Two issues followed the Flyers throughout most of their hard-fought opening round series against the Sabres—uncertainty in net and an inffective power play. Both issues seemed to be resolved, temporarily, in their decisive game 7 victory, with Brian Boucher taking firm grasp of a goalie gig he may have deserved throughout the series, and Chris Pronger returning to give a boost to the man advantage. I wouldn't say the power play is necessarily out of the woods yet, but it looked better than it has in a while on Tuesday, and Pronger's role in that can't be discounted.
The Bruins, meanwhile, come to town having not scored a single power play goal in their seven-game series against Montreal (0/21).
The Canadiens actually scored more goals on Boston's power play than did the Bruins, tallying one shorty last night. I don't want to poke a sleeping bear here (get it?!), but with the Flyers about to face a very tough Boston squad, special teams could play a huge role in the series. At least coming into the action, the most recent trends favor the Flyers.
Who knows how long the Bruins PP woes will last though, or whether the Flyers will regress to the ineptitude that had fans screaming for them to decline penalties earlier in the series. Hell we don't even know if Pronger will hold up under increased even strength minutes and penalty killing time.
To me, it's just interesting to take a look outside of our at times very myopic view of hockey, which focuses intently on the strengths and weaknesses of the Flyers without putting them into the larger context of the league. The NHL doesn't get quite the exposure other sports get, so we have to actively seek out what other teams are doing if we're to have any idea how the Flyers match up. That was borne out last series, when we thought the Flyers' goalie woes were something unique to this franchise and these players. While it definitely got a bit more circus-like here in those seven games, other teams were facing perhaps even more significant goaltending questions, either for a game or over the course of a series.
In the same light, it seemed almost impossible that a team could be struggling on the power play as much as the Flyers were down the stretch and into the first round. Then last night, the Bruins capped a series in which they failed to score even one goal on the man advantage.
All we can do at this point is hope that trend continues for Boston, and maybe even that our opportunistic penalty killers can capitalize on the Bruins' difficulty getting their power play started in the neutral zone. We could be in store for a bunch of one-goal games again this series, and special teams are bound to be a significant component.
For more on the Bruins struggles on the power play, check out this update from Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe.