Friday, April 30, 2010
Who saw this bracket-busting matchup coming? The 6th seeded Bruins and the 7th seeded Flyers. Both teams vanquished their respective Division's champions in Round 1. And now one of these 3rd place sides will be in the Eastern Conference Finals.
These teams met 4 times, including that epic overtime game at Fenway. Each team beat the other once in regulation, and once in overtime/shootout (in other words, both teams are 2-1-1 against each other). The Flyers won the first two games, back in 2009. The Bruins won on New Years Day, and in their most recent meeting in March. That was a 5-1 Bruins victory.
But what does the regular season mean now? Next to nothing. In the regular season, Brian Boucher was a liability for the Flyers. He was their MVP in Round 1. In the regular season, the Bruins' Power Play was a joke. That unit throttled Buffalo, scoring over 27% of the time.
As well as he played against New Jersey, Brian "Waterboy" Boucher is no Ryan Miller. Then again, the B's have made a lot of goalies look like Ryan Miller this season. Boucher made 1 start against the B's, but played in 2 games. He had a .949 SV% in that time.
Tuukka saw the Flyers twice. 1-0-1 record, 1.92 GAA, .944 SV%. So once again, do not expect many 5-4 games this series. Things will be tight, and the scoring will be low.
But there will be blood. Zdeno Chara and Chris Pronger will spearhead both team's physical games. The challenge will be to stay within the rules. Both team's PP units excelled in the 1st round. Then again, both team's PK units performed just as well, so don't be shocked to see the likes of Sobotka and Hartnell spending time in the clink.
The Bruins will be adding to their roster, while the Flyers have been forced to subtract. Marc Savard returns this series. It's unclear how often he'll play, and it might be tough going for him to be dropped in the middle of a physical and hard-checking series. Expect him to be on the power play, but I doubt he'll be very effective at the start of the series.
The Flyers lose two weapons to shot-block related injuries. 33 goal scorer Jeff Carter won't play, and neither will 17 goal man Simon Gagne. 11 of Carter's 33 scores came on the power play, so that unit loses a bit of bite. That being said, there's still Mike Richards (31 goals), Danny Briere (26 goals), and Claude Giroux (4 goals, 2 assists in New Jersey series) to contend with.
And that's where I'm worried. The Bruins continually made some big mistakes in the Buffalo series. But they were saved by Rask half the time, and by Buffalo's offensive ineptitude the other half. These mistakes can't persist. The Bruins don't need to play flawless hockey to beat the Flyers, but the outcome of this series will be determined by how many mistakes the Bruins make in their own zone. Michael Ryder, Dennis Wideman, I hope you fully understand this.
Oh, and Marco Sturm needs to score. If he gets hot, then those mistakes won't be so costly. Sturm had 2 goals and 2 assists against the Flyers this season, including this one...
To me, this is the Bruins' series to lose. They have an excellent goaltender, they know how to play physical hockey, they've been excellent killing penalties. The Flyers are truly a solid, balanced team, but they lack that goaltending. And so long as the B's are careful with the puck in their own zone (especially when Richards or Briere are on the ice), and guys like Recchi, Krejci, Bergeron, Chara, and Wideman keep up the effort and the work, the Bruins will win in 6 games.
Sat 5/1 12:30pm - vs. Philadelphia - NBC
Mon 5/3 7:00pm - vs. Philadelphia - Versus
Wed 5/5 7:00pm - @ Philadelphia - Versus
Fri 5/7 7:00pm - @ Philadelphia - Versus
Mon 5/10 7:00pm - vs. Philadelphia - Versus
Wed 5/12 7:00pm - @ Philadelphia - Versus
Fri 5/14 7:00pm - vs. Philadelphia - Versus