January 25 2010 10:58AM
The 1970 expansion cousins play their one and only meeting this year as the Vancouver Canucks host the Buffalo Sabres at GM Place. It's also a tale of two Olympic goalies facing off as Ryan Miller squares off against Roberto Luongo.
The Buffalo Sabres have to be considered one of the biggest surprises of the year so far, as they lead the Northeast Division and sit third in the Eastern Conference. They don't lead the league in many team stats. They are team that wins by committee, along with the solid play of their all-star goalie, Ryan Miller. A few stats where they shine as a team focus on their penalty kill. The Sabres are 3rd in PK at 86.8%. They're also 3rd in 2nd period goals against, and 4th in 3rd period goals against.
So it's tough to score on the Sabres when you're on the PP, or in the 2nd and 3rd period.
The Canucks, however, lead the league in PP GF, and are 2nd in 1st period GF, and 3rd in 3rd period GF. So the Canucks have the horses to beat the Sabres where they excel. The key for the Canucks tonight is playing against Ryan Miller. Miller, the starting goalie for the US Olympic team, is having a spectacular season. Currently, Miller is 3rd in wins, 2nd in GAA, 1st in Sv% and tied for 3rd with 5 shutouts. The Sabres also have another huge right spot on their blueline, as Tyler Myers has played exceptionally all year, and certainly must be a Calder candidate, if not the leading candidate so far. He leads all Sabres defensemen in goals, assists, and points and is 2nd on the defense in +/- at +8.
Ironically, the Sabres are faced with the same stigma as their expansion cousin Canucks have had for the past few years. They are a team that scores by committee, defends well, and relies heavily on their all-star goaltender. So if the Canucks can rattle Miller's cage and get to him early, the Canucks will have success tonight.
I was absolutely wrong on my last prediction about the Canucks, when they played the Blackhawks so I'm not even going to bother for this game. Let's just hope the Canucks can stifle Myers and get into Miller's kitchen. If they can, the Canucks may hand the Sabres their 4th straight loss against the West.