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Milbury on D&H: Flyers’ comeback no surprise

NESN Bruins analyst Mike Milbury talked with Dale & Holley Wednesday morning about the Flyers rallying to win three games to even up the second-round series against the Bruins.

‘€œIt was a surprise to me that it was 3-0,’€ Milbury said. ‘€œIt was great for Boston that they were a overtime goal away from taking the thing, but it doesn’€™t surprise me that Philadelphia has now come back to even the series.’€

Milbury also talked about Montreal’€™s impressive run through the playoffs over favorites Washington and Pittsburgh.

Below is a transcript. Visit the Dale & Holley audio on demand page [1] to hear the interview.

The Bruins had a 3-0 lead, they’€™re now tied 3-3, what happened?

Put this in the perspective. Remember in late February after we came off the break and into March, people were saying such things as decapitate [Dennis] Wideman [2], fire the coach, they suck and they’€™re never going anywhere, right? Now all of a sudden they find themselves in a pretty good matchup against Buffalo and they get the job done and show some good resiliency. Then they meet Philadelphia, who’€™s lucky to be in the dance, and the surprise for me is that Boston was up 3-0 in the first place.

If you go through this matchup by position, Tuukka Rask [3] is really the better goaltender than whatever Philadelphia is throwing at you, but keep in mind that [Michael] Leighton was pretty good when he was healthy. It was the first time showing signs that he might actually be a No. 1 goalie, but clearly the edge goes to Boston.

On defense, I heard you guys talking about this earlier, I have to give the edge to Philadelphia. If you just cross out [Chris] Pronger [4] vs. [Zdeno] Chara [5], you’€™ve got [Matt] Carle, which I think we both agree he’€™s had a great series, and [Dennis] Wideman, who’€™s played pretty well except has had some unfortunate moments that he’€™s prone to with brain crampage, but he’€™s still been pretty good in the playoffs.

Then, the third guy on the list for me is Johnny Boychuk [6], who last time I checked spent most of the year in the minor leagues. Don’€™t get me wrong, I think he’€™s been a great, great story. I mean Boychuk’€™s been terrific, but if you match him up against the third guy on the list for the Flyers, Kimmo Timonen, who’€™s a hell of a player. He’€™s really a world-class player, who’€™s smart and gifted with the puck and really poised under pressure, a really intelligent guy.

Then there’€™s Braydon Coburn, who’€™s a big body and playing 25 minutes a night, vs. [Matt] Hunwick or [Andrew] Ference [7]. You can’€™t tell me that you stack up that defense top four, and that’€™s what we’€™re talking about, top four, because you see the ice time. It’€™s [Chris] Pronger 29 minutes a game, its Matt Carle 26 minutes a game, its Braydon Coburn 25 minutes a game, its [Kimmo] Timonen for 27. You’€™re not going to see those third pairings, the games are too important. If they can stall somebody for 30 seconds at a time, you consider yourself lucky. So I give the edge in the blue line to the Flyers.

Up front, it’€™s pretty much a wash. [Mike] Richards [8], [Patrice] Bergeron [9], you can argue either way. [Mike] Richards is a little tougher, a little more physical, and he also scored 30 goals this year which is a pretty good number to get. Then you drop to [Danny] Briere, who’€™s a $7 million man and a gifted player, enigmatic though he may be, we’€™ve seen his flashes of offensive brilliance. He’€™s got 13 points, which puts him first on the list if he was a Boston Bruin, vs. [Marc] Savard [10], who’€™s not 100 percent yet.

You’€™re hanging on to [Miroslav] Satan and [Mark] Recchi [11], two great scorers. Again, don’€™t get me wrong, the fact that [Miroslav] Satan has come to compete, maybe learn something last year when he was on a Stanley Cup [12] champion in a somewhat limited role. I had this guy, I paid him 4 million bucks a year and watched him go into a shell for three years while he tried to figure out whether he really wanted to play hockey while he was collecting the money. He comes here for 700,000 a year and has been much better, but he’€™s a soft player and he’€™s going to get pushed off the puck. He needs to be good on the power play and he needs to hunt and attack goals, and God bless him he’€™s done that. Match him up against [Claude] Giroux or [Simon] Gagne, and those two guys kind of wipe each other out the back half of the lineup.

The Bruins need stops from [Milan] Lucic [13] like there’€™s no tomorrow, and there is no tomorrow after Friday. We haven’€™t seen [Blake] Wheeler [14] in weeks, and we’€™ve barely seen [Michael] Ryder [15], and that’€™s a shame. I mean, that’€™s really where the Bruins could have had an edge on the Philadelphia Flyers [16], and they don’€™t. Milan [Lucic] scored a goal last night, but his physical presence is minimal. It’€™s not just scoring goals, it’€™s being a physical presence in the lineup that marks you as a power forward and not just a guy that wants to hunt and attack for goals. I haven’€™t seen that much from him. [Blake] Wheeler and [Michael] Ryder continue to be a puzzle to me, it’€™s a shame that players of that talent are unable to get figured out, and they’€™ve been a disappointment.

It was a surprise to me that it was 3-0. It was great for Boston that they were a overtime goal away from taking the thing, but it doesn’€™t surprise me that Philadelphia has now come back to even the series. As in all Game 7s, it’€™s going to be a coin toss. I would suspect that the Bruins would rebound, they do have a great record in the spring at home to offset the miserable record they had at home during the regular season, so I don’€™t know how you figure that out.

It will take a big game from Tuukka Rask, I would suspect special teams could play a huge role in this thing tomorrow. It’€™s a coin toss, and I don’€™t think anybody thought the Bruins should just wipe the Flyers off the map. You would like to think that they can beat them when they’€™re up 3-0, but it was an overtime goal that gave the Flyers some momentum and they came up large in Game 5. I didn’€™t expect the Bruins to win last night in Philadelphia, I thought the Flyers had their mojo working. Now they feel the pressure, as well as the Bruins, and it’€™s anybody’€™s game. They’€™re two evenly matched teams, flip a coin.

There have been additions and subtractions in this series. A subtraction is David Krejci [17], one solid addition was [Simon] Gagne, and one kind of additions was Marc Savard. What have the additions and subtractions meant to this series?

[Marc] Savard gives them a chance. Without [Marc] Savard, there is no chance. His production isn’€™t expected to be exactly what it was, and that might have something to do with his wingers as well. I think the absence of [David] Krejci is just monumental. The balance swings away from the Bruins in a dramatic fashion when you take him out of the lineup. For all that he does for the Bruins in every different situation, when I saw him go down there was a gasp from my mouth because there was nobody to replace him with. Not even Savard, because Krejci does it at both ends of the ice and Savard is somewhat one way. [Simon]

Gagne obviously is a huge comeback because remember they’€™re without Jeff Carter [18], which is a huge loss for them. What scares me a little bit is the back end of the lineup, you’€™re not going to see them too much, but there’€™s [Daniel] Carcillo, say what you will about him but he’€™s been around a while. Ville Leino, he’€™s been around a while. [Scott] Hartnell was a top pick in the NHL [19] draft, he’€™s been around a while. Arron Asham has been in the league for 10 years. We’€™ve got guys like [Trent] Whitfield, and [Vladimir] Sobotka, and [Danielle] Paille, who are on the fringe of this thing. So there’€™s a little more depth on the Philadelphia roster. I can tell you that the addition of [Marc] Savard gives them hope because they needed it with [David] Krejci now out. [Simon] Gagne evens the score for the Flyers forwards vs. the Bruins forwards.

How do you think the Bruins have fared in one-on-one battles, puck battles, and little things in the last three games?

All you have to do is look at the scoreboard, I think, and you’€™ll get your answer. Once the Flyers caught a wind with the overtime goal, they started to believe and the Bruins ran out of offense. Give the Flyers credit, if you watch the Flyers defense, they’€™re spending no time at all, or little time in their own zone. What time the Bruins do get in their zone, they’€™re getting precious few quality opportunities. Most of them are off the wing with good vision by the goaltender. I think it’€™s pretty clear that the Flyers have now carried today in terms of the one-on-one battles.

I hear the talk about the lack of effort, I’€™m not buying it. When you see a team, not only like Philadelphia, take Montreal and the way they won the game. They grabbed the lead last night and they made it next to impossible to get through the neutral zone or to gain good possession in the offensive zone. The strategy has been deployed for a number of years, it’s pull back, pull back, pull back and defend and bend but don’€™t break. I think the Bruins, like the Penguins [20] in their own way, were trying hard to get in deep but they’€™re matched up against a well-coached team who adopted a philosophy of conservatism, and it’€™s working.

How did the Montreal Canadiens [21] get by Alexander Ovechkin, and Washington and Sidney Crosby [22] and Pittsburgh in successive series?

Attitude, attitude, attitude. They have good speed, they’€™ve got skilled players, and everybody talks about their munchkin lineup. Secondly, tremendous goaltending, and three, a huge surprise in [P.K.] Subban on the blue line. When [Andrei] Markov went out, you thought well that’€™s the end of the story, but here comes this kid not even 21 and he plays like an All-Star, it’€™s been remarkable. Hall Gill has been terrific for them, comes back with less than 100 percent mobility to play great. Josh Gorges has played terrific.

Good system, I mean I don’€™t love it, it’€™s not entertaining most of the time, although you can’€™t say these games haven’€™t been entertaining with Montreal involved. Team speed is an issue, but sometimes you have to play the games. They’€™re professionals there, they made it somehow to this level because of qualities or skills of competiveness.

Sometimes you catch lightning in a bottle and clearly they’€™ve got it. I tell you last night watching the third period, the saves Jaroslav Halak was making on [Sidney] Crosby and [Evgeni] Malkin, I mean you can’€™t believe your eyes. Both Washington and Pittsburgh felt entitiled I think to win that series. They played individually, they played nowhere near with the team concept Montreal did, and they thought it was going to be easier, I don’€™t say easy, but they thought it was going to be easier than it was. Montreal surprised the hell out of them and everybody else in hockey.

Do any of these three teams in the East have a legitimate shot of winning the Stanley Cup over whoever comes out of the West?

The logical man says no, but what’€™s logical about this spring in the NHL [23]? I mean really in the Eastern Conference there’€™s not much that’€™s been logical. Who would have thought it wouldn’€™t have been Washington and Pittsburgh in the next round? To think that Philadelphia, who barely made it in on an overtime goal, and Montreal who crawled in on the final day of the season through the back door, and Boston who needed a late surge to get in and winds up with home-ice advantage. Who thought any of those teams would be in a position to be in the conference finals and advance. You’€™re going to get the sixth, seventh or eighth seeds from the Eastern Conference coming to play the top two teams in the West. On paper, you would have to say no but you’€™re right, goaltenders, certainly in the case of Montreal and Boston, give them hope. In the case of the Bruins, they’€™re a long way from thinking about that right now.

How would you compare Montreal’€™s defensive scheme to the scheme Claude Julien [24] has the Bruins playing?

It’€™s not so different. Both teams rely on the system and the structure to give them security as it were. When that’€™s playing well and the goaltender’€™s playing well, you sort of expand on that and start to forecheck off that and you try more often for the turnover. In both cases I think the structure is pretty clear. I think Boston’€™s been more inclined to try to get in and forecheck a little more, but certainly Montreal has been able to do with their speed as much as they’€™ve needed to do. I mean, last night was a classic example, once they had a 2-0 lead they built it to 4-0 but it was almost by accident, it was not be design. They were more content to just play tennis in the neutral zone.

So, both systems I think are effective, both rely on counterpunching most of the time. I don’€™t think either club has the depth or offensive ability, but you get a guy like [Michael] Cammalleri who’€™s hotter than a pistol, everybody else starts feeding off of that and you’€™ll see more offense. That’€™s still not how they win, the way the win is defense first.

What a stupid penalty by [Sidney] Crosby 10 seconds in.

I wouldn’€™t want to be him for a lump of the money. The poor kid is 22, he’€™s won a Stanley Cup, MVP, Art Ross Trophy, and he can’€™t do enough right. Yes, he made a mistake, he was wired up, under pressure, and you forget that he’€™s as young as he is. He might have got away with that in another situation, but that was a horrible goal against [Marc-Andre] Fleury [25]. We talked about all of Montreal’€™s terrific play, don’€™t forget that the goaltender was singularly bad last night. Here’€™s a guy that saved the Stanly Cup for them last year and now he’€™s letting in a goal like that from a weak angle and they have to yank him in the middle of the second period. When you’€™re Crosby, sometimes you need a little help from your friends, last night he didn’€™t get it.

Game 7, tomorrow night at the Garden, who wins?

Well I’€™m not betting, that’€™s for sure, I’€™m saving my money. Momentum clearly has swung to the side of the Flyers. The one thing I’€™ll say for the Bruins is, we’€™ve seen it all year long for the last couple years, just when you think they’€™re out of it, just when you think you want to take out the shovel and finish off burying them, they find a way to come back. There to me, along with Tuukka Rask, lies the hope.