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It's playoff time in the National Hockey League, and a season-ending winning streak put the Boston Bruins into the first round as the No. 6 seed. They face the number No. 3 seed Buffalo Sabres Thursday night.
But Fluto Shinzawa, who covers hockey for The Boston Globe and who joined WBUR Thursday, says the B's will likely not last long in the playoffs.
"No, not this year," Shinzawa said when asked if the Bruins have a shot at the Stanley Cup. "Maybe next year, maybe next year will be the one they make a run."
Shinzawa's stark prediction begins with what he called "a very tall task" against the Sabres. In large part, that's due to the Bruins' offensive struggles — they scored the fewest goals in the Eastern Conference this year — and the presence of Sabres' goalie Ryan Miller, who starred for Team USA in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
"This is really the key of the series," Shinzawa said. "The worst offense of the NHL in the regular season and, as the adage goes, in the playoffs scoring becomes even more of a premium. And then you add in the fact that you're going up against probably the league's best goalie. This is going to be the challenge for the Bruins."
In Boston's net, the Bruins will hope for a dominating inaugural playoff performance from Tuuka Rask, who Shinzawa praised.
"(He's) probably one of the standout young goalies, maybe even a rookie of the year candidate," Shinzawa said. "He’s been everything they’ve asked for and more."
But despite Rask's play and the way the team clawed into the playoffs, Shinzawa does not see the same team on the ice that took four of six from the Sabres in the regular season.
Forward Marc Savard, out since he suffered a concussion following a vicious hit in March, is not expected to appear in the series. Shinzawa says Savard "is probably their most gifted play-maker." Top defensemen Mark Stuart and Dennis Seidenberg are also out, and another defenseman, Andrew Ference, has been battling an injured groin.
While the Sabres series may prove to be an uphill battle for the battered Bruins, Shinzawa did mention the bit of good news for Boston fans this week: On Tuesday, the team received the second overall pick in the upcoming NHL Draft.
This program aired on April 15, 2010.
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