Saturday, April 30, 2011

Flyers vs. Bruins: Second Round Breakdown of the rematch

On April 30, 2010, I wrote a post breaking down the Flyers and Bruins and their upcoming second round series. Exactly one year later, here I am again, writing a post breaking down a series between these same two teams. A lot has changed in the last year, particularly the expectations surrounding the Flyers, who are supposed to make another deep Stanley Cup run this year after playing the role of underdog last year. Much has changed with the Bruins as well, as they have spent the last year hoping to erase the nightmare of their postseason collapse against these same Flyers. Do the Bruins have what it takes to close out the Flyers this year? Let's take a closer look.

Offense: Depth is the name of the game for both teams, with Boston being the only team in the Eastern Conference that can even come close to matching the Flyers top three lines. Where the Bruins struggled in the playoffs to score, however, the Flyers did not, getting to stud goalie Ryan Miller early and often in 5 of the 7 games of their first round series. No team in the East can match what the Flyers bring to the table on offense, from playoff beast Danny Briere to young upstart James van Riemsdyk. Even without Jeff Carter, the Flyers can hurt you with basically any line. The Bruins have weapons of their own, like Patrice Bergeron and the ageless Mark Recchi, but they don't have one guy who should scare the Flyers and they haven't gotten much secondary scoring. With their depth making them virtually slump-proof, I give the edge on offense to the Flyers.

Defense: With Chris Pronger returning to the fold, the deep Flyers defense gets that much stronger. You could feel the impact that Pronger has immediately in the Sabres series as the Flyers played like a completely different team when he took the ice. The Bruins have a game-changer of their own in Zdeno Chara, but they don't have the complimentary pieces like Kimmo Timonen and Andrej Meszaros to back him up. With their ability to clamp down on multiple scoring lines, the Flyers have the edge on defense.

Goaltending: Tim Thomas vs. the Flyers goaltender carousel is a lopsided comparison. In this round, though, expect the Flyers to stick with Brian Boucher as their starter and not have a circus of netminders. Thomas is certainly the more talented goaltender, but if the Flyers play their usual strong defense in front of Boosh, all he has to do is be average and they should limit the Bruins to about two goals per game. While the Bruins have the big edge in net, the Flyers have plenty of experience beating superstar goaltenders; just ask Ryan Miller.

Special Teams: Both teams have struggled mightily with the man advantage, with the Bruins being one of the few teams worse than the Flyers on the power play. The penalty kill for each team has been pretty average, though the Bruins had the slight advantage in the first round. Call the special teams a wash.

One year after their epic series, these two teams square off once again for the right to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. Things should be much different this time around, as the Flyers won't be giving away three games before deciding to start the series. With their depth and tremendous goaltending, the Bruins are a dangerous matchup for the Flyers, who are always prone to taking long lapses in games. Tim Thomas is good enough to win a game or two on his own for the Bruins but I don't see much else on their roster that the Flyers can't handle. I'm going with the Flyers to win the series in 6, especially after their awakening at the end of the first round against the Sabres. Honestly, if the Flyers can play anything like they did in Games 6 and 7 of the first round, Boston is going to have some serious trouble even winning one game.

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