Over the course of the shortened 2019-20 regular-season, the Boston Bruins had their ups and downs, but at the end of the day, they finished with 100 points and won the Presidents’ Trophy. They finished eight points ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference standings.
When the NHL announced in May that they were going to a 24-team playoff format, the Bruins avoided the best of five qualifying series and instead will play in a three-game Round Robin format to determine the top four seeds for the Eastern Conference playoffs. They will play one game each against the Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals and the Lightning.
Related: The Evolution of Brad Marchand
Boston will open with their first game on Aug. 2 at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena against Philadelphia, and they likely will find it to be difficult competition in the round-robin against three teams that they had trouble with before the league pause. They went 1-2 against each team, but this new format gives them a chance to work out the kinks before the playoffs start in mid-August.
The Flyers won their two games against the Bruins this season before the league was paused in shootouts. Philadelphia won the first two games in the regular season before the Bruins put together one of their better efforts on March 10 in beating Flyers 2-0 and snapping their nine-game winning streak behind a 36-save performance from Tuukka Rask.
Philadelphia won the first game at the TD Garden on Nov. 10, 3-2, despite the Bruins rallying from a 2-0 third-period deficit. In January, the Bruins lost their second straight game to the Flyers, 6-5, this time at the Wells Fargo Center.
They gave up three two-goal leads in the game, which led to a forgettable shootout. Needing to score to extend the shootout, Bruins forward Brad Marchand grazed the puck at the center ice dot and skated towards Flyers goalie Carter Hart without the puck at the beginning of his attempt. Because he grazed the puck with his stick, the rules deemed that counted as his attempt and the game was over.
In three games against the Flyers, David Krejci had two goals and an assist. Boston’s top line of David Pastrnak (goal and an assist) Patrice Bergeron (goal and an assist) and Brad Marchand (goal and two assists) found it tough to beat Hart in the three games as they combined for just three goals. Hart made 79 saves in the three games against the Bruins.
Meet the Flyers
First-year coach Alain Vigneault has done such a good job in turning around the Flyers in 2019-20, that he is a finalist for the Jack Awards Award with the Bruins’ Bruce Cassidy. Last season, Philadelphia finished fifth in the Metropolitan Division and out of the playoffs. This season, they finished one point behind the Washington Capitals in the division.
The Flyers have four 20-goal scorers this season, with Travis Konecny leading the team with 24. Kevin Hayes (23), Sean Couturier (22) and Claude Giroux (21) also eclipsed the 20-goal mark. Veteran James van Riemsdyk was one short of joining his 20-goal teammates with 19. Jakub Voracek is one of the game’s best play-makers and leads the team with 44 assists. Konecny and Couturier each had 37 assists.
Hart has become one of the league’s better young goalies with a breakout season. He went 24-13-3 in 43 games with a 2.42 goals-against average (GAA) and a .914 save percentage (SV%). It will be interesting to see if Hart can continue his play after a four-month layoff. This will also be the 21-year old’s first postseason.
Ivan Provorov leads Flyers defensemen in scoring with 13 goals and 23 assists. He is tied for the team lead with Giroux with seven power-play goals. Matt Niskanen and Travis Sanheim bring a physical presence, while Shayne Gostisbehere appears to be back and healthy from a midseason knee injury.
Against the Bruins this season, the Flyers spread around the scoring. They had seven different players find the back of the net. Couturier had four assists in two games, while Konecny and Vorachek each had two.
It remains to be seen if this will be these teams’ only matchup this summer in Toronto as they both will have to get through at least one best-of-seven series to face off again. The franchises did meet in the 1974 Stanley Cup Final, which Philadelphia won in six games for their first of two straight championships.
In the 2010 playoffs, the Bruins held a 3-0 series lead over the Flyers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Philadelphia survived Game 4 with a 5-4 overtime win, which jump-started one the greatest comebacks in postseason history when the Flyers won the last three games, which included a 4-3 come-from-behind victory in Game 7 in Boston after being down 3-0 early in the game.
A year later, the Bruins got revenge by sweeping the Flyers in the Conference Semifinals on their way to winning the Stanley Cup. It also marked the first Eastern Conference Final berth for the Black and Gold in 19 years.
Tough Opening Act
It will be the first time in over four months that both teams will take the ice in a game that matters. For the Bruins to be successful, they will need to find a way to break through against Hart. It would be nice to see the top-line figure him out to give them confidence if the teams meet later in the playoffs. Regardless of what happens, it nice to have hockey back.