The wait is over, the Flyers and Bruins start their playoff rematch series this afternoon at 3PM in South Philly.
Both clubs needed seven games to clear the first round, but that's not really a bad thing so much as a reflection of how great the opening series were, and how good these two teams are to have won them. The Flyers enter the second round on a high, having played their most dominant game in months to close out the previous series. The team that won that game can beat anyone.
To outlast the Bruins, they'll need to successfully get to Tim Thomas, the second straight dominant goalie they're facing this postseason. Despite the fact that these are very different goalies, I'm assuming the plan will be the same. Get to the crease, throw some snow at the guy in the mask, and see if you can get him thinking about taking a swing. It's a great possibility that Thomas will steal a game or two this series, just as Ryan Miller did, but I wouldn't put it past Brian Boucher to do the same. He established himself as the man against the Sabres, making it look like he should have played nearly every minute when all was said and done. He'll likely have that opportunity this time around; we'll see what he does with it.
The Bruins will bring a physical game with them, as did the Sabres, and Zdeno Chara will log a ton of minutes. We should see the Flyers be able to take advantage of their forward line depth though, even without Jeff Carter (who also missed last year's series against Boston, but has no return timetable at the moment). Danny Briere is playing at his usual playoff best, and James van Riemsdyk is stepping up his game just in time to be a major difference maker. G loaded up 9 points in 7 games and had a physical series. I'm not gonna go over all the things the Flyers can do. You know it all already.
What's most important is that they continue to play like they did against Buffalo, and not just in the game 7 ass-kicking. They were very good thoughout that series, even in the losses. Chris Pronger's minutes will be increasing, and that should help the critical special teams battle that will go on in what will likely be a rough series. As we've already discussed, the Bruins' powerplay comes in ice cold, having failed to score a single goal over an entire playoff series. Joe Haggerty of CSN New England pointed out that the powerplay woes date back further than the start of the playoffs, with a 93% failure rate since the team traded for Thomas Kaberle. Part of me worries that the floodgates will open against the Flyers, who will take more penalties than the 21 opportunities Montreal allowed, but that stat isn't just a blip based ont the numbers Haggerty shared. Our own powerplay could use a little help itself, although it's looked better over the last two games, and Pronger is now back with the team.
It's hard not to feel good about the Flyers' chances as this series opens, despite the fact that Boston is a very tough team. They played their asses off against Buffalo, and they'll presumably have some stability in net and the presence of Pronger throughout the series. It really should be a great series, Philly vs. Boston, the references to last year's battle, and a lot of talent on both sides—the perfect recipe for complete overreactions after every game regardless of outcome.
Photo by reader/commenter Scurvy5