The Philadelphia Flyers hope to advance past the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs this spring after they were eliminated last season by the New York Islanders in seven games.
If they want to reach the third round, the Flyers will need to figure out a way to beat the Boston Bruins. So far this season, it’s not going well as the Flyers are 0-2-2 against their New England nemesis.
Normally, Philadelphia wouldn’t have to worry about facing the Bruins until the Eastern Conference Final. Of course, this season is anything but normal.
In an attempt to limit travel and keep teams closer together geographically, the NHL realigned the divisions for this season. The Flyers and Bruins typically reside in different divisions but have been grouped together in the new East Division.
With the first two rounds of the postseason between teams from within their division, the Flyers will likely run into the Bruins before the Conference Finals. As of now, that is not a favorable matchup for Philadelphia.
In the four games between the two clubs in 2020-21, the Bruins have outscored the Flyers, 17-9. They have embarrassed them, 6-1, and rallied in the third to prevail in a shootout a few weeks ago in Boston. On Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Center, the Bruins scored a game-tying goal with 14 seconds to play in regulation and then won it in overtime, and 48 hours later escaped with a 2-1 victory behind a pair of third-period goals.
“I think (we’ve been right with them) especially these last two games than when we played them up in Boston,” Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk said on Friday. “I thought we did a lot good things tonight as far as 5-on-5 play and that’s churning in a good direction. They’re a good team.
“We seem to rise to the occasion in these games. We just have to find a better result and close them out now.”
There is at least a silver lining that came out of the disastrous and gut-wrenching outcomes for the Flyers. They realized the formula that is required to beat the Bruins on Friday.
The Flyers’ Formula to Beat the Bruins
The biggest key to gaining two points is discipline.
It’s as simple as limiting giveaways, staying out of the penalty box, and containing the B’s top line of Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, and Patrice Bergeron.
The Flyers accomplished all three, for the most part, on Friday. They didn’t have a giveaway in the first period – they had seven on Wednesday and finished the game with 10 – and had a more acceptable total of six.
Entering Friday, the Bruins were 7-for-11 on the power play against the Flyers. However, Philadelphia didn’t give them too many opportunities on the night. Scott Laughton took an unnecessary slashing penalty early in the game, but the Flyers killed it off and otherwise played a mostly clean game.
The Bruins’ top line combined for nine points in the first game in Philly, which included all three playing a role on the game-tying goal, and Bergeron netted the game-winner from Pastrnak. Two nights later, the trio finished with two points – but Marchand tallied the equalizer.
“There’s no doubt that they’re a good team,” Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said. “They have a top line that seems to make a difference every night, and they did again tonight.”
The Flyers Need to Capitalize on Opportunities
While the Flyers continued their third-period swoon on Friday – Brian Elliott allowed a soft one on the second goal – they can also point to their inability to take advantage of a ton of chances in the first 40 minutes as another culprit.
The power play went 1-for-5 overall – the Flyers had a chance to open the game up with back-to-back power plays, including a brief two-man advantage. In the third period, they failed to score on a power play with less than four minutes to go and couldn’t tie the game with Elliott pulled for the extra skater over the last 90 seconds.
Also, Joel Farabee failed to convert on a penalty shot in the second period. He tried to go five-hole on Tuukka Rask, but the goalie read it the whole way.
All of the missed opportunities came back to bite them.
“I’m sure our coaches will show us stuff we did correctly and did poorly,” Flyers center Kevin Hayes said. “We’ll learn from there. Hopefully, we can put together a full 60 (minutes) soon and get the two points.”
The Flyers Need to Execute the Game Plan
The Flyers know the formula to beat the Bruins. Now, they just need to follow it.
They came close on Friday, but they learned the same lesson from the previous three games – you must check off each of the to-do boxes to emerge with a win over the Bruins.
And until that happens, the Flyers will continue to fall short against the Bruins – and have an even tougher time getting out of the first two rounds of the postseason.