Wednesday’s Game 3 against Philadelphia was most definitely a painful win for the Bruins. While the 4-1 dismantling of the Flyers on their home ice was assuredly a good thing, the loss of David Krejci may ultimately be the downfall of this team in the next round.
However, before we get all doom and gloom about the loss of Krejci, the way the Bruins again plugged on with a limited bench for the whole game needs to be applauded. For the second game in a row, the B’s lost a significant contributor on offense early in the first period. In Game 2, it was Marco Sturm who was lost to injury on the first shift of the game. On Wednesday, Krejci played 2:45 before he was run over in open ice by Mike Richards, leading to a dislocated wrist that will knock Krejci out for the playoffs. Being a hockey player, Krejci still managed to have the whiplash of his hit send the puck to Milan Lucic at the blue line and Lucic then hesitated and fed a pass to a streaking Miroslav Satan who scored Boston’s second goal in 1:34 to wipe away an early Philly lead. So, Krejci’s last play of the 2009-10 season was similar to many over the campaign, a selfless assist on a key Bruins goal.
Also knocked out in the first period was Adam McQuaid, who went down with a leg injury. While McQuaid is not as valuable as Krejci, no team wants to lose a defenseman in the early stages of a game. He only played 1:49 and forced the trio of Dennis Wideman, Johnny Boychuk and Zdeno Chara to all be over 25 minutes in ice time for the game. If McQuaid cannot go tonight, expect Mark Stuart to be back in the lineup. Stuart has been out with a hand injury and is awaiting clearance on an infection that has been lingering to get back into a game. He has been skating the last week or so and should be ready physically to play 12-15 minutes tonight. If Stuart isn’t cleared, look for Andy Wozniewski or Andrew Bodnarchuk to get the nod. If so, there will be extra pressure of the top four to play big minutes and for the Bruins to end this series tonight.
The reason the Bruins are in position to close out the series in four games is because they came out and whupped the Flyers in Philly on Wednesday. An old, but true, adage in the playoffs of any sport is that “a series doesn’t truly begin until a team wins on the road”. Home ice is so important and having control of that allows a team to feel like it is in a series no matter what the score. Countless Flyers fans I discussed the series with before it began and even in the hours leading up to Game 3 said that all they needed was one win in Boston because the Flyers would overwhelm the B’s in Philly and win all three games. My friend Rich, who sold me his second ticket for Wednesday’s game spent the better part of the three hours we were tailgating in the parking lot explaining to me how the Flyers would be so juiced up by their crowd and a chance to get back in the series that the Flyers would score in the first five minutes and pull away for a 5-2 win. To some extent, he had a point. I have been to many Flyers games, including a few playoff games during my three years living in Philadelphia, and the crowd at a Flyers game does get insane and they do give that team a jump. It was allowable to expect the same thing to happen on Wednesday. And it did. Aaron Asham converted a 2-on-1 with Claude Giroux 2:32 into the game to give the Flyers their first lead of the series and send the crowd into a frenzy. Every person in the building with an orange jersey on was feeling “Okay, now we have a lead and the crowd is into it and the Bruins now know what it feels like to be the underdog in this series. We have it under control”. However, before the Flyers could even rest on their accomplishment, Blake Wheeler scored his first of the playoffs on a slick deflection of a Matt Hunwick shot 1:39 later. Then Satan scored his fifth of the playoffs shortly thereafter and the lead was evaporated before the first TV timeout.
The second period was Tuukka Time as Tuukka Rask made 15 saves to keep the Bruins in the lead. The Bruins were defending the end I was sitting in that period and I was able to watch all those saves. He was a cool and calm as ever in that period, never appearing to be rattled or uncertain of where he was position-wise in the goal. Unlike the first two games of the series, the Bruins did not allow Philly to get back in the game with a late goal, even killing off two penalties in the period.
In the third, Mark Recchi came back to haunt his old team with a vintage Rex-style power play goal 2:50 into the period. He collected a loose puck off a Chara bomb, and tucked it past Brian Boucher to give the Bruins a two-goal lead. The B’s would kill off two Delay of Game penalties for shooting the puck over the glass in the third as Rask made eight more saves, giving him 34 on the night. The B’s stuck to defense in the third, understanding that protecting the lead was just as important as adding to it. The B’s took just three shots in the third period, scoring on two of them.
As it stands, the Bruins are one win away from advancing to their first conference final since 1992. They don’t need to go far to understand that a 3-0 lead is completely insurmountable as anyone in Boston knows, so don’t expect the B’s to lift up in terms of intensity and drive. A win tonight gives the Bruins at least four days off as the Canadiens-Penguins series will go until at least Monday. Many Bruins, especially the top four defensemen and forwards like Bergeron, Recchi and Satan have been playing a lot of minutes in the first nine games of the playoffs and could use a good break to recharge and prepare for what will be the biggest playoff series for the Bruins since that ’92 conference final against Mario Lemieux’s Penguins team.
The Flyers are in a vulnerable state right now, knowing that their season is on the brink. However, they must have watched the Red Wings put a licking on the Sharks while down 3-0 last night and understand that all they have to do is win one game to get a good feeling back. The wild card here is the Philadelphia crowd. There was a mass exodus from the Wachovia Center even before Bergeron scored the empty-netter on Wednesday. As passionate and supporting as the Philly crowd can be, they are known to turn on their team quickly when things go wrong. If the Flyers come out and crash and bang early, get the crowd up in a dander and take a lead, the Philly Phaithful will have the feathers up and think they can take over the series. On the flip side, if the Bruins do what they have been doing so far in the series and secure an early lead, the “Boooooch” cheers for Boucher will definitely turn into “Boooooo” and things could get ugly quickly. The Bruins need to understand that there is a higher goal than just winning this series. Engaging the Flyers in what will no doubt be dirty play if the series appears to be over can only lead to injury/suspension for the Bruins. All hands will need to be on deck in the Eastern Conference Final whether or not the Penguins or Canadiens are the opponent. Players like Chara and Lucic are too valuable at this moment to be lost because they got tangled up with Dan Carcillo or Scott Hartnell.
To wrap up today, here is the Game 3 Pop Culture Comparison…
For the Flyers, things started out pretty good in Game 3, they were on fire and playing with a little spice to their game. One could almost say that the Flyers were warm and salty, just like a Philly Soft Pretzel. Go anywhere in the city and you will likely find a food cart selling “Philly’s Best Pretzel!” for $0.50. And depending on when you get said pretzel, it might actual have some good qualities. However, the later in the day you get one, the more likely it is that instead of a warm, toasty pretzel, you are about to get involved in a stale or soggy piece of dough that no one really wants. The Flyers were both ends of the spectrum on Wednesday. The first three minutes were like a freshly baked pretzel – hot and pleasing to the buyer. However, each shift after Asham’s goal was like that last one in the bin at 4 p.m. – a sorry excuse for a treat and unfulfilling to the masses.
The Bruins, however, were like my personal favorite offering at Dunkin Donuts – the Boston Crème donut. The first three minutes were like the tenuous process of getting the donut out of the bag – difficult to get things going because the counterperson undoubtedly put the donut in upside down and it is now stuck to the bottom of the bag. However, once things settle down there is nothing better. The combination of the chocolate frosting on the outside and the Boston Crème filling on the inside is a powerful 1-2 punch, much like Krejci and Satan have been this postseason. Now, some of the pressure will fall on Bergeron to be the crème filling to Satan’s chocolate frosting, but the feeling here is that he is up to the challenge.
Finally, a beard update. As it stands right now, I am ranked in a tie for 40th on the Bruins Beard-A-Thon list with $50.00 pledged, behind the top-ranked Ken Casey of the Dropkick Murphys who has $6,230.00 pledged. I have updated a new picture with how the growth is going, and I must say I am pretty impressed. Once again, all the proceeds from the contest go to the Boston Bruins Foundation which is a great cause. And don’t forget that one person who pledges will be selected to received a $20 gift certificate from our friends at SupahFans.com. Click here to pledge.