The Bruins/Flyers Eastern Conference Semi-Final series returns to your living room/favorite watering hole tonight, and it’s bringing the drama…
Entering the 2nd round, Boston was without the services of two injured defenseman: Dennis Seidenberg (arm) and Mark Stuart (finger). Watching from the press box for the Flyers were forwards Jeff Carter (both feet), Simon Gagne (broken toe), Ian Laperriere (head), and goalie Michael Leighton (ankle).
The Bruins won the first game on home ice with an overtime goal by Marc Savard, who was playing in his first game after a concussion kept him out of action for about 7 weeks, but also lost Marco Sturm, their regular season leading scorer, to a knee injury. Game 2 saw the Bruins edge the Flyers by one goal again, this time on a late 3rd period goal off the stick of Milan Lucic. Both games were closely contested.
The series then moved to Philly, and Game 3 saw the Flyers’ Arron Asham score his second goal of the playoffs, the result of a beautiful pass from Claude Giroux, just 2:32 into the 1st period. The lead was short lived however, with Blake Wheeler tying the game at the 4:11 mark and Miro Satan scoring the go ahead (and game winning) goal just 1:35 later. The Bruins took a 3 games to none series lead with a final score of 4-1, but they lost forward David Krejci to a dislocated wrist in the process after an open ice collision with the Flyers’ Mike Richards.
The Flyers were playing decent hockey, but things just weren’t going their way, and things looked rather bleak; they needed a spark.
Enter (or re-enter, if you will) Simon Gagne. After breaking his big toe in the fourth game of the Flyers’ 1st round series against the Devils on April 20th, Gagne went under the knife three days later to have it repaired. The time frame for his return was 3 weeks, but he was back on the ice in just 14 days, and not a moment too soon.
Game 4 ended with Gagne scoring the winning goal in overtime, along with having a team-high 7 shots on goal while seeing only 16:25 of ice time (of the Flyers’ top 9 forwards, only Ville Leino saw less ice than Gags). Flyers win 5-4 to avoid the series sweep and force a Game 5.
Back in Beantown, Leino opened the scoring not quite 7 minutes into the 1st period and the Flyers were off and running. Scott Hartnell added his first goal of the playoffs in the 2nd period to give the boys from Philly some breathing room, but a few minutes later the unthinkable happened – Flyers’ defenseman Ryan Parent fell on an awkwardly sprawled Brian Boucher, causing both of the goalie’s knees to twist in unnatural directions. Luckily, the Flyers had decided that this was the game in which to dress goaltender Michael Leighton for his first stint on the bench as backup since his ankle injury in mid-March. Leighton entered the game in relief of Boucher, stopping all 14 shots that the Bruins tossed his way, sharing a shutout victory with his fallen teammate. Gagne added 2 goals to make the final score 4-0. The Flyers, again, stave off elimination, and the series comes back to Philly for Game 6 tonight. Philly’s Claude Giroux, who took a check from Steve Begin in this game and bounced his head off of the glass, reportedly will be able to play tonight after baseline tests yesterday revealed no signs of concussion.
This series seems to be reviving the playoff rivalry that has been missing since the last time these two teams met in the post season in 1978. It didn’t take long for these guys to get some dislike brewing, and it’s gotten more intense as the series goes on. The Bruins showed a lack of discipline in Game 5, letting their emotions take hold of them, while the Flyers exercised composure in not retaliating and getting themselves into penalty trouble.
Hopefully both teams will bring their ‘A’ games and the officials don’t try to make themselves ‘the show’. And, of course (for me, at least), one more trip to Boston for a final game.
Also on tap tonight, Game 7 of the Penguins/Canadiens series. You can’t go wrong with a 7th game…you just can’t. Good luck to both teams and their fans; it should be a whopper.
Last week I asked for your input on the best-ever playoff beards, but really, people – one response? ONE?? I’ll extend it another week, but if I don’t get enough replies you will all be subject to my picks (and I can promise you it won’t be pretty). Send your top 5 all-time picks to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll have the rundown next week.
Enjoy the games tonight, and may the best teams prosper.
** Tangent Man — Keith Filling… a fantasy and NHL hockey junkie who has a lot to say about the reality of life experiences, Scotch, hockey, music and the bane of being addicted to a fantasy game. Read more of his work over at his “Off on a Tangent” blog. You can also follow him on Twitter here.