Last year, the Flyers pulled off one of the great comebacks in the NHL playoffs history coming from down three games to none to stun the Bruins in the Eastern Conference semifinals. This year, they’ll look to make things at least a little easier on themselves by getting a win in game one at home.
The Bruins enter this series with nine different players on the roster than the one that blew a 3-0 lead last year, but they also will have a different goalie in net. Last year’s backup – Tim Thomas – reverted to his Vezina-winning form and will be a crucial part of the Bruins playoff round. He’s very hit or miss – evidenced by his two superb games in Philadelphia this year and his two disastrous games in Boston – so the Flyers will look to get to him early.
The Flyers aren’t changing much from their first round series win against Buffalo, but there will be one change. The team will return to only dressing six defenseman by taking Danny Syvret out of the lineup and – likely – replacing him with Jody Shelley. This is a minor change, however, as Shelley will likely see less than four minutes of ice time.
This change is possible as Chris Pronger proved capable of playing at least 17 minutes a game, which proved a jump start to the team’s struggling power play. And while the Flyers’ power play improved with the return of Pronger, the Bruins power play failed to convert on a single man-advantage against the Canadiens. Yes, the Bruins’ power play is actually worse than the Flyers.
While the Bruins don’t look like a particularly strong offense on paper, they did finish 5th in the league in goals per game. Their strength lies in their depth up front, like the Flyers, except they lack that high-powered top line the Flyers have.
All indications are that this will be a very close series, so the difference between the two teams is likely going to be who can win one-goal games. Neither team won more than half of their one-goal games during the season, but Boston won three games in overtime against Montreal last series. Look for more one-goal games this series.