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Pierre McGuire's Breakdown
Philadelphia    Buffalo 
More pure offensive firepower than Buffalo, but the absence of Eric Lindros will be a factor. Mark Recchi must step up to create five-on-five points.  OFFENSE

The Edge:
  

Addition of Doug Gilmour makes a lot of players better, including Miroslav Satan and Curtis Brown. It now looks as if the Sabres are getting more from Vaclav Varada and Dixon Ward, too. If Mike Peca makes his presence felt on offense, Philadelphia could be in trouble. 

Gave up the fewest goals -- believe it or not -- in the Eastern Conference. Eric Desjardins is important in his own end, but the Flyers' best defense is puck possession in the offensive zone, thus they don't spend much time in their own zone.  DEFENSE

The Edge:
  

It begins with the best young tandem in the National Hockey League right now: Rhett Warrener and Jay McKee. Alexei Zhitnik is feeling better and Richard Smehlik was solid down the stretch. This defensive unit doesn't get enough credit on the whole. 

Brian Boucher shows some promise, but he could not have drawn a tougher assignment to start his playoff career.  IN GOAL

The Edge:
  

The greatest goalie in the world is back and as focused as ever. Dominik Hasek is the man, but if he goes down Martin Biron will be ready to step in. 

This team is outstanding on the power play. You've got to be very careful of Recchi and his ability to move the puck from the point position.  PP

The Edge:
   

The same Buffalo power play that was unbelievable in the playoffs last year became the worst in the league this year. Jason Woolley and Stu Barnes are the keys to turning it around. 

Very solid with young gun Simon Gagne and solid vet Jody Hull leading the way. Interim coach Craig Ramsay has really helped to develop this unit.  PK

The Edge:
 None 

The Sabres are lucky to have players like Peca and Ward at their disposal. But this team would be wise to stay out of the box and limit its time short-handed. 

Ramsay is a smart and talented coach, but his team may not be as focused as it has to be. The Lindros saga continues to be an almost daily distraction, and it could play a role in how well Ramsay coaches.  COACH

The Edge:
  None 

Lindy Ruff and company has been there before and the team believes in the staff. Still, Ruff has to get his men to take fewer penalties and steer clear of the referees. 

They have size and slightly improved mobility from a year ago. However, the Flyers still have to do a better job of playing consistently for a full 60 minutes.  INTANGIBLES

The Edge:
   

Hard-hat mentality seems to be back. Whatever has bothered this team for most of the season appears to be gone. 

The blazing speed of Gagne and the unheralded offense of Daymond Langkow.  X-FACTOR

The Edge:
   

Internal leadership of Peca, the fantastic two-way play of Doug Gilmour, and the goaltending of Hasek. 
McGuire's Prediction: Buffalo in 5
 
Pierre McGuire is a former NHL head coach and a regular contributor to Sports Illustrated and CNNSI.com.

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