NIAGARA FALLS —
Tim Schmitt, Gazette sports editor
Key Player to Watch: Derek Roy
The leading scorer on a division winner, Roy has never lived up to the hype for scoring in key situations that he built in an impressive junior career. A big showing in the first round can change all that.
X-factor: Tyler Ennis
Just how good is this kid? We’re about to find out. Ennis kickstarted a sluggish offense down the stretch, and he seems to have the poise to handle big situations. Should he be in the lineup? Absolutely. And if he’s paired with Tim Connolly and Jason Pominville, don’t be surprised if he sneaks into the scoring column more than once.
Prediction: Sabres in 4
Dave Burkholder, Niagara hockey coach
Key player to watch: Thomas Vanek
Arguably the streakiest player in the NHL and goes into the playoffs “hotter than a firecracker (to steal a line from Rick Jeanneret).” He looked healthy this past weekend which means bad news for the Bruins. If he stays hot it will shorten this series.
Both teams are comparable on the power play with Buffalo converting on 17.6 percent and the Bruins on 16.6 percent of their respective power plays. Both teams also ranked in the top of the league with the least time spent in the box. That leads us to the X-factor. Ryan Miller vs. Tim Thomas/Tuukka Rask. I’ll stick with Miller to put the Sabres into the second round. Is there anything better in Buffalo springtime than Sabres playoff hockey? It’s Miller time!
Randy Schultz, NHL.com
Key Player To Watch: Thomas Vanek
Underachieved this season. His four-goal game performance near the end of the season may be a sign of things to come.
X-Factor: Tyler Myers
Could become a key to the Sabres offensive attack from back at the blue line. Really thrived in the World Juniors when playing in the spotlight. Myers will again lift his game to a new level in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Prediction: Sabres in 6