Hard-hitting analysis: This will be a grind
Yes, the ending yesterday was unforgettable, but it represented the beginning of what promises to be a grueling and gut-wrenching playoff series between the Bruins and Flyers.
Don’t let the screenplay denouement of the opener of this Eastern Conference semifinal, courtesy of comeback kid Marc Savard, fool you. It was everything this series isn’t going to be: poetic, pretty, and sudden.
“It was a battle,’’ said Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, who made 32 saves, including a huge stop on Flyers pest Daniel Carcillo in overtime on a break-in. “They’re a tough team to play against. They really jam the net and throw those pucks at the feet there and crash the net a lot. It was a tough game, but we found a way to win.’’
The way they claimed that 5-4 OT win was goose-bump-inducing sports theater, and one also could argue a bit of sports karma, considering the Flyers concussed Patrice Bergeron three years ago. Fitting, then, that Savard in his first game back after a Grade 2 concussion knocked the Flyers out of Game 1 with the winner from the right circle 6 minutes and 8 seconds into overtime.
It certainly didn’t look like the faithful would be sweating it out inside the Garden on a 75-degree day the way the game started. That scent wafting through TD Garden at 12:54 of the first period, when Bergeron put a backhander past Brian Boucher to give Boston a 2-0 lead, wasn’t popcorn or hot dogs.
It was overconfidence.
That was the first time the Bruins had a two-goal lead. They also would lead, 3-1, and 4-2 after a David Krejci tally at 7:25 of the third. Still, they had to fend off the Flyers after Philadelphia rallied to send the game to overtime when Danny Briere breezed between defensemen Dennis Wideman and Matt Hunwick to knot things, 4-4, with 3:22 left.
Buoyed by their team’s bouncing of the third-seeded Sabres as the No. 6 seed, the Spoked-Believers were viewing the Flyers, who are without leading goal scorer Jeff Carter (broken right foot), as well as wingers Simon Gagne (broken toe) and Ian Laperriere (brain contusion), as sacrificial lambs on skates.
The Bruins players knew better.
“We have two very similar teams,’’ said feisty 42-year-old Bruins wing Mark Recchi, who spent a good part of the game mixing it up with Chris Pronger. “We’re both going to try to outwork the other one, try and out-forecheck the other teams and see where it gets you. Like I said, I think this was indicative of what I think the series is going to be all around.’’
Recchi won a Stanley Cup in Carolina playing for Flyers coach Peter Laviolette.
He can attest that it wasn’t a fluke that the Flyers dispatched the Devils in five games, helping to set up the first No. 6 seed vs. No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference draw since the Bruins bowed out to Buffalo in 1999.
“They didn’t put New Jersey away in five games because Jersey played bad,’’ said Recchi. “I think they played good. They’re a good hockey club. I know their coach very well, and they’ll play hard, and they’ll play the right way. We know what this series is going to be all about.’’
So, Recchi said it shouldn’t come as a surprise if there are more one-goal games in this series.
The only surprising aspect of yesterday’s game was that the rekindled rivalry didn’t produce a single penalty in the first period. The teams made up for it with 12 penalties (seven for the Bruins and five for the Flyers) in the second and third periods.
That was not good for the Bruins, since the Flyers were able to crack their vaunted penalty kill with a pair of power-play goals, although the first one was a bit of a softie off the stick of Pronger in the second period.
“I saw it. It went through me. Bad goal,’’ said Rask.
That’s about all Rask did wrong, though, and he and his team are built for a series like this. The Bruins have been playing taut, tense games all year long.
The Bruins have five playoff victories thus far and all but one was by a goal. The fifth was a two-goal win with an empty-netter with 20 seconds left.
If Theo Epstein were the general manager we’d be calling it puck prevention.
“We’ve been through this all year where we’ve just been in close games, so there is no sense getting frustrated,’’ said Recchi. “We showed against [Buffalo goalie Ryan] Miller we just stay with it and we stay with it and we stay with it.
“That’s what we have to do. We’ve got to keep playing our game.
“There is no sense worrying about it. Boucher is going to make great saves. They’re going to make good plays defensively. You just have to make sure that you keep playing relentless and keep playing the right way. They’re going to do the same thing, so it’s going to make for a heck of a series. It’s a good start.’’
But that’s all it was — the start of what promises to be a fight to the finish.