|PHX||1||3||1||(0 - 0)||5|
|BOS||0||0||2||(0 - 0)||2|
Phoenix had 16 more points than Boston last season, but the Bruins lasted a round longer in the playoffs after the Coyotes' early ouster.
There's little question which team experienced the more painful postseason exit, however.
Boston blew a 3-0 series edge and a three-goal Game 7 lead in one of the most stunning collapses in NHL history, a bitter taste they'll hope to start washing away Saturday in Prague as they open the season with the first of two games against the Coyotes.
The Bruins (39-30-13) finished 2009-10 with 25 fewer points than the Eastern Conference-best 116 they earned in 2008-09, but they made it just as far in the postseason as they did the previous year.
However, Boston left the playoffs in an even more agonizing fashion than it did when Carolina scored in overtime of Game 7 in the second round in 2009. The Bruins coughed up a 3-0 lead in Game 7 against Philadelphia, losing 4-3 after seemingly finding themselves in total control after taking the first three games with relative ease.
"You have to move forward. It's something that we can't bring back," captain Zdeno Chara said. "We also have to take it as a challenge so that we have some unfinished business for this year. I think everybody's extremely motivated."
Chara is no stranger to playing in Prague. The Slovakian defenseman played for the Sparta Prague youth team before migrating to Canada's Western Hockey League in 1996 after he failed to make the Sparta first-team roster.
Center David Krejci is the Bruins' only Czech player, and he's also one of their most talented offensively. Krejci tied Patrice Bergeron for the team lead with 52 points and then had four goals and four assists in his first nine playoff games.
Krejci, though, left Game 3 against Philadelphia with a dislocated right wrist and missed the rest of the series. He's eager to get this season started, particularly in such a familiar place.
"It should be fun," he said. "It was always my dream to play in the NHL and now I can play for my home crowd and in my country."
Boston will be counting on Krejci, Bergeron and rookie Tyler Seguin - the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 draft - to carry it up front with Marc Savard's return uncertain. Savard suffered a concussion against Pittsburgh on March 7 and returned for the series with the Flyers, but he's expected to remain out until at least mid-November.
Seguin, a wing in juniors, has been playing center with Savard out. Coach Claude Julien has been impressed with the 18-year-old, whom he hopes can spark an offense that scored a conference-low 206 goals last season.
"He's done really well," Julien said. "We said he's a smart player that'll figure it out. ... We feel comfortable enough as a coaching staff to give him that start there at center because he's proven that he can handle it so far."
Goaltending carried the Coyotes (50-25-7) and Bruins through most of last season.
Boston and Phoenix were the league's second- and third-stingiest teams, respectively, with Tuukka Rask and his NHL-best 1.97 goals-against average leading the way for the Bruins and Ilya Bryzgalov posting 42 wins and a 2.29 GAA for the Coyotes.
Bryzgalov's success didn't carry over into the franchise's first postseason appearance since 2002, though. He posted a 3.43 GAA in a first-round loss to Detroit, which concluded with a 6-1 defeat in Game 7.
The Coyotes are balanced up front with four players scoring at least 18 goals last season, led by Czech winger Radim Vrbata's 24.
Free agent Ray Whitney, who has scored at least 21 goals in each of his last four seasons, should add some more punch to a cast that includes a talented pair of young centers in Kyle Turris and Martin Hanzal.
Hanzal and Petr Prucha round out Phoenix's trio of Czech forwards. Vrbata is particularly eager to get started with a team he thinks is even more talented than the one that finished with 107 points.
"Boston may be a Stanley Cup contender but we're significantly better than last season," Prucha said. "We played well in the preseason and the series (in Prague) is wide open."
Phoenix has won the lone meeting each of the past two seasons, and the teams conclude this series Sunday.
|Oct 10 '10||BOS 3 at PHX 0||M. Lucic|
|Oct 09 '10||PHX 5 at BOS 2||S. Upshall|