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Playoff preview: Boston vs Buffalo

Boston takes on Buffalo tonight. Both teams, at season's end, boasted a mighty fine PK, rather suspect PP with the Sabres holding a nice advantage in ES goal differential. All in all this translated into a 9 points differential in the standings. So the Sabres are the clear favourites, right?

Let's see.

First, let's have a look at some underlying numbers at even strength for the 2009-2010 season:

Fenwick Tied Fenwick Save % Shooting %
Buffalo 49.5% 50.1% .924 7.8%
Boston 53.5% 52.5% .926 6.5%

What we call the Fenwick number is the % of  shots saved, goals and missed shots commited by a given team. It correlates with winning % over a season and gives a pretty good idea of a given team's ability to maintain territorial advantage.

The Bruins are a pretty interesting bunch. As JLikens noted yesteday, they are poster childs for unerachieving team this year, after being poster childs for over achieving teams last year. In onther words, the 08-09 Bruins had trouble maintaining shot advantage, but had a shooting % in the 10% range at the end of the season, while this year's squad is much improved but can't seem to be able to buy a goal.

What is more interesting, to me, is that the Sabres vaunted advantage, namely Ryan Miller, seems to be pretty moot here. The fact is that Miller's outlying performances seems to be on the PK, where he put up a .919 S% over 69 games, whith Thomas doing as well over 43 games and Rask posting a more pedestrian (but still pretty good) .891.

Knowing that these two teams seems to be pretty equivalent on special teams, Buffalo's 313 PP opportunities are far in front of Boston's 265, while they respectively sits ate 284 and 272 times shorthanded, 6th and 5th in the league respectively. So, all in all two teams whose middling PP abilities are offset by superior PK and discipline. Like so many other confrontations, this one looks like an even strength battle. Seeing that Boston's ability to dominate territorialy sets them apart from the Sabres, I have to say that, despite the Sabres nice track record in the regular season, I must give an edge to the Bruins.

Boston in 6.