Bruins-Flyers: Three points heading into Game 3
|05.04.11 at 6:58 am ET|
Everyone knows what happened after Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals last year: a Flyers Game 4 victory followed by three more in what ended up being one of the most devastating ends to a season in Bruins history.
This time around, the Bruins have set about righting that wrong, if it’s possible, and they’re off to the best start they could have through two games: a 2-0 series lead. Even if they take Game 3, it won’t be anything new for a team that was in the same position a year ago, but they’ll be sitting pretty.
It looks like they’ll have to play Game 3 without Adam McQuaid, as the rookie defenseman sprained his neck trying to hit Mike Richards in Game 2. Expect Shane Hnidy to be in his place for the veterans second game this postseason. Hnidy played just 4:13 in Game 2 of the quarterfinals vs. the Canadiens when he filled in for an ill Zdeno Chara.
Injuries and substitutions aside, Wednesday’s game is a pivotal one. As the B’s saw last week, winning Game 3 when you’re down 2-1 can change plenty, and that’s what the Flyers will aim to do. On the other hand, if the B’s can grab a 3-0 series lead, they’ll be in good position to do what 99% of teams do with 3-0 leads. Here are a few quick points on where things stand entering a big game at the Garden:
KREJCI REMAINS KEY
Sure, the L’s didn’t start coming until game four, but the Bruins suffered a major loss in Game 3 last season when David Krejci broke his wrist. Without Krejci, the B’s weren’t the same team, and it had a lot to do with why Philadelphia was able to crawl back to make it a series.
This year, and after a pedestrian first round vs. the Canadiens, Krejci has been as a big a force as anyone else (except for perhaps Tim Thomas) through two games. After having difficulty finishing plays vs. the Habs, Krejci has lit up the Flyers to the tune of five points in two games, including the game-winner in overtime in Monday’s Game 2.
With Marc Savard making only a 25-game cameo, Krejci was the de facto top center on the team most of the year, yet he didn’t always play like it. Krejci’s a guy who runs hot and cold, but he’s showing that he’s using the right faucet when it counts.
The Bruins aren’t going to sit back and play the “what if” game with what they could have done with a healthy Krejci last year, but so far they’re finding out what they can do with him this year.
THE WINNING WAY: CIRCUMVENTING REGULATION, POWER PLAY?
Four overtime games, zero power play goals, and only one win in which they’ve outshot their opponent. Those are some of the interesting details of the Bruins’ postseason thus far, but they’ll take the results.
The B’s are in no way welcoming more OT games, but given that they’ve won all four they’ve played so far, they’ve got to like the reputation they’ve developed. Contests like Game 2 are ones they most certainly won’t win every time, as Thomas faced 32 shots in the third period and overtime, while the B’s mustered just 12 shots. As they say, a win’s a win. You’d think the B’s would just rather win the way they did in the 7-3 fashion in which they took Game 1.
As for the power play, the mystery of when “the streak” will finally end (they’re at 0-for-29 thus far in the playoffs), is growing in legend. Will it get to 30? 35? It looked better late in the second period Tuesday, and perhaps with the confidence of winning will come the confidence to get this ugly streak out of their heads. The B’s just need to make sure their power play looks more like it did in Game 2 than it did in Game 1, when the Flyers were easily gaining possession and sending it the length of the ice.
THOMAS HAS BEEN IN OCTOBER FORM IN THE PLAYOFFS
Blaming the goaltender would be absurd, but it would be fair to say after the first two games of the quarterfinals that Thomas wasn’t quite where he was earlier in the regular season. The rebounds were big, and the Habs were game-planning around them. Since then, the B’s netminder has played to the lights-out standard he set way back in October. The line of thinking back then was that if the Bruins could get that kind of performance in the postseason, they’d be tough to beat. Well, they’ve gotten that performance, and they sure are tough to beat.
As Brad Marchand pointed out after Game 2, the Bruins had no business winning that game. The Flyers came out harder, played a fantastic game and got 54 shots on Thomas. Yet Thomas was the exception to the rule that if a team can come out flying at home, they should win.
Consider that James van Riemsdyk, who had two goals in the first 9:31 of Game 2 but was stopped on his following bids, should have had even more than the hat trick he didn’t get (we make too many Ovechtrick jokes in this space, explaining the absence of an obvious reference here), but Thomas shut him down on a night nobody else could. Regardless of what an opposing team can throw out there, it seems Thomas, when at his best, trumps all. He may not have the numbers from the first month of the season, but he is playing like it and giving the B’s a great chance to win each night.
Wednesday, it will be interesting to see how each team comes out. The Flyers should be desperate to avoid a 3-0 deficit, but it would be hard to top the effort they gave in Game 2. The Bruins should come out stronger if they don’t want to leave it up to their goaltender again. Even if it does fall in Thomas’ hands, he proved in Game 2 that he can handle it.