Monday, May 2, 2011
Posted: 9 a.m.
By Jim Jackson
So much for the theory of momentum carrying over from the first round to the second.
The Flyers followed up their best performance of the postseason (Game 7 vs. Buffalo) with their worst (Game 1 vs. Boston). It was almost as though they took a deep breath after advancing and did not come armed with the necessary playoff intensity. The Bruins certainly did. The result: a 7-3 loss to Boston on Saturday afternoon.
Thus, here we are again assessing a Flyers team behind in a series. It seems to have become commonplace recently. In fact, they have fallen behind in four of their last five playoff series. Twice they managed to come back and win. The Bruins are well aware of one of those instances. Perhaps the Flyers have the Bruins right where they want them.
Here are some factors heading toward Game 2:
Dialing up desperation
Desperation just wasnt there on Saturday afternoon. The Flyers consistently lost races and battles for pucks. They seemed sluggish in their skating and slow to react. It appeared as though they were in regular season mode, not ready for the usual frenzied playoff pace.
The players all said as much after the game. They were well aware that their intensity level was not where it needed to be, but this is familiar territory for this club. They only seem to play their best hockey when they absolutely have to. If there is a margin for error, sometimes they seem intent on using every bit of it.
As important as the first game of a series is, winning in Game 1 is not vital. They have battled back from far more daunting deficits. However, beware of getting smug with this notion. Two years ago, the Flyers came out flat in Game 1 in Pittsburgh and never really recovered in that series. Marc-Andre Fleury stole one game. The Flyers lost another one in overtime. In the end, they outplayed the Penguins for a majority of the series, but still lost in six games.
Monday night, the desperate Flyers need to reappear.
All season, the Flyers were one of the best teams in the NHL at moving the puck, especially out of their own zone. Their deep and talented defense corps proved quite adept at springing their skilled forwards on rushes that produced the third highest goal total in the league.
That puck movement wasnt there on Saturday. The defensemen struggled, due in part to just having an off game, but also because forwards were not giving them easy outlets. Also, the Bruins came with speed and tenacity. It all added up to a very sloppy performance. Its possible some of this results from the aforementioned lack of intensity. Whatever the cause, it must improve as this series moves along.
Back to Boosh
As expected, much has been made of the fourth Philadelphia in-game goaltender change in eight playoff contests. It is unusual to say the least.
However, in Game 1 vs. Boston, I did not think it was a move directed at the goaltender as much as the guys in front of him. In taking each goal and reviewing it, there is very little evidence that Brian Boucher yielded soft goals. There were obvious breakdowns in front of him that led to spectacular scoring chances.
I suspect Game 1 will be treated as a mulligan for the entire team. Thus, Boucher will likely get the start on Monday.
Many of those who follow the Bruins on a regular basis insist that the turning point of last years epic series was the injury to center David Krejci on a hit by Mike Richards. At first, I thought such claims were overdoing it some. However, the more you watch him, the more you see how important he is to Bostons overall well-being.
He is a shifty, creative player. With two goals, two assists and a plus-3 in Game 1, he announced his presence in the series with authority. He has the capability to make those around him (currently Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic) better. If his line is going, the Bruins become a team with multiple dangerous units. Checking them becomes that much more difficult.
It will be interesting to see if the Flyers try to slow Krejci down with physical play again. They attempted to on Saturday. They will have to be even more diligent along those lines moving forward.
Attack the Bruins D
The Bruins were mighty impressive in Game 1. They looked like they were in complete control at times. When a team gets on a roll as they were, it almost appears it has no weaknesses.
But every team has areas that can be exposed. Bostons defense is not all that mobile. There are members of their blue line corps that will cough the puck up when pressured. It wasnt all that noticeable on Saturday because the Flyers just did not get their fore-checking game going with enough consistency.
Starting on Monday, that has to change. The Flyers helped turn the Buffalo series around by forcing turnovers from the Sabres relatively inexperienced defense. Their goal should be to have the same effect this series by getting after a Boston defense that can have problems moving the puck quickly under pressure. The Flyers forwards will need to ramp up their energy level in order to make that happen.
Related: Flyers pregame notes: Boucher to start in Game 2 Flyers notes: 'A loss is a loss' in playoff hockey