Do not try to make this about last year.
With a 5-1 beatdown on TD Garden ice Wednesday night, the Boston Bruins left the Philadelphia Flyers without any hope of competing in this series, as they took a stranglehold on the series with a 3-0 lead.
It leaves the Bruins needing just one win in the next four games to wrap up the series and move on to the conference finals — something they’d prefer to accomplish sooner rather than later.
That’s in part because the Lightning have already swept the Capitals, so the Bruins could use some rest to match Tampa’s fresh legs, but it’s also because with each session of media availability, with each sports talk radio show and with each wise-guy sports column, the questions of last year will be brought up with more and more frequency.
And if the Bruins lose Game 4 on Friday night? Get ready for the most ridiculous weekend of sports talk you’ve ever experienced.
The fact is that only three teams in NHL history have blown 3-0 postseason leads. That one of those teams was the Bruins one year ago should eliminate the thought of it happening again this year, on the basis of probability. But if you’d like a little more analysis than “it doesn’t happen often so it can’t happen two years in a row,” just look at the teams.
The Bruins are, in a word, better. They have better defense than last May, better goaltending and better scoring (if not a better power play). The Flyers, while bringing back many of the same bodies, are not nearly the hot team that pulled off the remarkable comeback last season. Chris Pronger isn’t healthy and can’t play, Simon Gagne, who scored four times in four games (all wins) against Boston last year, isn’t on the team, and, bigger than any other reason, the Flyers don’t have a goaltender.
Thus far, the series has looked like a street hockey game where nobody’s around to play net, so someone has to call his little brother or unathletic friend to put on some pads and at least stand between the pipes to at least stop the shots that hit him in the chest. That’s been about all Brian Boucher has been able to stop, as evidenced by his .846 save percentage and 5.18 goals-against average in the first three games of the series. It got to the point where Flyers coach Peter Laviolette had to get in his ear and give him a Stuart Smalley-style pump-up speech in the first period on Wednesday.
Sergei Bobrovsky, Boucher’s backup, hasn’t been any better, as he’s posted a 3.20 GAA and .875 save percentage. The Flyers have no solutions between the pipes, and you just can’t win in the playoffs if your goalie prevents you from competing.
And the list goes on. Dennis Seidenberg, who missed last year’s series with Philly due to injury, has made up for it in a big way. He’s averaged roughly 30 minutes of ice time per game, posting a ridiculous plus-9 rating to accompany his three assists. He’s been a rock, and with Zdeno Chara playing alongside him, the Bruins’ defense is leaps and bounds better than it was last year.
Add in that the fourth line’s seen a major upgrade, that the Bruins didn’t have anyone who could score like Nathan Horton can, that Tuukka Rask was on the decline last May while Tim Thomas seems to be getting better as the playoffs go on, that there was no pest like Brad Marchand to tap Jeff Carter‘s knee brace last year, that even fourth-line penalty killers like Daniel Paille (Daniel Paille!) are scoring goals, and you can’t possibly think with any sense of reason or logic that the Flyers have even a slim chance to come back in this series.
So don’t worry. Start thinking ahead. The Bruins are going to advance to the Eastern Conference finals. To think otherwise wouldn’t be “cautious.” Consider it “scared” or “psychologically damaged.” Believe what your eyes and your heart are telling you. The Bruins are the hotter team right now, and they’re too good to see a 3-0 series lead slip away.
What you witnessed last year was an aberration, something you may not see for the rest of your life. It certainly isn’t happening next week.
Do the Flyers have any shot to come back and win the series against the Bruins? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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