Flyers defense vs. Bruins defense:
Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timonen anchor the Flyers blue line while the tallest player in the NHL in Zdeno Chara, Dennis Wideman, and Matt Hunwick hold the court for the Bruins. Chara, Boston’s captain, was an iron man during the Bruins first-round series win over the Buffalo Sabres logging nearly 29 minutes of ice time per game. Chara added two goals and an assist to his stat line whereas Wideman added a goal and three assists. Hunwick averaged over 23 minutes a game and contributed to the scoring sheet with four assists.
“We practiced what they try to do, what’s their system, and how we’re going to approach that system,” said Timonen on Thursday. “They have a deep lineup and three really good centermen.”
“They are a tough-playing team, have some good d-men, and obviously they have [Zdeno] Chara back there,” said Braydon Coburn. “And, they have a goalie (Tuukka Rask) who’s playing great.”
For the Flyers, they might have the strongest defensive core left in the NHL playoffs. With Pronger, Timonen, Matt Carle, and Braydon Coburn the Flyers definitely have the upper hand in the back court in this series. The Flyers have allowed only 27 shots per game–the second lowest total in the playoffs.
They’ve combined for 10 points with the veteran leader Pronger leading the way with five and leads the league in ice time with 29:03 per game.
When comparing the two teams in the defensive category the edge has to go to Philadelphia without question. They are quicker, smarter, and in most cases very reliable at all times during any game. Pronger, 35, is such a dominating presence, that he will be looked at heavily as a key catalyst if the Flyers expect to move on to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Edge: Philadelphia Flyers
Flyers forwards vs. Bruins forwards:
The Flyers are going to need all hands on deck after losing both Simon Gagne and Jeff Carter for possibly the entire series. Philadelphia didn’t dominate the Devils by any means, outscoring them only 15-9 in their opening series defeat of New Jersey in five games.
Captain Mike Richards stepped up a team leading eight points(2G,6A), while Claude Giroux broke out of his shell racking up six points including four goals. Danny Briere found the back of the net twice and will be looking upon as a scoring threat if the Flyers want to down the Bruins.
The Flyers have to hope that Scott Hartnell can find a way to be a threat in front of Bruins goalie Tukka Rask. Hartnell, was a major disappointment throughout the entire regular season and a strong series against the Bruins could help Flyers fans forgive and forget.
On the other hand, the Boston Bruins received some very good news early this week when forward and top scoring threat Marc Savard was cleared to return to action. Savard, missed the team’s final 24 games with a concussion suffered after a Matt Cooke elbow in early March. Their top center scored 10 goals and 23 assists in only 41 games.
The forever young Mark Recchi along with David Krejci led the Bruins past the Sabres with three goals and two assists a piece. The scoring didn’t end there for Boston. Both Patrice Bergeron and Miroslav Satan each netted two goals and three helpers. Bergeron and Savard, when healthy, will be the most dangerous players on the ice for the Bruins with Recchi far from being overlooked.
With the losses to Gagne and Carter, the Flyers have a lot to prove and will need a balanced attack to matchup up consistently with the Bruins. However, the Bruins have tough times scoring on the power where the Flyers have been very strong on that end. The Flyers have big money scorers, the same cannot be said for the Bruins. Boston had the least amount of regular season goals(208) than any other Eastern Conf. playoff squad.
Edge: None, too close to call. It’s about even.
There really isn’t too much to say about Boston netminder Tukka Rask. He’s been a brick wall. He was stellar against the Sabres surrendering only 14 goals. Rask, who took over the starting job midway through the regular season, went 22-12-5 with a 1.97 GAA, .931 save percentage and five shutouts. In his first career playoff series with a 2.18 goals-against average and .927 save percentage.
The Flyers have to throw an all out attack on Rask to rattle this guy. He’s a big presence between the pipes and can be a Jaroslav Halak type goalie and carry his team through a series.
Brian Boucher currently sports the lowest GAA (1.59) and highest save percentage (.940) of any goalie in the playoffs so far. He’s faced 134 shots and has only let up eight of them. The most impressive stat on Boosh so far is he hasn’t allowed an even-strength goal in nine-plus periods.
Boucher has been the main reason the Flyers are still in these playoffs. The tough part for Boucher might be he’s had nine days off he’s had since beating the Devils. For the forwards and defensemen those nine days are heavily accepted. For a goaltender, significant time off can hurt a netminder’s mentality. The Flyers hope Boucher can keep his emotions and composure in check because if they want to continue their season, there isn’t anyone more important than the goaltender.
The Flyers will win if they can continue to get consistent shut-down play from their goaltender Boucher. Guys like Briere, Richards, Giroux, and Hartnell have to come through in this series. The big-money guys have to produce in big-time situations. Lastly, the defensive core of Pronger-Timonen-Carle-Coburn have to play as close to shutdown hockey as humanly possible. The Bruins have more scoring threats than the Devils did, so consistency will be a premium.
I think the Flyers will play with enough consistency and desperation to get through this Bruins club. However, it won’t be as easy as the Devils series. Not even close. I expect a big series from Boucher and Richards especially. Look for Giroux to continue to make plays at key parts of a game, ditto for Briere.
I don’t believe the Bruins can produce enough offense to break through the Flyers defense. The Flyers will need to find a way to limit their penalties and capitalize on their own power-plays.
Flyers win in a spirited and emotional six games.