For Philadelphia freedom, Bruins need to rejoin battle
WILMINGTON — During the final drill of a 45-minute practice yesterday at Ristuccia Arena, Zdeno Chara triggered the breakout by giving Johnny Boychuk a D-to-D pass. Boychuk then hit Marc Savard, the weak-side center, with a cross-ice pass along the left wall to gain the offensive zone. As Savard barreled into the corner, he whirled around and found Chara at the point for a shot on goal.
Later in the sequence, Milan Lucic cycled out of the corner, set up in the slot, and one-timed a Savard pass toward Tim Thomas.
The directive, following a 4-0 Game 5 blowout, was clear: Crisper breakouts. Cleaner entries into the offensive zone. Stronger board battles for loose pucks. More efficient use of the points to create seams and relieve down-low pressure. Heavy cycling.
Most of all, better decision-making all around.
“We’re successful when we’re keeping the puck in the offensive zone and being strong on it,’’ Blake Wheeler said. “For the most part, we were looking to make the play too quick. If we can hang onto the puck a little bit better and be stronger on it, then things might open up a little better for us. Then we’ll create more sustained offense in the offensive zone. Just being a little bit more patient and a little bit stronger on the puck, and I think we should be able to create more offensive chances for ourselves. They were pretty few and far between [Monday] night.’’
The defensive-minded Bruins, traditionally stingy, have seen the Flyers tuck nine pucks behind Tuukka Rask the last two games.
But in Game 5, it was the team’s spitball offense that led to multiple Philadelphia chances throughout the night. The Bruins, already missing David Krejci and Marco Sturm, saw their offense flicker even more because they didn’t generate enough shots from the point. They didn’t win races along the walls. They didn’t cycle in front of Brian Boucher or Michael Leighton. When the shooting lanes were open, the Bruins were too slow to take advantage.
Really, they didn’t do much at all.
“I wouldn’t really say we were sleeping, necessarily,’’ Wheeler said. “We were out of synch, definitely. No doubt about that. They capitalized. They played really well. They took it to us from the beginning to the end. Anytime something like that happens, it feels pretty bad. It’s pretty embarrassing, especially in front of the home crowd. We’ve been using the next day as redemption all year. There’s no reason to change that right now. Hopefully [tonight] we can give ourselves a better chance to win.’’
If there was a focal point of the Flyers’ game plan on Monday, it was to pressure the points and take away the Boston defensemen’s shots. It’s a tactic they’ve been keen on doing the entire series by sending their forwards out hard at the points. By doing so, neither Boucher nor Leighton had to spend much time peering through traffic and tracking point shots.
“I just think we probably have to make better decisions before we move the puck,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “Those points are open at times. We’ve just got to make sure we make better decisions. When it’s time to move it there, you move it there. When it’s time to take it to the net, you take it to the net. I think a lot of it is our own doing.’’
At the other end, the Flyers executed their high-low game to perfection in the second period prior to a Scott Hartnell goal. The Flyers won battles and moved the puck in the offensive zone, forcing the Bruins to extend their shifts and chase their opponents. On one point shot, Wheeler filled the shooting lane and blocked the attempt. But his gassed teammates failed to pounce on the rebound. Moments later, after cycling the puck down low, Hartnell banged home the rebound of a Danny Briere attempt to give Philadelphia a 2-0 lead.
“On that particular play, it was kind of bad luck,’’ Wheeler said. “We get a good block but we weren’t able to get it out. But they’ve been doing a good job at that, running three guys high. We’ve got to make the adjustment, because they’ve hurt us on a few plays like that.’’
On Monday, the Bruins made their path to the Eastern Conference finals — seemingly guaranteed after taking a 3-0 series lead — that much more challenging by stinking out TD Garden and setting up Game 6 on enemy ice. Confidence is on Philadelphia’s side, as the Flyers are just one win away from setting up a Game 7 crapshoot.
“We had a bad game in our system,’’ said Julien. “It’s up to us now to show that the bad game is out and we’re ready to bounce back. That’s my biggest approach right now. We need to bounce back. Dwelling on [Game 5] is not going to do us any good.’’