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The NHL Eastern Conference opening round series between the Buffalo Sabres and Philadelphia Flyers has been far from boring, and that suggests an especially entertaining Game 7 on Tuesday night. The Flyers were facing elimination on the road in Game 6 but managed to fight back from a 3-1 deficit to tie the game in the third period and win early in overtime. That victory evened it all up at 3 games apiece and gives the Flyers home ice advantage in Game 7 at the Wells Fargo Center.
This has been a strange series in that there’s been no real rhythm established by either team, nor has the style and tempo of the games played to form. Heading into the series, the expectation was for low scoring, close checking and defensively tenacious play from both sides. It hasn’t played out that way, with only two of the six games going UNDER the total. It’s worth noting that both of the games that played UNDER the total were 1-0 Buffalo victories, which would suggest that a game of that style plays to the Sabres’ favor. Given the potent offensive weapons throughout the Flyers’ roster that makes perfect sense.
Buffalo was in much better form heading into this series and as the regular season concluded were one of the hottest teams in the league. Through this point of the series, the Sabres have won 8 of their last 12 games dating back to the regular season. The Flyers, meanwhile, have lost 8 of their last 12 games but the important thing is that 3 of those wins have come during this series. Philadelphia’s lack of momentum could be of significance if they’re able to win Game 7 and advance but shouldn’t play a factor in the outcome of the decisive contest itself.
Another significant component of this handicap involves Sabres' goalie Ryan Miller—at various points of this series he’s looked almost unbeatable while at others he’s looked extremely ordinary. The Flyers have gone with three goalies during this series and while Brian Boucher, Michael Leighton and Sergey Bobrovsky have come up with some big saves none are the type of goaltender that can flat out dominate. At his best, Miller is capable of playing at that level and there’s the potential that he could just take over this game and win it on his own.
With the lack of stylistic form throughout this series we’re going to stay away from the total. This game could end up being a defensive battle or a shootout based on the prior meetings in the series, but we do expect it to be close. For that reason we’ll take the underdog money with the Buffalo Sabres and look for them to pull the outright upset and advance to the next round.