Series Preview; Flyers vs. Bruins, A shot at redemption?
We all remember the scene from last year. Two polar opposite emotions flowed out of the passionate fans from both teams. The Flyers, flying high on the wings of victory, and the Bruins, crushed and embarrassed by one of the most monumental collapses in sports history. Fast forward to now. Here we go again, kids. Boston and Philadelphia are set to add another chapter to a long an tumultuous rivalry starting Saturday afternoon on Broad Street.
This rivalry dates back to legendary tough guys Dave Shultz and Terry O'reilly and the Big bad Bruins vs the Broad Street Bullies. Two of the toughest and most physical teams squared off in the '74 Stanley cup finals. The favored Bruins eventually fell to the Bullies 4 games to 2, and the Flyers captured their first Stanley cup ever.
Why, you may ask, do I bring up the past? Because believe it or not, whether you like it or not, past failures can be quite the motivator. As we all know, many of the same Bruins still remain from last years Chernobyl like meltdown. I would bet my last dollar that every single player, fan, and coach could have only dreamt at their shot for retribution against the stinkin' Flyers. Well, Boston, now you've got your wish.
The Bruins and Flyers met 4 times this regular season. Boston managed to win three out of the four, outscoring Philadelphia 14-7. Both teams are fresh off of game 7 wins in emotionally charged series. I have a feeling, however, that those two series will pale in comparison as far as emotion goes. You know the Bruins will be motivated and surly right from the very beginning. Will the Flyers be ready to match up to that intensity level from the get go? Only time will tell, but it's definitely a tall task for the orange and black.
The real wild card in this series will be the goal tending. The Flyers used three different net minders in their series win against Buffalo. The first time in 23 years a team used 3 different starters and won a playoff series. (See photo of the 3 sharing a drink) So the question for the Flyers becomes can Brian Boucher stand up to the task? He has proven to be very resillient, and we all know he has a very "team first" mentality. So you know he will give it his all win or lose.
The man in the mask at the other end is none other than Cleveland's own Drew, Oh no, wait, that's Tim Thomas. In all seriousness, Thomas' numbers this season are no laughing matter. Thomas boasted a gaudy .9382 save percentage, an NHL record. He bested the dominator, Dominik Hasek's, record from the 98-99 season. Thomas' unorthadox style in net is extremely hard to figure out, I'm pretty sure he doesn't even know what he's going to do next. But it works. Well. The decided advantage in net goes to Boston. A no brainer for fans of both teams.
The argument then becomes, but Tim, the Flyers beat Brodeur, Raask, Halak, and Miller in the playoffs, why can't they do the same to Thomas? They can, if their special teams improves.
That brings me to my next point. The special teams. Surprisingly, the Bruins power play was worse than the Flyers. So bad, in fact, they went 0-21 in the series against Montreal, becoming the first team in history to win a playoff series without scoring a power play goal. That makes Philadelphia's 5-35 look a lot less putrid, but not much. This becomes the key in this series. If one team can get their power play running even fractions better, it would make a huge impact on the series. Hell, if Boston scores even 1 PPG it would be an improvement.
Well as many of you know, I am now the second most hated man in Philadelphia for my pick in this series. (Thank you Sidney Crosby) If you don't know who I went with, check our previous article on the playoff predictions. I'm not saying it out loud again.
Let me give you some insight as to why I picked "them", then maybe I can move up a few spots. At least to Avery and Stevens' neck of the woods.
The goaltending is the obvious reason. But my little sister, Emily, could tell you that. What you don't see on the surface is the hatred and utter disgust each and every member of Bruins nation have bubbling in their deepest, darkest reaches of their soul. That includes the players. Any time you get another shot at a team who embarrases your every fibre, you don't miss. The past is the past, unless you can use it. Danny Briere sees it another way,
"It goes both ways,'' he said with a bit of a smirk. "They're going to use that as motivation but also we know we're in their heads ...''
Well, Danny, you are right. You most indubitably are. However, I'm going to respectfully disagree that it is a "good thing". You don't forget something like that, you just don't. The Bruins are going come harder and faster than a prom night virgin with a porn star. The Flyers, in my humble and apparently questionable (thanks Ty) opinion, won't hold up. The brick wall that is Thomas and the uncontrollable fire that is burning in every Boston player is a combination that our beloved boys won't be able to overcome.
With all that said, I hope to god I am wrong. I've never wanted to be wrong more in my life. I'd love to have this be one of my mistakes in judgement. Picking against my team was one of the hardest thing I've ever done. I will be rooting for the Flyers just as hard, if not harder than everyone. I have this prediction on my conscience. My hockey sense and gut feeling led me to this decision. Have I said I hope I am wrong?
LETS GO FLYERS!!!! KICK SOME BRUIN ASS, BOYS!!!!!