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Round 2 preview; (2) Philadelphia Flyers vs (3) Boston Bruins

April 29, 2011

This was a real ad from the Bruins last season.

After dispatching their hated rival in seven games by the slimmest of margins, the playoff storyline only grows with a rematch between the Flyers and Bruins. The two teams met last year in what is now a historic series in which the Flyers climbed out of a 3-0 series deficit and a 3-0 Game 7 hole to shock the Bruins and kick them out of the playoffs in embarrassing fashion.

The two teams are different but largely the same. The Bruins are deep but lack any consistent scorer, are defensive-minded and have good goaltending. The Flyers have guys who can score up front, a tough team down the roster, and unknowns in goal. The two teams make for a physical series and are an interesting matchup stylistically. The Bruins are coming off of a seven game first round series, as are the Flyers. In contrast to last year the Flyers are the banged up team while the Bruins are largely healthy. The Bruins took the season series, going 3-0-1 but frequently got the Flyers at good times. Like always, don’t take much stock into regular season numbers.

Forwards

Patrice Bergeron– 2-5-7 +5
Chris Kelly– 3-3-6 +4
Nathan Horton– 3-0-3 E

Claude Giroux– 1-8-9 +5
Danny Briere– 6-1-7 -1
Mike Richards– 0-5-5 +5

The only team to score less goals than the Bruins 17 in seven games in the first round were the depleted Penguins. The Bruins ample depth was a key factor in the first series, when the Bruins top line took most of the series off the bottom three lines came through with some great numbers considering the tight series. Nathan Horton’s two game-winners are a welcome sight for the Bruins but they also got two game-winning goals from their third line. They don’t have a bonafide scorer but they get production from all areas. The Flyers have a tough and talented group of forwards. Danny Briere is the front-runner for the Conn Smythe right now with a ridiculous six goals in the first round. Claude Giroux’s nine points lead all players still in the tournament. Zdeno Chara and the defense need to step up to shut down the top two lines who are extremely dangerous. Five on five this should be a physical series up front and make for a lot of good matchups. ADVANTAGE: FLYERS

Defense

Andrew Ference– 1-3-4 +6
Dennis Seidenberg– 1-2-3 -2

Andrej Meszaros– 1-4-5 +1
Kimmo Timonen– 1-3-4 +9

The Bruins only allowed 11 even strength goals in Round 1, as did the Flyers. That stat is more impressive for the Flyers because they also used three goalies in the first round and the Flyers top +/- defensemen racked up an impressive +9. The physical Flyers D had an easier matchup against the Sabres, who’s small size was easy to push around. The Bruins pose a tougher matchup because they can match physically. Plus, Chris Pronger is still nowhere near 100% and he’s huge for the D corps. The Bruins defended by committee in the first round and played well against the fast and talented Habs. While the Habs had one scary line, the Flyers have two. The defense will have to be that much better but their health should give them a slight advantage. ADVANTAGE: BRUINS

Goaltending

Tim Thomas– 4-3, 2.25 GAA, .930 SV %
Brian Boucher– 4-1, 2.10 GAA, .930 SV %

Brian Boucher’s stats are kind of shocking considering he was the third option, huh? I still don’t buy into them though. There’s a reason Bouch is a career backup and although the Flyers can and have squeaked by with him, it doesn’t mean he’s a good goalie. Boucher does bring experience and a sense of calmness to the back end but he’s also beatable. The Flyers defense was able to clear out the front of the crease for Boucher, who was kept safe a lot. The D will have a bigger challenge doing that against the Bruins. Tim Thomas answered a lot of questions in the last round, stealing a game or two and conquering some early bad goals to look like a Vezina caliber goalie late in the series. Thomas’ style can help and hurt him but he stayed in position much more as the series went on. ADVANTAGE: BRUINS

Special Teams

Flyers- PP- 5-for-35 (14.3%), PPGA 7-for-31 (77.4%)
Bruins- PP 0-for-21 (-4.3%*), PPGA 6-for-37 (77.8%)

The Bruins were the first team to win a playoff series without scoring a power-play goal. The power-play looked awful nearly every single time on the ice. The Bruins PK was better than the stats indicated but discipline is an area of concern in rivalry series. The Flyers power-play was among the worst power-plays in the first round but came through with five goals. The PK was surprisingly bad and nearly cost the Flyers the series as they were dominant at times on 5-on-5. Danny Briere is as dangerous a power-play finisher left in the tournament and the Bruins are still looking, desperately, for a way to get a PPG. ADVANTAGE: FLYERS

Intangibles/Coaching

It seems like the Flyers have a huge edge in intangibles after last year’s series. The Bruins haven’t proven to be all that mentally strong until they came back last series. You still have to think that the Flyers hold a huge mental edge on the Bruins after last year, especially if they force the issue early and create adversity. The Bruins could use last year to rally around but this doesn’t seem like the kind of team who tries to get emotionally involved in those kind of things. In coaching, it’s hands down Laviolette over Julien. Laviolette was a coach in Providence a few years ago and is ‘the coach who got away’. Julien will be loyal to his players and let the games unfold thusly but Laviolette knows how to push buttons and get his team up. ADVANTAGE: FLYERS

The Pick

The matchup looks pretty even on paper and the styles match up interestingly. Stud offense vs potential shutdown defense, tough teams battling in what should be a long series, etc. Although the goalie situation favors the Bruins considerably, I see just about everything else that matters going Philly’s way, especially intangibles. The Flyers just know how to win in all circumstances, healthy or injured, goalie or patchwork, skilled or rough and tumble. The Bruins are still puppies in terms of playoff success, they’ll battle hard but fall in Game 7. FLYERS IN 7

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