2011 Playoffs: Philadelphia vs. Boston

This article can be found published on Chicks Who Give a Puck.

Stanley_Cup_Playoffs

Written by Candice Monhollan and Erin Flaherty, who will be covering the Flyers and Bruins respectively during the 2011 NHL playoffs.

The rematch is set as the Boston Bruins will now have the chance to beat the team who embarrassed them out of the playoffs last year. It won’t soon be forgotten the semifinals series between the Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers last season where the Flyers made a historical comeback after trailing 3-0 in the series and 3-0 in the seventh game.

The Flyers and Bruins have faced each other five times prior in the postseason, with the last four meetings occurring in the semifinals. The first was in the 1974 Stanley Cup Finals. The Flyers have won three of the five match-ups.

Flyers

Danny Briere became the "Buffalo Slayer" in the first round against his former team. (Len Redkoles/NHLI)

Danny Briere became the “Buffalo Slayer” in the first round against his former team. (Len Redkoles/NHLI)

The Flyers squeaked out of the first round against the Buffalo Sabres in seven games. Though the team dominated most of the series, the glaring weakness was between the pipes. Three different starting goaltenders were used, but in the end, Brian Boucher solidified himself as the go-to goalie for the remainder of the playoffs.

The Flyers will receive a huge boost with Chris Pronger now back in the lineup and playing his normal amount of ice time. Jeff Carter and Andreas Nodl continue to be day-to-day, though it has been rumored that Carter could return at some point in the series.

Danny Briere continues to be a big player in the postseason. In 93 playoff games, he has 94 points. In the last series, he was a point-a-game player, collecting 6 goals and an assist in seven games. He is already garnering Conn Smythe talks. Teammate and housemate Claude Giroux also elevates his game during the big dance. He has compiled a goal and 8 assists in his seven games to lead the team in points.

The Flyers have several players at or near the top in league statistics. Giroux is tied for second in points and leads in assists, Briere is tied for the lead in goals, and Kimmo Timonen leads in plus/minus with a plus-nine. Even with the goaltending issues, Boucher is third in save percentage (.934) and goals-against average (2.10).

The offense and defense of the Flyers is far deeper than the Bruins, but for the second straight series, the opponent has the advantage in net. At this point, it’s Boucher’s net to lose. Minus five or so minutes in Game 5 where he let in three quick goals, Boucher has played a solid game. He even went down in the record books as the only goaltender to win two games after coming in as relief in a series.

Bruins

Nathan Horton celebrates his overtime heroics to advance the Bruins to the second round. (AP)

Nathan Horton celebrates his overtime heroics to advance the Bruins to the second round. (AP)

As the Boston Bruins managed to shake off the ghosts of Game 7’s past, defeating the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 in both the game and series, they have a few days rest before facing off against a familiar foe in Round 2, the Philadelphia Flyers.  Luckily, for Boston, both teams look different than they did in May 2010.

The Montreal series, though not physically demanding, required a mental toughness from the Bruins, overcoming a two game deficit to win twice in the Bell Centre before coming back to Boston and finally winning a game on home ice. Three games went to overtime, including the Game 5 double OT thriller and Game 7 which had Nathan Horton, playing in his first ever playoff series, as the hero of the night.

For the first time in NHL playoffs history, a series was won by a team that didn’t score a single power play goal. The Bruins were a horrendous 0-for-21 on the man advantage and even allowed Montreal to score a shorthanded goal in Game 7. Tomas Kaberle has yet to produce on the power play for Boston, which is specifically what he was brought in for. Other teams have caught on that Zdeno Chara is going to take a slap shot from the point on the power play. The Bruins need to realize this isn’t working and find a new game plan for special teams situations in the next series.

One of the biggest reasons the Bruins won the series was Tim Thomas, who after a less than stellar start to the series, played like the soon-to-be-two-time Vezina winner that he is. Aside from Thomas, Patrice Bergeron was a huge factor in the series for Boston.  Bergeron had 2 goals and 5 assists in the last series. Aside from taking a penalty that produced the game-tying goal for Montreal in Game 7, Bergeron rarely made a bad decision in the series.

The upcoming series with Philadelphia gives the Bruins an opportunity to make up for last season’s disappointing exit. The Bruins made savvy trades before and during the season, bringing playoff heroes like Horton and Chris Kelly to Boston. With Thomas in net, they have a powerful presence that has been proven to pull them out of a few jams.

The Philadelphia-Boston series will certainly be a bit grittier than what Boston faced with Montreal. Boston will also have the edge in net, as Philadelphia used three different goalies to close out their series over Buffalo. The Bruins-Habs rivalry is a storied one, and this series looks to be filled with tough, old time hockey.

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Categories: Ice Hockey, NHL, Sports, Stanley Cup Playoffs

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