Eastern Conference Semifinal Preview: Flyers vs. Bruins

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The final series of the second round almost needs no introduction. After four meetings against each other in the seventies, it took 32 years for the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins to meet in the playoffs once again. And when they did, it definitely ended up being memorable.

The then-third place Bruins faced off against the seventh place Flyers in the 2010 semifinals, and quickly put up a 3-0 series lead against the Pennsylvania team. They would see that lead dwindle and fade away, and the series head to a seventh game. We all know that 0-3 comebacks in the NHL don’t happen that often, but it was on everyone’s mind. Well, the Bruins weren’t going to let the pressure get to them, so they came out guns blazing in game seven, putting up a 3 goal lead. Ya, that didn’t end so great for them.

Embarrassed, the Bruins enter this series with revenge on their minds. Last year’s loss and complete breakdown was an embarrassment to the organization which forced GM Peter Chiarelli to make some risky moves to improve his team, including picking up players such as Rich Peverley, Tomas Kaberle and Chris Kelly. Needless to say, a quick playoff exit would have put a few jobs in jeopardy. Well, again, nightmare was nearly reality for the Bruins, with the “lowly” and heavily underdogged Montreal Canadiens pushing the Bruins to seven games in the first round, even to overtime in the final game. The Bruins would, of course, prevail, but an emotional playoff series has seemingly distracted a lot of people in the city, with fans and even players seemingly more concerned over the Canadiens’ diving than the Bruins deficiencies, which include a horrible powerplay, a first line and top defenseman struggling to put up any points and a goaltender that’s beatable. And, oh ya, their biggest problem, the team standing between them and the Eastern Conference finals.

The Flyers of course have problems of their own. They’ve gone through three goaltenders in a single series. One of them even went AWOL at game 6 and a fourth could likely have to make an appearance at some point. Chris Pronger is back, but likely still healing from injuries, and just like the Bruins, the second place Flyers were pushed to the brink by a team they should have handled a little better, the Buffalo Sabres. The Flyers have faced plenty of adversity this season, a year they have been favoured to win the cup. Could their problems in goal finally be their demise?

All of this said, this series is shaping up to be a war. The Bruins are pissed off, embarrassed, and looking for revenge. The Flyers are looking to silence the critics, and facing the team they know they can beat, even when down 0-3 in a series, could very well motivate them.

Blogger Showdown: Six Flyers bloggers, including Mark Trible, Adam Pardes, Alicia Sprenkle, Kim Pollock, Larry D’Angelo and Matt Brigidi.

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Prax’s Take:
As a preface, I should probably state that I’m still bitter that the Bruins beat the Canadiens. I don’t like the Bruins, I don’t like what they stand for and I don’t think they deserve anything. Their actions in the first round, and their complaining following game seven is pretty clear proof of that. Well, whine about made-up problems like diving all you want, Bruins fans, because it’s clearly distracting you from the juggernaut that’s waiting for you in Philly this weekend.

The Flyers might have some goaltending issues, but they can still get good tending when they need it. Chris Pronger might be battling injuries, but he’s healing more and more every day. Not every Flyers forward is stepping up, but there’s always someone to take their place. Simply put, the Flyers have been built to win a cup. The Bruins, on the other hand, have a great goalie, a world-class defenseman, and some tough and talented forwards, but I don’t see “Stanley Cup” written in their future.

Going into this series, the Bruins will be distracted, they will be goaded into a physical game, and they will end up in a special teams battle that they simply can’t win. Claude Julien clearly proved to be a coach with flaws, and for the second straight round, he will be out-coached by his opposition, and the Bruins will be outclassed by a truly tremendous group of forwards. Call me biased, and truthfully, I probably am, but that’s okay. The Flyers got this!
Prediction: Flyers in 5

Around The Checking Line:

Jonathan Szekeres: The Flyers have some serious question marks at the moment, the biggest one being the goaltending, which is essentially the same thing that failed them last year in the Cup Finals. I see no improvement here. On the other side of the ice, Vezina nominee Tim Thomas is a sure thing in goal. Philadelphia does have more firepower than Boston, but with Chris Pronger still nursing his hand injury I can't see Philadelphia getting past a much better offensive team than what they faced in the first round. Buffalo had almost no offensive stars; Boston has a few guys that can definitely get the job done, led by Patrice Bergeron and Nathan Horton, and have Zdeno Chara and Tomas Kaberle manning the blueline. Their powerplay is woeful, having not scored in 19 opportunities this playoff, but I say it comes to life here and chases Brian Boucher, Sergei Bobrovsky, or whomever the Flyers have minding the twine.
Prediction: Bruins in 7

Lowell Williamson: This is a nightmare matchup. Two pugilistic teams, both of whom were lucky to defeat their more skilled opponents in the first round. If penalties were really called in the playoffs, there might be only a half dozen players left on the benches. If these two teams could play a fifteen game series, it wouldn’t be long enough. I’d rather watch the barbaric UFC before catching a peek of this series. The Flyers goaltending is suspect but the Bruins can’t possibly be as lucky as they were in the first round.
Prediction: Flyers in 6

HockeyBroad: Philly's goaltending issues will be their downfall. They barely squeaked out over the Sabres. Tim Thomas is going to be ready to shut the door in the Flyers faces.
Prediction: Bruins in 5

Shahab Khan: Philadelphia is too strong, too physical and has too much skill for the Bruins. If the sort out the goaltending the series will end quicker. Thomas will be flub and Rask will start by the end of the series.
Prediction: Flyers in 6

Adam Pardes: This series is gonna be a beauty. The Bruins will be hungry for revenge after last year's unbelievable collapse, and with the way that Tim Thomas played all year and in the playoffs, they certainly have the weapons to pull off the upset. Brian Boucher will stumble and the Flyers won't be able solve Thomas. Looking forward to seeing these two teams battle it out.
Prediction: Bruins in 7

Steve Palumbo: Both teams enter the series having each played gruelling 7 game series against clubs they should have handled easier. I expected a better showing from the Bruins against their hated rivals in, while the Flyers had more than their hands full with the never say die Sabres. But don't be fooled because this will be a dandy. The infamous comeback series between these teams was only a year ago. This is a tough one to call because Boston's power play was awful against Montreal and Philly used three different goaltenders. But, Chris Pronger is back for Philly and that will give them a bit of a boost. Both teams are big and physical and that is ultimately going to be the difference in the series. The team that gets out muscled down low will lose and in this case it will be the B's.
Prediction: Flyers in 7

Owen Durkin: Philadelphia has scoring depth, great speed, an extremely punishing back end, and predictably unpredictable goaltending. Boston has a patchwork group that has yet to really create a cohesive, symbiotic game. Kaberle has done precious little, and the top line has yet to really ignite, although Lucic and Horton are certainly heating up. Marchand has been a pleasant surprise, and Thomas has been breathtaking. Special teams may decide this one, especially if Ference continues to be a goof, but not in less than 7. This will be war, book it. I'm taking Boston, solely on the Thomas factor. The Flyers goaltending won't cut it this time.
Prediction: Bruins in 7

Newman: The Boston Bruins will get revenge for last year’s collapse. Thomas is better than all three Flyers goaltenders combined. Philly got by one series on shaky goaltending, but the luck stops here.
Prediction: Bruins in 6

Jason Pietroniro: Goaltending. It's going to come down to Goaltending. Thomas > The Broad Street Trio. The Bruins couldn't solve the Habs powerplay in the first round, but they should have a much easier time try to solve the Flyers'. This is going to be a physical series, but I give the edge to Boston simply because of goaltending.
Prediction: Bruins in 7

Kyle Busch: Watching the Montreal-Boston series, I didn't think Boston was too special. They were sloppy up the ice and there wasn’t any flow to their game. Philly struggled with Buffalo, but the Sabres were in essence a higher seed than a 7 because of the way they finished the year. I think the Flyers take out the B's for a second year in a row.
Prediction: Flyers in 6

Larry D’Angelo: The Flyers are coming off of a roller coaster type of a series where they became the first team in 23 years to win a playoff round while using three different starting goaltenders. The Three Stooges, as the Buffalo media has named them. It will no doubt be a tougher challenge for the Flyers goaltenders this round as there will be bigger bodies in the way of point shots in this round. Boston has made it through the first round of the playoffs without capitalizing on one power play opportunity in the series. They came back from being down 2-0 in the series and no doubt will use that along with last year's debacle. The Bruins do have the edge in the goalie department and with the Flyers being shut out twice by the score of 1-0 in the first round they could easily find themselves struggling to hit the back of the net in this series. That being said I am taking the Flyers because they proved me wrong in the first round, I do this with little confidence and I really hate Boston.
Prediction: Flyers in 7

Rob McGowan: You can bet that the Bruins have not forgotten about the Flyers 3-0 deficit in their series with them last year to come back and close it out in the seventh game. The Broad Street Bullies are still a solid playoff team. Their regular season results weren't a fluke and their ability to crush the Sabres after facing elimination in Game 6 displays that they are going to be a serious contender.
Prediction: Flyers in 6

Alicia Sprenkle: The word revenge is going to be thrown around a lot with this series. We all know what happened last year. Despite the added motivation that comes from that for Boston and the excellent play from Tim Thomas, the Bruins still are not at the same level as Philadelphia. If there's one team that has the ability to get under the skin of the Bruins and light up Tim Thomas, it's the Flyers.
Prediction: Flyers in 6

Andy Veilleux: This will be a brutally-physical affair. Expect a lot of body-crushing checks, and a lot of nasty stuff at both ends of the ice. Both teams have solid defense, and powerful offense, but due to the physical nature of the series, don't expect a lot of high-flying scoring. Expect the bigger Boston squad to wear down their opponents with their physical play, but don't be surprised if Philadelphia can out-skate their foes for some goals. The goaltending situation is worlds apart for these teams, as the Flyers have been a revolving door in net, presenting three different starting goalies in the first round. Boston's Tim Thomas is the prime candidate for the Vezina this year, and has continued his strong play in the first round.
Prediction: Bruins in 7

Kim Pollock: As exciting as last season's Eastern Conference Semifinals between the Flyers and Bruins were (for Flyers fans, at least), I'm hoping that it doesn’t go all the way to a Game 7. Tim Thomas has been an absolute beast this season, and was one of the main reasons why the Bruins were able to beat the Habs in the first round. Zdeno Chara is no joke either. Here's the thing, though: the Flyers faced him last season, and they beat his team. The Flyers have their struggles, but they have more depth than any other team in the league, and some of the smartest and best forwards in hockey. Not to mention, they have Danny Briere, who came up huge against the Sabres in round one and always shines brightest during the playoffs. If we see the same Flyers as in the last two games of the first round, they're going to be a tough opponent for even the big, bad Bruins.
Prediction: Flyers in 6

Glen Miller: The Bruins bounced back from a 2-0 series deficit against Montreal and got the win in seven. Philly, with terrible goaltending in their series against Buffalo, also needed seven to bounce the Sabres. As talented as Philadelphia is up front and on the blue line, unless they get stable goaltending, they can't go far. I like how Horton potted a couple of big goals in his first playoff series.
Prediction: Bruins in 7

Evan Pivnick: Whether they are playing against Tim Thomas or Vesa Toskala, the Flyers are a fantastic team. Offense, defense, goaltending, all fantastic. The Bruins aren't going to make it past this round. In my opinion they were lucky to beat Montreal.
Prediction: Flyers in 5

Adam Reid: I believe that once again this year, this is another 7-game series, but this year, the Bruins will not lose their 3-0 lead, or even have one for that matter. This Bruins team is very skilled, and like the Canucks, had tremendous pressure to overcome in the first round. After eliminating the Canadiens, a big monkey has been lifted off their back. They will get going, score many goals, and Thomas will prove once again why he is Vezina material. As for Philadelphia, for a team that wrecked opponents all season long, they surprisingly were almost eliminated by the Buffalo Sabres, a team that was not projected to do anything with them. This team does not appear to be as strong as they should be, something is just not working.
Prediction: Bruins in 7

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