Flyers look to answer back against Bruins
FLYERS at BRUINS
(Boston leads best-of-seven series, 1-0)
Big Story --
The Bruins beat the Flyers, 5-4, in overtime of Game 1 to take a 1-0 advantage in the best-of-seven series. Bruins center Marc Savard
returned to the lineup for the first time since a March 7 concussion and scored the game-winner in his 16th minute of play. Savard led the team in scoring for three-straight years before this injury-plagued season. As a result of his long rest, he's fresher than anyone in this series and he could be more dangerous than usual.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette acknowledged Sunday his team has to win at least one game in Boston and "Game 2 would be a good place to start." The Flyers lacked their usual early energy that has led to them scoring the first goal in a majority of games coached by Laviolette. Swarming the opposition with a deep two-man forecheck and getting the first goal was the first element of the system he was able to install. The Flyers blamed their eight-day layoff for the lethargy and responded well thereafter, except for when they were swarmed again at the beginning of overtime. They have to be heartened that they didn't play their best in Game 1 and it still took the Bruins 73 minutes to win after leading by two goals three times.
The Flyers had goaltending problems all season, but Brian Boucher benefited from steady work in March and played his best during the last six games. He was outstanding in the Flyers' five-game elimination of the New Jersey Devils and he kept his team in Game 1 against the Bruins. He's second in the playoffs with a 2.07 goals-against average and third with a .928 save percentage.
The Flyers lacked depth at forward all season and finally traded for Ville Leino, who was in the minors at the time. With injuries to leading goal scorer Jeff Carter, Simon Gagne and Ian Laperriere, the trio of Leino, Jared Ross and Andreas Nodl has cracked the lineup. Ross played five minutes and 56 seconds in Game 1 and Nodl played 9:41. Leino skated 25:01, third-most amongst forwards, behind captain Mike Richards and Danny Briere.
Bruins -- Marco Sturm
suffered a season-ending injury in Game 1. He had no points in the Buffalo series and only one goal in his last 22 games, after leading the team in the regular season with 22 goals. His energy, savvy play and penalty-killing will be missed. Savard's return is a plus, but it may take him a few games to be his old self. Rookie defenseman Adam McQuaid was benched for part of the second period and nearly all of the third period for taking two-consecutive penalties, the first one resulting in a power-play score. But he went back in during the overtime and played well.
The Bruins are hard to beat because they have a new hero every game and a constant hero in rookie goalie Tuukka Rask
, who is fourth in the playoffs with a 2.46 GAA and fifth with a .921 save percentage. Savard, Patrice Bergeron
and Zdeno Chara
all have a game-winning goal and Miroslav Satan
-- who now has 21 points in 22 playoff games against Philadelphia -- has two, one to win the double-overtime Game 4 against the Sabres in Boston and the series-clincher in Game 6.
The Bruins rotated four left wings, one of them Sturm, on the four lines in the Buffalo series while generally maintaining center-right wing pairs of Bergeron and Mark Recchi
, Steve Begin and Shawn Thornton
, David Krejci
and Satan, and Vladimir Sobotka and Michael Ryder
. Ryder plays very well with Savard, so the Bruins' line combinations won't be known, or suspected, until Monday morning's practice.
Who's Hot --
Boston's Bergeron and Satan had a goal and an assist in Game 1 and defenseman Dennis Wideman had three assists. Recchi, Bergeron and Wideman were plus-2. … Richards had a goal and two assists for Philadelphia. Chris Pronger and Briere each had a goal and an assist.
Injury Report --
Sturm injured his knee in Game 1 and will require surgery in 4-6 weeks. He will miss the beginning of next season as he recuperates.
Stat Pack --
The Bruins killed all 19 Sabres' power plays, but the Flyers scored twice on five power-play opportunities in Game 1. That's still a 91.7-percent kill rate, second-best in the playoffs behind the Blackhawk's 93.6 percent. Does it matter, when the Canucks and Penguins are last and next-to-last in the playoffs? Yes, because the Flyers and Bruins lack those teams' firepower. The Flyers are fifth-best at 85.7 percent. It also matters because the Bruins have taken 16.7 penalty minutes per game, 13th in the playoffs, and the Flyers are 12th at 16 minutes.
Puck Drop --
"That's why I play the game," Briere said about his outstanding play to tie Game 1 with 3:22 remaining in regulation, and the mantle of leadership thrust on him with the absence of forwards Carter and Gagne. "That's why I love the game. When we get into the playoffs, when we get into critical games -- I was having this same discussion a few weeks ago with my kids -- you have to embrace that challenge. This is why you play the game: Because you want to be in those moments. You can't look at it where you're afraid to face those challenges. You have to welcome them and embrace them."