Sabres vs. Islanders, Round One Preview

The New York Islanders made a storybook run just to qualify for the playoffs, but will that happy tale continue as they face off against the President's Trophy-winning Buffalo Sabres? My first-round previews continue with tonight's 1 vs. 8 Eastern Conference tilt...

For table explanation, scroll down to the bottom of this post.

How the Sabres can score: Buffalo already boasts a top-notch offense, but when you factor in the amount of shots that the Islanders give up as well, that's just throwing gasoline on the fire. In particular, note the "Shots Factor" entries from 29 feet and in. The New York blueline might as well roll out the red carpet and escort opposing forwards into the slot. From 10-19 feet, for example, the Islanders are yielding 45% more shots than average.

How the Islanders can score: New York can also take hope in the fact that the Sabres cough up scoring chances as well, particularly in mid-range shots from 20-49 feet. The Islanders are also doing a good job of generating shots from close range, so the key there will be to cash in on those opportunities and not let Ryan Miller shut them down.

Summary: Lots of offense is to be expected here, as the Sabres project to 4.37 goals per game, with the Islanders potting 2.91 (give an extra +0.25 to the home team in each game). That difference of 1.46 GPG is the 2nd largest of these first-round series.

Outside the Numbers: The only chance New York has to be competitive in this series is if Wade Dubielewicz continues to play like, well, anybody other than Wade Dubielewicz. The backup netminder's surprising play over the last two weeks helped the Islanders sneak into the playoffs, but I'm guessing that New York's goaltending is more likely to underperform rather than outperform the numbers in this analysis.

The Prediction: I'll go with Buffalo in a 4-game sweep, giving them plenty of rest before moving on to the second round.
Table Key:
Shots For = average of shots per game by that team, from the range specified.
Shots Factor = a factor representing how many shots the opposing defense yields in that range (1.24 = 24% more than average, 0.89 = 11% less than average).
Exp. Shots = "Shots For" times "Shots Factor", how many shots are expected to occur within each range.
Sht % = The fraction of shots from within that range result in goals.
Sht % Factor = a measure reflecting how the opposing goaltender handles shots from a given range (0.74 = 26% fewer goals than average, 1.53 = 53% more than average)
Exp. Sht % = "Sht %" times "Sht % Factor", the expected shooting percentage for this matchup.
Exp. Goals = "Exp. Shots" times "Exp. Sht %", the number of goals per game expected from each range.
Values indicative of significantly higher goal-scoring are shaded green, values for lower goal-scoring shaded pink.
All figures represent exponential moving averages, giving greater weight to recent performance. Empty-net goals and Penalty Shots are excluded.

Technorati Tags: stanley cup playoffs, buffalo sabres, new york islanders

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