Friday, April 29, 2011
Posted: 3:23 p.m.
By Tim Panaccio
Theyre still the big, bad Boston Bruins.
With bruised egos, this time around.
Blowing a 3-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals will do that to you. But theyre not the same Bruins.
Theyve got Nathan Horton now and Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly.
And a healthy David Krejci, too, which Boston didnt have for the final four games of last years playoffs after Mike Richards hit broke his wrist.
We know them quite well from last year in the playoffs and this year, Scott Hartnell said on the eve of the conference semis opener Saturday afternoon at Wells Fargo Center.
We all have good lines that can score and check. Its going to be a battle. Its going to be a fun series.
It figures to be a more punishing series than the Buffalo series because the Bruins, with an average size of 6-foot-0, 198 pounds, are bigger than the Sabres.
That includes Zdeno Chara (6-9, 255), Shawn Thornton (6-2, 229), Milan Lucic (6-4, 220) and Horton (6-2, 229).
Their defense corps with Chara, one of the best defensemen in the league, you cant really hit him to put him down, Hartnell said. You have to make it hard on him, make him stop and start and finish checks. Make him stop. All their D are big and physical and move the puck well.
Chara tried to get nasty with Danny Briere in last years series. Briere had five goals and 10 points that round. He led the Flyers with six goals in the Buffalo series while his line with Hartnell and Ville Leino had 15 points in the Buffalo series.
You can expect Chara will match up on Briere.
You have to find ways to make him work, Briere said of Chara. It is not going to be easy and we know that. I have had the chance to face him a few times in the playoffs.
He is going to make it tough on us, but we are not going to back down. That is the only way to approach it and you have to be willing to compete against him.
Probably to try and go around him and make him work. When you are as big as him, it uses a lot of energy to try to chase you. I guess that is the idea with a guy like Chara.
Chara, much like Chris Pronger with his overall size and reach, knows how to fend off forwards and prevent them access to the net.
He is six feet and nine inches and is extremely strong, Richards said. He makes it tough to go around the corners and has a big shot. He has a great hockey sense and makes it tough to play against him.
He finishes his checks and plays strong. For us to have success, we are going to have to lay the puck in behind him and make a move and make his life back there a little difficult.
Horton, who plays on Krejcis line with Lucic, often stood out in Flyers games when he was with the Florida Panthers. Hes a winger the Flyers will have to watch. That task should fall to Richards line with Dan Carcillo and Kris Versteeg.
He is a natural goal scorer, Richards said of Horton. When you have that, it is always a threat when he is on the ice. He is a good forward with a great shot. I can remember in Juniors, he always had that knack to be around the net and find those quiet holes. He has a good shot to go with that.
Horton, who came to the Bruins in a trade last summer, had some timely goals in the first round.
Obviously, the two overtime winners, and he is a guy that gets to the net, has a great shot and youve got to take away his time and space and kind of be strong on the puck, Pronger said.
Lucic always seems to mix it up with the Flyers from a physical standpoint.
When you think of their forwards, Lucic comes to mind, Hartnell said. He hits everything in sight. He has some great hands, too.
Bruins coach Claude Julien made a prediction on Friday afternoon about that line.
I believe in David Krejci. I think David Krejci is going to get better, and I think his lines going to be better in this series, Julien said. "Maybe this series here will be better suited for that line as well.
This series will certainly see some attrition because of all the hits guys are going to take on the ice.
You know Boston has a pretty physical team. Weve got a pretty physical team, I thought Buffalo played as a physical team. I think thats part of the playoffs, coach Peter Laviolette said.
When youre talking about playoff hockey, youre talking about playing through injury, playing physical, blocking shots and all the little things that try to give you a leg up and success to move on.
So, I would imagine theyll hit. Theyll hit and do whatever each team has to do to be successful. With the physical play, the second word out of my mouth is discipline. Its a fine line. You want come out, you want to be aggressive, you want to bang bodies, but you want to make sure we are going on the power play not the penalty kill.
The two x-factors in the series will be which teams power play gets the upper hand since Boston went 0 for 21 in the first round while the Flyers struggled along until the end with three power play goals in the final two games against the Sabres.
The other factor is whether Laviolette will be forced to rotate starting goalie Brian Boucher with Sergei Bobrovsky, should Boucher have a clunker of an outing, like he did in Game 5 against Buffalo, when he allowed three goals on eight shots.
The Pronger Effect
Prongers impact on the Buffalo series wasnt fully realized in Game 6 when he was on the ice for 4:33 of power play time.
However, the Pronger Effect kicked in during Game 7, when he was out there for almost 18 minutes and taking a regular shift. On the power play, he forced Buffalo to back up when he was firing pucks from the point. That allowed shots to get through on Ryan Miller.
The Flyers will need more of that against Bruins goalie Tim Thomas.
Prongers right hand still is not 100 percent, but it is improving.
He has a good shot, Julien said. I know that he hasnt certainly hadnt used it much when hes come back now. Whether hes a hundred percent, we dont know, and it really shouldnt matter to us.
But hes been a big part of their power play, and when you get a guy like that back, its no doubt that its a boost for their hockey club and certainly helps. So we just, again, got to continue I guess playing the way we have been against them for most of the year this year.
Fans can re-create a little history on Monday at noon at Moshulu on Penn's Landing when they get to dump tea into the Delaware River before Game 2. All fans attending will get a dry Flyers' t-shirt.
E-mail Tim Panaccio at email@example.com.
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