NHL Picks: Bruins vs. Sabres

Swinging Johnson

Friday, February 15, 2013 3:58 PM GMT

Friday, Feb. 15, 2013 3:58 PM GMT

Northeast rivals clash on Friday night when the division’s top team the Boston Bruins takes on the cellar-dwelling Sabres in Buffalo.

Bruins vs. Sabres

Swinging Johnson - NHL Record (1-0, +1.00 units)

*Games assigned 1 to 5 units.

Boston Bruins (8-1-2)

The Bruins rallied from a three goal deficit only to fall short in overtime to the New York Rangers when last they took to the ice. But on the road, these guys have been as happy as a hooker at a Sexaholics Anonymous convention. The B’s have scored victories in their last four road tilts and most recently vanquished the Sabres 3-1 with backup Anton Khudobin between the pipes.

Boston has dropped only one game in regulation this season and that happened to be a 7-4 loss to the Sabres when Tuukka Rask allowed six goals on 31 shots. Rask has historically struggled against Buffalo but it’s a pretty good bet he will be tending the twine tonight after getting a night off a few nights ago. Conversely, Brad Marchand has been a Sabre killer, collecting four goals in the last three games against Buffalo and tallying eight in 15 career meetings. But one Bruin who is still in hibernation is Tyler Seguin, scoring only two goals this season and not clicking with any combination head coach Claude Julien has teamed him.

Boston once again has a solid corps of blueliners and Rask has played well, particularly over his last three starts, compiling a 2-0-1 record and 1.31 goals against average with a shutout thrown in for good measure. The B’s are ranked 7th in the league in goals against (2.2) and 12th in goals scored (2.7) but while they’re penalty killing unit has been aces (ranked 1st) their power play has suffered a power outage. They are 30th in the league with the man advantage and cannot seem to connect. The unit has not been fluid and instead of players moving into position and in front of the net, they have been curiously stagnant.

Buffalo Sabres (5-8-1)

First off, is Ryan Miller really that good? I know he was an Olympic MVP and Vezina Trophy winner but how long a guy can rest on his laurels. Sure, they’re pretty big laurels but every time I watch him, I’m waiting for this impenetrable fortress but all I see is a canvas tent. Not a cheap tent mind you, the really good kind that you can live in for weeks at a time but we’re not talkin’ Martin Brodeur, Dominik Hasek, Patrick Roy or even Eddie Belfour. I think Ryan Miller is a good starting goalie but he’s not going to carry a lousy team and make them a playoff contender.

Thomas Vanek is the straw that stirs the drink for Buffalo. He leads the NHL with 11 goals and 23 points. However he has been virtually silent in his last two games, getting shut out of the stat sheet against both Boston and in Tuesday’s 2-0 loss to the Senators. He managed only one shot in those two games but in the team’s first game against Boston on January 31st he erupted for a hat-trick and two assists.

Buffalo isn’t doing much of anything well after winning their first two games of the season. They rank 27th in GAA, 13th in goals scored, 26th on the power play and 15th on the penalty killing unit. Yeah, I know…meh. However, they did unload a barrage on Senators goalie Craig Anderson but each and every one of their 42 shots was stopped in a sterling effort by the Ottawa netminder.

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The Pick:

The Bruins have the better team but Rask has struggled against the Sabres and the game is being played in Buffalo. The Sabres are 4-3 at home against the Bruins over the last three seasons and the way they played against Ottawa on Tuesday night, unloading 42 shots and killing eight penalties without allowing a goal coupled with an exhausting effort put forth by the Bruins to tie a game they eventually lost to the Rangers, makes me lean towards the home dog for my NHL picks in this one.

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