Was Round 1 An Upset?

Entering the 2010 NHL Playoffs, the Buffalo Sabres had every reason for confidence heading into their quarterfinal matchup with the Boston Bruins. After all, the Sabres had a very successful season winning the Northeast division easily by sixteen points, nineteen more than the Bruins.

The Bruins, who only secured a spot in the playoffs the last week of the season, were without two of their top four defenseman, and their best player, Marc Savard. The Bruins were also starting a rookie goaltender in Tuuka Rask. Hockey experts on NHL.com and ESPN.com all predicted an easy series victory for the Sabres, some in as little as five games.

After all, the Sabres were clearly the better team. Or were they?

A closer look at several points reveals that the Sabres may not have been the better team. The regular season series was won by the Bruins 4-2. Not only did the Bruins win four of six, but the two Sabres victories could have very well gone either way.

On January 29, in Buffalo, the Sabres won by a score of 2-1. A late Boston goal was disallowed on a high stick call, a call that was later called a “gift” even by the Buffalo announcing staff. The second victory saw the Sabres score their third goal on Tim Thomas at 6:08 of the second period.

Thomas was pulled in favor of Tuukka Rask, who in turn shut out the Sabres the rest of the way. Ryan Miller was barraged with shots ending up saving 40 as the Sabres held on for a 3-2 victory. While I’m not taking anything away from the Sabres, I don’t believe they did anything in these two victories to show superiority in any way. With respect to the season series, nothing would lead anyone to believe the Sabres were the better team.

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