Semi-Finals Preview: (7) Flyers vs. (6) Bruins

30 Apr

The Flyers beat the Devils handedly in the first round in 5 games and were the only team in this year’s NHL playoffs to advance in 5 games or less. Game 5 was last Thursday, and the Flyers have been hanging around since then. It was not until this past Wednesday night did we know for sure who exactly we would be playing. With the Capitals loss to the Canadiens in the first round, the Eastern Conference was re-seeded:

#4: Penguins
#6: Bruins
#7: Flyers
#8: Canadiens

The Penguins will be hosting the Canadiens for the first two games of their series, and the Flyers will be in Boston for the first two games of theirs. The buzz in our conference is going to be focused on how the Canadiens shut out Ovechkin and if they can do it again against Crosby. That’s fine with me, I’d rather fly under the radar. So how exactly are we going to match-up against Boston and what do we have to do to advance? Here’s some thoughts:

Last round, it came down to our special teams and goaltending that ultimately won the series for us. However, the heart and soul of our penalty kill, Ian Laperriere, will be out for the remainder of the playoffs. Earlier this week it was revealed that besides the non-displaced orbital fracture in his eye, he also was suffering from a brain contusion and a concussion of sorts. How will the Flyers overcome yet another injury?

The main storylines that are going to emerge from this series are as follows:

Special Teams
Once again, this will be a huge factor in this series. In my first round wrap-up, I talked about how the Flyers were at a decent power play percentage of 27.6%. You know who’s right under them? The Bruins at 27.3%. David Krejci and Mark Recchi both have two power play goals each, while Boychuk and Satan each have one. We tried to stay out of the box last round, and we’re going to have to try harder this round. Don’t want to be chasing a lead, especially because of some penalties that did not have to be taken.

On the other side of the spectrum, the Bruins have killed off 100% of their penalties so far this post-season. Blame that on the lack of execution by the Sabres or whatever, but they were penalized 19 times in that first round and killed off all of them. The Flyers were penalized 32 times and came away with a 87.5% penalty kill percentage. I thought those were good numbers, but the Bruins clearly aren’t a team to take many penalties. We have to be careful here. Lappy’s PK ice-time is going to have to be eaten up by the likes of Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, and Daroll Powe. They’re going to have to support each other and pick up the slack because we can’t afford to let these injuries ruin our chances.

5 on 5
The Flyers were a great 5 on 5 team last round. We got our four lines rolling and for the most part, we established our forecheck and were creating chances upon turnovers. Boston is definitely a more defensive-minded team and they have a much better blue line than New Jersey did. They have their captain Zdeno Chara among other quality defenseman such as Johnny Boychuk and Dennis Wideman. Those three are their top 3 defenseman and they will look to shut down our scoring depth as much as possible. The return of forward Marc Savard to their line-up is also a big plus for the Bruins who will look to see him get his skating legs back and start creating chances again. The Flyers will also have to look out for Boston forwards David Krejci, Mark Recchi, Miroslav Satan, and of course, Patrice Bergeron. They may not be a team heavy with offensive firepower, but they can score and will if you let them.

The Flyers may match-up better here in 5 on 5 if their defensive pairings play as well as they did the last three games of that Devils series. If the Pronger-Carle and Timonen-Coburn pairings continue to play lights-out and the Krajicek-Parent pairing continues to do their job, we’re just as good as the Bruins on the blue line. Our forwards are deeper and I believe more talented than the Bruins squad; even without Carter, Gagne, or Lappy. The question is, who will be filling the most recently vacated roster spot? It seems like it’s down to Jon Kalinski, Jared Ross or Andreas Nodl who both have had NHL experience and can fill a 4th line role. Nodl has been practicing on a line with Powe and Betts while Ross has been centering JVR and Asham. I’m not sure who is going to get their shot here, but we’ll find out tomorrow.

Of course, this is the ultimate equalizer in playoff hockey. Last year, we saw the Flyers get games stolen right out from under them from the likes of Marc-Andre Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins. This year however, our backstop is on top of the league right now as Boosh is top in GAA and SV % in the league at the moment. Tuukka Rask is not far behind him either, and it’s probably going to be another goalie showdown this round. If Boosh can keep up his good play that he had going against the Devils, I don’t see a reason why we can’t win this series. Tuukka Rask is having quite a rookie campaign after winning the job over Tim Thomas, and he has not shown any signs of stopping. Like any good goaltender, the Flyers are going to have to make him feel uncomfortable and crowd that crease. They did a good job of it against New Jersey and Rask might be easier to rattle than Brodeur… but a goalie is as good as the defense in front of him sometimes. If Chara is clearing the crease, we’re going to have to work hard in those position battles in front of the net.

If the Flyers can play smart hockey and limit the Bruins’ chances on the power play….
If the Flyers support Boucher and he continues to use good positioning…
If our forwards pick up the slack for our three main injuries and find ways to beat Rask…
If they can find whatever motivation they had for the first series…

The Flyers should win. Claude Giroux and Danny Briere need to continue to score goals in the absence of Carter and Gagne, and I believe they will. It’d be nice if Hartnell showed up as well. I feel like he’s always had good games against the Bruins, so maybe we’ll see him start earning those big bucks we’re paying him.

I called last series that it would end with the Flyers in 6, yet they ended in 5. I can see this series going to 6 or 7 games, yet I’m partial to the Flyers winning it at home in Game 6 to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Winter Classic was 5 months ago, the Bruins can have that win. This is much more important. Time to re-ignite a playoff rivalry that hasn’t been seen since 1978. Face-off is 12:30 tomorrow morning on NBC.

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Posted by on April 30, 2010 in Playoffs


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