Brotherly Hatred

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boston bruins philadelphia flyers playoffs

If you’re a Bruins fan, you’re going to hate Scott Hartnell before this series is over. If you’re like me, you hate him already. And not just because of his uncanny resemblance to Bernadette Peters, either. No, it’s because of the kind of player he is; chippy, nasty, relentlessly in your face and on the edge. The problem the Boston Bruins face is that, when it comes to the Philadelphia Flyers, he’s just the tip of the iceberg.

“Philly is a team that plays tough. They fight for every inch. It’s going to be a tough battle.” – Patrice Bergeron

Everyone realizes this is going to be a tough, physical series. I’m counting on it, in fact. Drooling over it, if you will. You have two teams that scrapped their way into the playoffs, two teams that fully realize the only way they can advance through the post-season is to play the way they got there with a hard-skating, nasty, hard-hitting style designed grind down an opponent and force mistakes. You want to leave your enemy battered and bloodied and bruised and knowing he was in a game.

Both teams have the players to implement this kind of game. On Philly’s side it starts with Chris Pronger and Hartnell and continues with Mike Richards and Arron Asham and Dan Carcillo. Ian Laperriere, if he was healthy. There’s a lot of skill and fight there, a lot of punishment waiting to be dished out.

The Bruins can counter it quite ably, however, starting with Zdeno Chara, who has looked as motivated and nasty during these playoffs as he has at any point in his Bruins career. Johnny Boychuk has shown a willingness to throw his weight around as well, to devastating effect at times. At forward, they’ve all been hitting but the real balance to the nastiness that Philly will bring will need to come from Milan Lucic, Shawn Thornton (certainly he hasn’t forgotten his loss to Carcillo at the Winter Classic) and Steve Begin. Vladimir Sobotka loves to hit but he might be a bit smallish to really handle himself against some of what the Flyers have. No, it’s going to need to be Lucic who leads the way, I think, if the B’s are going to match that aspect of the Flyers’ game. We need the Looch of old here. Someone might need to be put through the glass at some point.

That said, what about the skill aspect of the game? Goals will be scored and prevented. The games will not be decided by the outcomes of goal crease scrums.

Well, the Flyers are hurting a bit up front. Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne are both out after having foot surgeries on the same day last week. This leaves the team a little short in the goal scoring department, a void that will need to be filled by Mike Richards, Daniel Briere and Claude Giroux. If the scoring is a little dry, though, not to worry because they remain tough on defense led by Pronger, Kimmo Timonen and Matt Carle. Brian Boucher is their default number one in net and his numbers so far this post-season seem almost ridiculously good. 1.59 gaa and a .940 svpct. Can he continue that? Well, now that’s the million dollar question.

The Bruins, meanwhile, who were so utterly pathetic during the regular season on offense, seem to be finding their stride a bit in the playoffs. David Krejci, so talented and full of potential, was exuding confidence by the end of that Buffalo series and had become a serious threat every time he was on the ice. Milan Lucic, riding his wing, had started making plays, as well. On their right, Miroslav Satan shook off the rust and became a key, clutch contributor. Mark Recchi and Patrice Bergeron were relentless on the forecheck and consistent contributors. The Bruins offense came alive and their power play found itself.

At the same time, their penalty kill was perfect throughout the entire series, not allowing a single Sabres goal in 22 man-down situations. Impressive to say the least. Credit the all encompassing reach of Zdeno Chara, some smart play by guys like Boychuk and Dennis Wideman, and an agressive system for the forwards that blankets the opponent’s passing game during a penalty kill. Of course, behind all of that remained the steady, implacable presence of Tuukka Rask. Stone cold, technically proficient and, at times, spectacular, Rask seems to get tougher as the game wears on. In the entire 6 game series he only gave up a total of 3 goals in the third period. Bottom line, the B’s and their boy Tuukka are tough late in games. The edge in goal most certainly has to go to Boston.

Then, of course, there is the Wild Card. Something the Bruins and their fans have been awaiting for quite some time now. Something that could not only boost their play on the ice but provide a monumental emotional lift to the team when it takes the ice tomorrow afternoon at TD Garden against the Flyers.

The Return of Marc Savard.

marc savard bruins flyers

Their leader on offense, their power play specialist, their superstar center. The man they owe a blood debt to for their failure to stick up for him on that fateful day back in early March. Tomorrow when he hits that ice, there should be nothing his teammates won’t do for him, no insult or injury they won’t defend. They need to go out there with all the fire and passion they posess if for no other reason than to show him that his time in darkness was not in vain. They need to play their asses off for his sake alone.

Okay, maybe that’s a bit of a dramatic fantasy, there, I don’t know. I do know the Garden will be thunderous like all hell when Savard first hits the ice and it’s going to be one corker of a goddamned show when these two teams explode against one another in those first few minutes of the game. If you thought the Buffalo series was fun, just wait and see what you have here.

To sum up then, in terms of preview and prediction. The Flyers are nasty tough and will bring that grinding, physical style to the series that is essential for playoff success. The Bruins will match it and have a slight edge in scoring depth and a decided edge in goal. Still, it’s a series destined to be a long, drawn out grind and, potentially, one for the ages.

Bruins in 7.

For a bit on the playoff rivalry between the Big Bad Bruins and the Broad Street Bullies in the seventies (the last time these two met in the post-season was 1978) check out this excellent article from Chris Iorfida of CBC Sports that details the history that precedes this match-up.

Maybe it’s time to fire up a new rivalry, eh?

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