Often in the NHL, a game early on in a playoff series can have serious implications that may go on to determine the outcome of the series.
This is the case for Game 3 between the Sabres and Flyers as they head into Game 3 of their series knotted up at one game apiece.
If you take into account all six periods played thus far, it is safe to say Philadelphia has been in control for the majority of the minutes and without Ryan Miller’s brilliant goal tending in Game 1, this thing might be coming back to Buffalo with the Sabres down 0-2.
A win is a win though and the Sabres accomplished what they had set out to do in Philly: Split the series and come into Buffalo all tied up.
This is why Game 3 later on tonight is such an important one.
In a sense, the winner of this game will have more command than a Game 3 winner would typically dictate. If Philly wins, they hold a commanding 2-1 lead, in a series in which they haven’t really been outplayed by the Sabres thus far. If Buffalo wins, they head into Game 4, at home, in an atmosphere that is likely to be unparalleled to any other we’ve seen recently, making it incredibly difficult for Philadelphia to tie the series up yet again and could ultimately mean the Sabres take a 3-1 lead going back to Philly in Game 5.
If the Sabres are able to accomplish this they MUST find a way to stay out of the penalty box. Buffalo has handed the Flyers an astronomical 15 power plays in just two games, three of which being extensive 5 on 3 opportunities.
Fortunately for the Sabres, the Flyers’ power play for the most part has been very lackluster.You can blame poor officiating all you want, but when it comes down to it, it’s the Sabres undisciplined play that has put them in the situations that draw the penalties in the first place. In a league where championship teams are anything but undisciplined, this is unacceptable. Instead of a championship team, the Sabres have at times looked like a bunch of amateurs against Flyers, in that regard. If the Sabres cannot solve their penalty issues, don’t expect the lackluster power play trend to continue for Philly, who will likely take any chance they can to get to Ryan Miller and cause a disturbance.
Brad Boyes will need to step up his game as well. While a case can be made that the natural winger is struggling due to having to play at center, zero points in two games is not acceptable for a guy who was such a key piece to the Sabres run into the playoffs. He may have this opportunity, as the Sabres are expected to shake up their lines tonight. Rob Niedermayer will be moved up to play center for the second line with Tyler Ennis and and Drew Stafford while Boyes moves down to the third line with Cody McCormick and Mike Grier.
Another question mark lies on the Flyers side with goaltender Brian Boucher. Boucher replaced Sergei Bobrovsky after the Sabres’ third goal in Game 2. While Boucher only allowed one goal throughout the rest of the game, he was relatively untested. Boucher hasn’t exactly been lights out against the Sabres in his career (3-4-0), but as previously mentioned, he stopped 20 of 21 shots on Saturday night. The Sabres must jump on Boucher early, while getting the crowd into the game, to rattle the Flyers goalie and exploit Philadelphia’s most glaring weakness if they want to win Game 3.