A blood-and-guts type of series.
That’s what everyone is expecting when the Flyers face the Boston Bruins in game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoff semifinals on Saturday.
When the two defensive-minded, tight checking, proud and storied franchises go head-to-head for the first time since 1978, the contest is sure to be as competitive and hard to predict as it is nasty. And that’s saying something. But stepping away from the typical analysis on the goaltending match up or how each teams forward lines rate, there is one thing that is so essential that it could make or break the entire series — the Flyers power play.
Should Boston backstop Tuukka Rask and Flyers ‘tender Brian Boucher hold up their end of the bargain, the entire Bruins-Flyers series could hinge on if Philly can produce on the stingy B’s penalty kill.
Led by defensemen Johnny Boychuk and Zdeno Chara, the B’s man-handled the Sabres, not allowing one goal against in 19 power play attempts. And that wasn’t a fluke. Boston killed 87.6-percent in the regular season to rank third in the league. This is where the difference in the series lies.
The Flyers power play has been solid, ranking third in the NHL in the regular season at 21.4-percent and 27.6-percent in the post season. But the Devils’ kill hit at only a 97.4-percent. Nothing close to what the Bruins put up. Add in the fact that the Flyers are missing power play producers Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne, and suddenly the Philly man advantage has an uphill climb. An inability to produce on the man advantage against Boston, one of the largest factors in Philly’s dominance over the Devils, and it could spell trouble for the Orange and Black. A good showing on the power play and it could push them over the edge to victory.
In such a tightly contested match up between good defensive squads, playing with the lead will be vital. The Flyers have just a .242% regular season winning percentage when trailing first ranking them 25th in hockey. The Bruins have a .700% regular season winning percentage when leading first, which ranks them 13th.
But the biggest difference may be when Philly takes an early lead. The Flyers have a .786% winning percentage when they lead after the first period. Eighth in the NHL. That extra goal to take the lead is what they want to do and that’s how they can win the series.
With both Philadelphia and Boston nearly equal in 5-on-5 scoring along with the Flyers penalty kill owning the ability to shut down the hot-and-cold Boston power play, it will be up to Philly power play to make the difference against a very good Bruins’ defense.