Two of the oldest American teams in the NHL meet up in the conference semi-finals when the Boston Bruins take on the Philadelphia Flyers. Both teams needed a Game 7 win to reach this point despite being favorites to win their first round series per the NHL betting odds, but the Flyers are favored to win this series. Check below to see our Stanley Cup playoff picks for this series.
#3 Boston Bruins
How They Got Here: Boston lost the first two games of their first round series against Montreal at home, and with Zdeno Chara hurt, things looked bleak for the Bruins. But the Bruins bounced back and won three straight en route to a 4-3 series victory. The defense and goaltending were among the best in the regular season and pretty much shut down the Canadiens except for Mike Cammalleri, holding Montreal to 17 goals over the seven game series.
Player to Watch: C Patrice Bergeron led the team with two goals and five assists in the Bruins’ series against the Canadiens and gave hope to Bruins fans that he may have returned to the talent that he was before suffering a grade three concussion a few years ago. Bergeron’s +/- of +5 was also one of the best on the team in the first round as well. The Flyers were the team that concussed Bergeron into missing 70+ games three seasons ago and Bergeron will be looking for revenge.
Goalie Outlook: Tim Thomas was one of the top goaltenders during the regular season and showcased his skills again in the first round. His 2.25 GAA and .926 save percentage were both among the best for goalies in the first round and he did a good job of shutting down the Canadiens offense for the most part. Thomas was spectacular in Game 5, stopping 44 of 45 shots to give the Bs a 2-1 win in double overtime.
Key to Victory: Goaltending. While the Flyers are dealing with the circus surrounding Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher, the Bruins have one of the sharpest goaltenders in hockey in Tim Thomas. Boston’s huge advantage between the pipes gives them a great chance to pull the small upset against the Flyers.
#2 Philadelphia Flyers
How They Got Here: Despite mind-boggling horrific goaltending at times, the Flyers were able to get past the Sabres in Game 7 and advance to the Eastern Conference semi-finals. Philadelphia tortured Ryan Miller all series long, averaging 35.9 shots per game against the Sabres and lit the lamp 22 times. Chris Pronger still looks injured and this hurt the Flyers’ defense, but as the team progresses Pronger will get healthier and the Flyers will improve.
Player to Watch: With Pronger banged up, the Flyers needed a defenseman to step up and Kimmo Timonen did just that against the Sabres. Timonen leads the NHL in plus/minus thus far in the playoffs with a +9 and also tallied a goal and three assists in the first round. Buffalo doesn’t have the best offense in the world, but Timonen’s job was exemplary and will be someone that the Bruins and Milan Lucic need to watch out for in the second round.
Goalie Outlook: Ugh. That sound you hear is every Flyers fan in the country collectively grunting. In Game 6, Philadelphia outplayed the Buffalo Sabres, but terrible goaltending from Leighton and Boucher gifted the Sabres three goals and the opportunity to play a Game 7. Leighton’s numbers are awful. He appeared in two games and registered a 3.44 GAA and a .862 save percentage. Boucher’s numbers (2.10 GAA and a .934 save percentage) look much better than the way he played, and this is an area that Philly definitely needs to improve if they hope to advance.
Key to Victory: Pronger is still injured, so Boucher needs to step up for the Flyers to reach the conference finals. Philadelphia has an offense that can rack up goals, but without decent goaltending, won’t have much of a chance.
2010-11 Regular Season Meetings
March 27th – Boston 2 – Philadelphia 1
January 13th – Philadelphia 5 – Boston 7
December 11th – Philadelphia 2 – Boston 1
December 1st – Boston 3 – Philadelphia 0
Season Series Notes: Boston won three of the four regular season meetings over Philadelphia and three of their four games sailed under the NHL betting total. The Bruins allowed only eight goals against the Flyers during their previous battles and so the under might be a good bet again throughout this series.
The Final Word: We’ve harped on it throughout this NHL Playoffs preview, but the big question is whether or not Philadelphia can get decent goaltending in this series. The only reason Buffalo took the Flyers to a Game 7 was because of shoddy play from Leighton and Boucher and Philly cannot afford to continue making mistakes in their back end. Although Philadelphia does have a better offense, the huge advantage that the Bruins have in the net will be the difference in this series.
Stanley Cup Free Picks: Boston in 7
Aaron Ryan has been in the sportswriting biz since the late-90s, and he has worked side by side with some of the best and brightest in sports gambling. Always searching for the best trends in sports, Andrew uses his brilliant math mind to his advantage to beat the books.