At the start of the season, a lot was made of the fact the Boston Bruins did not have much turnover – either on the ice or in hockey operations – after the historic collapse to Philadelphia in last year’s Eastern Conference semifinals. Many felt the lack of new blood would mean the same result in this year’s playoffs – a loss when the going got tough.
Maybe General Manager Peter Chiarelli felt the same way, as he made several moves in order to bolster Boston’s postseason hopes. Many of the new additions have paid dividends, helping the Bruins win a tough, emotional seven-game series with the arch-rival Montreal Canadiens.
Of the 18 skaters in last year’s Game 7 collapse – a game that saw the Bruins take a 3-0 lead on home ice before losing – only eight play a regular shift on this year’s playoff squad. Guys like Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley, Tomas Kaberle, Brad Marchand, and Nathan Horton were not part of the loss, and hopefully will provide the spark and attitude the Bruins will need to get past the Flyers in this year’s semifinal.
“It was not the sole force behind the moves,” Chiarelli said at a press conference earlier this week. “You look at the season, the playoffs, where you want to be, and what you need to get better. Some of those players are no longer here, but that was not by design, a lot of it was just normal turnover.”
Chiarelli added that both he and coach Claude Julien are excited about facing the Flyers, and that Julien used it as a motivational strategy before Game 7 with Montreal.
First and foremost, the Flyers will be a very different opponent than the Canadiens. The Flyers are bigger and stronger and much more physical than the Canadiens, who relied on its speed and defensive style to win games. Philly also does not have a Carey Price in goal, as the Flyers have struggled to keep the puck out of the next over the past month or so.
“They are bigger – I think that’s a huge difference,” Chiarelli said. “These guys don’t stretch the ice as much (as Montreal), but they tend to go to the weak side a lot in the neutral zone and they’re coming in rushes, but they don’t stretch it as much. They are like us to a certain degree.”
December 1, 2010 at Philadelphia: Bruins 3, Flyers 0. Tim Thomas made 41 saves, including 16
in the second period, to lead Boston.
December 10, 2010 at Boston: Flyers 2m Bruins 1 (OT). Mike Richards scored with 3 seconds left in the OT and Brian Boucher made 35 saves.
January 13, 2011 at Boston: Bruins 7, Flyers 5. Boston scored five goals in the third and had goals from seven different players in the win.
March 27, 2011 at Philadelphia: Bruins 2, Flyers 1. Thomas made 27 saves and Brad Marchand had a power-play goal to win it (it seems like this was Boston’s last power-play goal, even if it wasn’t!)
Game 1: No. 3 Boston at No. 2 Philadelphia
What Boston needs to do to win …
1. Score on the power play: The PP was atrocious in the Montreal series, as the Bruins became the first team in history to win a seven-game series without a power play goal (0-for-21). Boston needs to get its PP on track early in this series.
2. Put pressure on the goalie: Brian Boucher splayed well in stretches against Buffalo (2.10 GAA, .934 save percentage) but also had games in which he struggled. Boston needs to get in his face, bump him a bit, and throw pucks on net.
3. Get more from more: Boston survived Montreal without much contribution from its first line. Nathan Horton had two OT game-winners, but Milan Lucic (invisible) and David Krejci (ineffective) did little, and Boston needs them to get going. Lucic is the key, as his physical presence should open up space for Krejci. Zdeno Chara also has to play better – he needs to play like a Norris Trophy winner and highly-paid defenseman he is.
What Philadelphia needs to do to win …
1. Forecheck Boston’s defense: The Bruins often struggle getting the puck out of its zone, and an aggressive two-man forecheck with a third guy watching the reverse play usually does the trick. Look for the Flyers to attack the puck carrier while spying on the reverse pass, as Philly has a number of hard-working forwards (Danny Briere, Mike Richards, Claude Giroux, James van Riemsdyk, Daniel Carcillo, Scott Hartnell).
2. Get the lead: The Bruins say they don’t worry about what happened last year, but it has to be in their head somewhere. An early Flyer lead will force those thoughts to the forefront.
3. Danny Briere continues to be a playoff star: The diminutive Briere led all scorers in last year’s playoffs (30 points) and had six goals and an assist against Buffalo. He needs to keep that up against Boston, who has struggled containing small, speedy forwards.
Date Time Site
Saturday, April 30 3 p.m. Philadelphia
Monday, May 2 7 p.m. Philadelphia
Wednesday, May 4 7 p.m. Boston
Friday, May 6 8 p.m. Boston
Sunday, May 8 3 p.m. Philadelphia
Tuesday, May 10 TBA Boston
Thursday, May 12 TBA Philadelpphia
Boston Playoff Leaders
Goals: Nathan Horton, Chris Kelly 3
Assists: Patrice Bergeron 7
Points: Bergeron 7
Plus/Minus: Andrew Ference (plus-6)
Ice time: Zdeno Chara 28:48
Shots: Bergeron 27
Blocks: Dennis Seidenberg 19
Hits: Bergeron 22
Philadelphia Playoff Leaders
Goals: Danny Briere 6
Assists: Claude Giroux 8
Points: Giroux 9
Plus/Minus: Kimmo Timonen (plus-9)
Ice time: Andrj Meszaros 25:33
Shots: James van Riemsdyk 43
Blocks: Matt Carle 16
Hits: Giroux 20
Prediction: Boston needs to establish itself early in this series with a win in either game in Philadelphia. The Bruins have been great on the road all season, and are 2-0 in Philly this season. They take Game 1, 4-2.
(Steve Kendall is a freelance writer with 20 years experience covering hockey at all levels. In addition to thehockeywriters.com, he has written for The Boston Herald, The New England Hockey Journal, and The Worcester Telegram & Gazette.)