We Meet Again
Flyers-Bruins renew their rivalry
Thursday, 04.28.2011 / 10:40 PM / News
By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com
Last year the Flyers and Bruins met in one of the most memorable Stanley Cup Playoff series in NHL history. The Bruins won the first three games, including Marc Savard's dramatic overtime goal in Game 1 in his first game back after a serious concussion nearly two months earlier.
Then the Flyers won Game 4 in overtime on Simon Gagne's goal in his first game back from injury, and then they lost starting goalie Brian Boucher in Game 5 to an injury -- only to see Michael Leighton come off the bench and finish a shutout.
After a win in Game 6, the Flyers forced a Game 7 in Boston. They fell behind 3-0 in the first period, but the Flyers roared back and eventually went ahead on Gagne's goal in the third period.
Is there any way history can repeat itself?
The Flyers got at least 1 goal from eight different forwards during their seven-game first-round win against Buffalo and none of them was named Mike Richards or Kris Versteeg, which says a lot about the Flyers' offensive depth.
Danny Briere led the way, scoring six times against the Sabres, tying him for the League lead. His line, along with Ville Leino and Scott Hartnell, scored 10 of the Flyers' 22 goals in the series.
The Flyers also boasted another top-scoring line, anchored by Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk. Giroux leads all playoff scorers with 8 assists, and his 9 points are tied for the League lead. Van Riemsdyk had 4 goals, including one in each of the series' final three games.
Jeff Carter missed the final three games of the series with a lower-body injury, but there's hope he could return at some point in the second round. Nikolay Zherdev scored the Game 3 winner and played with Giroux and van Riemsdyk in Carter's absence.
No Boston forward had more than 3 goals in the first round, but eight had at least one. That kind of balance can be extremely hard to defend.
In his first Stanley Cup Playoff series, Nathan Horton had a team-high 3 goals, including the overtime series-clinching goal in Game 7.
Chris Kelly led the team in scoring with 6 points, and his line with Rich Peverley and Michael Ryder was a major factor for the Bruins at both ends of the ice, combining for 6 goals and a plus-10 rating.
While Horton shined, linemates David Krejci and Milan Lucic barely cracked the score sheet. Krejci had 1 goal, while Lucic's only point on the series was an assist on Horton's series-winning goal.
If the big Krejci line or the defensive-minded Kelly line aren't going, Boston also can throw out a speedy, puck-hound trio of Patrice Bergeron, Mark Recchi and Brad Marchand.
Chris Pronger might not be 100-percent healthy, but his return sparked Philadelphia over the final two games of the series. He played solely on the power play in Game 6, but in Game 7 he was on the ice for more than 17 minutes, picked up an assist and blocked a team-high five shots.
In Pronger's absence, the pairing of Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn picked up the slack. Timonen led all players with a plus-9 rating, while Coburn tied for second with a plus-6, and each averaged more than 24 minutes per game.
Andrej Meszaros and Matt Carle also played well, with that pairing combing for 8 assists.
Sean O'Donnell provides a solid veteran presence on the third pairing. Danny Syvret is insurance if Pronger's injured hand becomes an issue again.
The defense didn't chip in much offensively, but the top pair of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg is among the most difficult in the League to play against. Both have hard shots from the point, are very good at filling passing lanes and block a ton of shots.
After missing Game 2 due to dehydration, Chara was his usual minute-munching monster. He had just 1 assist a plus-1 rating, but had just two penalty minutes and led all players with an average of 28:48 of ice time per game.
Tomas Kaberle had 2 assists in his first playoff series since 2004, and Adam McQuaid was solid in his own end.
Andrew Ference and Johnny Boychuk makes for a solid third pairing.
The Flyers became the first team since 1988 to win a playoff series by starting three different goalies. Brian Boucher will be the Game 1 starter, but that's all that's assured. It's likely Sergei Bobrovsky will back him up, with Michael Leighton and possibly Johan Backlund waiting in the wings.
Tim Thomas doesn't always make it look easy, but he always finds a way to make the big saves at the big moments. There's a reason the Bruins won all three overtime games in the series.
Peter Laviolette pushed all the right buttons in the first round with the goaltending carousel and was able to work Pronger back into the lineup. His players rave about his confidence his ability to know what buttons to push with this team.
The pressure was on Claude Julien, as numerous media reports predicted he would have lost his job of if the Bruins hadn't won Game 7 against the Canadiens. Regardless of what's said in media, the players respect Julien and play hard for him.
Pronger's return reinvigorated a power play that was 2-for-26 in the first five games of the first round without him. With him, it went 3-for-9, including goals on its first two chances in Game 7.
Their penalty killing wasn't tremendous, allowing the Sabres to score seven times on 31 attempts. They allowed at least one extra-man goal allowed in five of the seven games, and two goals twice.
Boston managed to become the first team in NHL history to win a series despite zero impact from its power play -- in seven games, they went 0-for-21 with the extra man. Kaberle was brought in to anchor that power play.
Their penalty killing was moderately better, stopping the Canadiens on 21 of 27 power play chances.
James van Riemsdyk, Flyers -- The 21-year-old seems to grow in confidence with each game. He had 4 goals in the first round, including one in each of the final three games of the series. He's also shown a willingness to assert himself physically, and combine that with his high-level offensive skills.
Milan Lucic, Bruins -- Julien said the power forward is healthy, just that he didn't play at his best against the Canadiens. With his size and skill set, they'll need him to be better to take advantage of Philadelphia's lack of physicality on the blue line.
Flyers will win if... Philadelphia attacked Buffalo in waves in the first round, and eventually wore down the Sabres' defense and goalie Ryan Miller. If the Flyers can continue to get scoring from multiple places, the same thing could happen to Thomas.
Bruins will win if... The Sabres were able to stand up to the Flyers physically and succeed, and the Bruins are bigger and stronger, especially up front. If they can use their size to their advantage, they can make up for last year's playoff collapse