Philly2Philly.com's Flyers vs Bruins Playoff Preview
This is the series everyone has been waiting for and expecting. The Flyers have been on the Bruins’ radar since coming back from a 3-0 deficit last year in the conference semifinals.
Much has changed since the last time both teams met. The Bruins were a favorite to go to the Cup last year, but instead the orange and black made it all the way in Rocky-esque fashion. Flip the calender ahead four months and the Flyers were the odds-on favorite to win the whole thing.
Three weeks ago the Flyers didn’t even resemble a playoff team as they collapsed down the stretch (giving up the #1 seed) and lost five of their last six regular season games. Losses to Atlanta and Ottawa were embarrassing.
Coach Peter Laviolette made it known that the Flyers wouldn’t let this late-season collapse interfere with their quest for the 2011 Stanley Cup. The series against Buffalo was a dogfight and probably should have lasted 5 or 6 games at most. With that said, the return of Chris Pronger will give this team the lift they need against a Bruins squad which just survived a 7-game slugfest against Montreal - including two overtime games.
Now, how do both teams shake out in terms of matchups? Scoring-wise this is a pretty even matchup.The Flyers (#3 overall) and Bruins (#5 overall) both finished in the top five of scoring in the regular season. The Flyers powerplay stinks, but when you look at regular season statistics; the Bruins actually ranked one spot below them at 20th overall.
Defensively, the Bruins were stingy in the regular season, giving up just 2.30 goals per game, good for second best in the league next to Vancouver. The Flyers were ranked 11th overall, yielding 2.63 goals per game. Again, both teams are pretty evenly matched. And, the Flyers and Bruins ranked 15th and 16th in penalty kill respectively.
On paper this is an even match offensively, defensively, and on special teams. At goal-tending the upperhand goes to the Bruins and it’s not even a contest. Tim Thomas is the best goalie in the league. He set an NHL record with save percentage in the regular season and allowed just 2.00 goals per game. And, he had nine shutouts.
The Flyers goal-tending situation changed on a game-to-game basis in their series against Buffalo. It was a rotating carousel of three goalies and completely unprecedented. Brian Boucher was Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde in the first-round series by being yanked from two games and finishing three others. It’s certainly possible that Brian Boucher has turned the corner and can hopefully not allow three goals in the first period, but it’s not a definite.
And, it appeared that Sergei Bobrovsky was out of the picture after being yanked from the first period in Game 2, but due to a “lower body injury” to Michael Leighton - Bob will be the backup at least for now.
Look for the Flyers to build on their Game 7 whooping of the Sabres and bring it against Boston. Chris Pronger’s return is huge. He may not play offense, but he’s the best player on this team bar none.
Even though the Flyers have a dysfunctional situation at goaltender and are going up against the best in Tim Thomas, I expect them to pull this out in seven games. Boucher outplayed Ryan Miller throughout much of the series and took care of business in games six and seven.
This series will be physical and get scary, but would you expect anything less out of a Flyers playoff series? Flyers in seven.
Dennis, you pretty much summed everything up to a tee. Philadelphia and Boston are both evenly matched. Like the Sabres series, some of these games could go either way, and probably will.
Unlike Buffalo however, the Bruins are bigger and tougher, but the neutralizer here is Pronger. The Flyers seem to turn it up a notch when he is in the lineup, and they started to look like the “Old Flyers” again. This is encouraging. The orange and black seem to play better when Jeff Carter is out of the lineup. This was obvious last year, and they didn’t seem to miss him at the end of the Sabres’ series, either. Mike Richards was pretty much silent against Buffalo, and if that continues, Danny Briere is going to have to keep his hot streak going.
As far as goaltending goes, the Flyers can not spot a team cheap goals in this series (or any series for that matter). Brian Boucher seemed to have gotten his groove back after taking the place of Sergei Bobrovsky and Michael Leighton, but Boston clearly has the edge here. Also, keep in mind that Thomas was not the main goalie last year in the playoffs against the orange and black. Tuukka Rask was on the other end of Boston’s debacle, so the chances of another meltdown from Boston is highly unlikely from that standpoint.
Prediction: Oh yeah, there is that whole revenge factor here. If you were only one of three teams to ever surrender a 3-0 series lead in the NHL, I would be a little miffed too. This could make Boston a team possessed, or the Flyers could still be in their heads. Philadelphia was 1-3-0 against Boston this year, but Boston had a losing record in the regular season against Montreal as well, and look how that turned out.
This series could go two ways: Boston avenges their playoff loss last year and takes this Flyers squad down in six games. Or, it’s an absolute battle from start to finish, and despite the Flyers shortcomings behind the net, they have enough talent all-around to edge Boston in seven games.
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