Ok, a new round, a new series of guessing. I’ll try sticking to the same formula that I used in Round 1. If you missed it, here’s how it works. I believe that for most cases, success comes from depth down the middle, good goaltending, and then all of the other factors.
Centers – Savard-Bergeron-Krejci for the B’s, and Richards-Briere-Giroux for the Flyers. On paper it looks fairly even, with Savard possibly being the best of the bunch. However, Richards was a force during the first round, really helping carry the load. For the second straight year, Giroux has picked up the scoring pace once the playoffs began. And with Carter out, Briere becomes a much more dangerous player as a center than he is as a wing. Both Krejci and Bergeron put up some points on Miller in the first round, helping lead to their upset win. The biggest question mark is Savard because he’s coming back form a long time off after suffering a concussion. Being the huge Lindros fan that I am, I know how unpredictable a player can be after coming back from that injury. If he’s truly ready to go, then we know he’s dangerous. He possesses excellent vision, and is an offensive threat every time that he steps on the ice. If he’s not ready to go, then he’s still a good decoy, but will make life easier on the D.
Goaltending – Rask outdueled Miller in Round 1, giving him instant credibility. Boucher had the best stats, and made Brodeur look like an average joe. Both are playing at the top of their game, and give their team a chance every night. Neither has shown to be a liability at all. To really compare the two, I think we have to look at the regular season a bit more. Boucher has the starting job because two guys ahead of him went down with long term injuries. Rask earned the starting job by outplaying last seasons Vezina winner, Tim Thomas. The edge has to go to Boston in this just because Raskhas been more consistent all season. On thing to remember though: has he ever played anywhere close to as many games as he has this season? Is he ready for a team that constantly gets a little overly physical with the opposing goalie? He played in a division that doesn’t score a ton of goals. Is he good enough to stop the talent laden Flyers game after game? Boston, meanwhile, wasn’t a very scary offensive team this season. Still, they have the talent to put up good numbers.
Now, on to the other things:
Defense – Boston’swas better during the regular season. The Flyerswere a mess, looking inconsistent all year long. In the playoffs, however, Philly has been a lot more committed. Both teams have guys that can push the puck, in Chara, Pronger, Wideman, Morris, Timonen, Carle, and Coburn. Again, another fairly even matchup.
Wings – The Bruins wingers have some decent depth. None of their guys are scary in their own right, but the entire group is pretty solid. They’ve spread the wealth offensively, with a few of the veterans stepping up in the playoffs. Satan has been quiet for years, but seems to have picked up the pace. Recchi is always forgotten, and yet is always effective. He’s more than just a useful commodity, and he always seems to make an impact when he plays against Philly. Lucic is a popular guy, but he’s not exactly a huge offensive threat. He’s tough, and physical, and fun to watch. He’s a typical power forward, who does have the ability to contribute a few timely goals. On the other side, Carcillo has found a bit of a scoring touch. Of course, we can’t completely rely on that to continue. He’s done a great job of puck pursuit when forechecking, and has to keep that up. With Gagneout (although he may return soon) it looks like JVR is the most talented guy. Hartnell has been pretty bad all season, so he really, really needs to start producing. All is forgiven if he can make himself relevant again. Less dumb penalties, more ugly goals.
The layoff - It will be 8 days between games for the Flyers, and 5 for the Bruins. It’s great to get a break, but hopefully the Flyers remain focused and ready. If they come out flat, they’ll almost certainly fall into a 2-0 hole easily. These aren’t the garbage Devils that couldn’t and wouldn’t take the risks needed to succeed in the playoffs.
Prediction: The teams seem ridiculously evenly matched throughout the line-up. Neither has a dominant player than will carry the offensive load and tear up defenses. This series will come down to who wants it more, and who makes less mistakes. The biggest thing benefiting the Flyers is Giroux. If he gets enough playing time, and the right linemates, he might be enough to give them the edge. He’s the most gifted and creative guy in this series, and he’s the type of guy Boston didn’t see against Buffalo. The series can go either way, but I’m biased, so I’ll say Flyers in 7.
I also expect things to be pretty physical, with the winning team having a disadvantage against the winner of Montreal/Pitt.
Thanks for reading!
You can follow me on Twitter by visiting www.Twitter.com/BroadStreetBuzz