter Schaefer, 12 goals, 46 points in 77 regular season games, no goals, 3 points in 10 playoff games, Mike Fisher, 22 goals, 48 points in 68 regular season games, 1 goal, 4 points in 10 playoff games, Oleg Saprykin, 15 goals, 36 points in 71 regular season games, no points in 7 playoff games. Only defenseman Tom Preissing, Joe Corvo, Wade Redden, and Anton Volchenkov have scored a considerable amount of points. Defense- This is a stronger spot for Ottawa. Of the seven defensemen (Corvo, Preissing, Volchenkov, Chris Phillips, Andrej Meszaros, Redden, and seventh defenseman/forward Christoph Schubert), no one has a lower plus/minus- than -3, from Schubert. Phillips is a minus- 1, but he and partner Volchenkov are almost always paired up against the top offensive line. Preissing and Corvo work together as the offensive pair, while Redden and Meszaros are the two-way group. Forwards Mike Fisher, Chris Kelly, Schubert (who has played forward for the whole playoffs so far), and Chris Neil are the hard-hitting (Neil), defensive (Fisher, Schubert), two-way (Fisher, Kelly) group. Goaltending- It's been all Emery so far. The young, fight-loving Senator has shown that while he loves to be aggressive, he can put on the big saves at clutch time. Back-up Martin Gerber has the experience of winning the Stanley Cup last year with Carolina, although he did not play much.
KEYS TO THE SERIES: Both teams have declared, despite the fight-filled rivalry, that this will be a clean series. That's good news for fans who want an exciting series. Defense will be the main key, though. Will Tallinder and Lydman stump the "nameless line" and allow Drury and co. to pile up the points? Or will Volchenkov, Phillips, and the rest of the gang keep the Sabres at a snail's pace, while giving Heatley the chance to turn on the red light? Tonight, we will find out.

Hockey video of the day- If you missed the first round of the playoffs, here's some highlights for you. I know the quality of the video isn't great, but it's better than another no-vid day.

Back tomorrow with more hockey info and opinions.