Sports Confession: The Bruins Have Me Shaking In My Skates
Like many of the Flyers faithful, I’m still riding high on Tuesday night’s series-ending win over the Sabres. Not only was it arguably the team’s best all-around performance of the season, it also clinched a victory in my ongoing war with two Buffalo-born pals from grad school who still enjoy reminding me of Roman Cechmanek’s five-goal meltdown in the 2001 conference quarterfinals (Here’s a reminder for them: Flyers Stanley Cups, 2; Sabres, nada). Now that the euphoria’s begun to wear off, I have a confession to make—I’m scared of their next opponents, the Boston Bruins.
Of the three teams the Flyers could have faced in round two, Boston worries me the most. The Bruins are stacked at both ends of the ice, from mountainous defenseman Zdeno Chara to their deep roster of forwards with noses for finding the twine (including Methuselah on skates, former Flyer Mark Recchi—when will this guy finally stop producing?). Then there’s goaltender Tim Thomas, who’s coming off a career campaign in which he tallied nine shutouts (a feat none of the three Flyers netminders accomplished even once this year). When Thomas is in the zone, it’s like he’s Obi-Wan Kenobi playing mind tricks with the puck (“This isn’t the net you’re looking for”). Against the Flyers this season, he’s 3-0-1, with a 1.96 goals-against average and a .942 save percentage. That’s scary.
The good news is that the Bruins were pushed to the brink of elimination by the pesky Canadiens, who slipped an average of more than two goals per game past Thomas. The Flyers, on the other hand, have momentum on their side. There’s finally a spark in their power play, no doubt thanks to the return of Chris Pronger. Young guns Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk are playing like men possessed. Danny Briere is scoring like Leo DiCaprio at a supermodel convention, and Brian Boucher seems to have buried his embarrassing game-five performance. There’s also the not-so-distant memory of last spring, when coach Peter Laviolette’s time-out sparked a historic comeback that left the Bruins wondering how they could possibly blow a 3-0 series lead.
There’s no motivation like revenge, though. Boston is eager to wash away the foul taste of that epic loss and return the favor of an early vacation. This time they also have some comeback mojo of their own, after dropping the first two games of the Canadiens series and still finding a way to win. Meanwhile, the questions hang over Broad Street like an April storm cloud: Has the goalie carousel finally stopped spinning? Can Pronger stay healthy? Are the special-teams problems fixed? And how many times can they fall behind—on the scoreboard or in the series—and somehow find a way to overcome? If the Flyers can maintain anything close to their level of play in that Sabres series-ender, no team will stop their march toward a third silver chalice. Only one thing’s for sure—they’ll need every ounce of that all-around effort if they hope to send the B’s packing again.