Bruins look for a Flyers rebound
PHILADELPHIA — If there is a certainty about Game 2 tonight in the Eastern Conference semifinal series between the Bruins and the Flyers, it’s that the Flyers will be far sharper than the punch-drunk stumblebums who staggered onto the ice Saturday.
“We know they’re going to come out a lot better,’’ coach Claude Julien, whose Bruins took Game 1, 7-3, said after a brief practice yesterday at the
The Flyers need tighter goaltending, be it Brian Boucher or Sergei Bobrovsky. They need more efficient defense, starting with Chris Pronger, who looked more like a logger than shutdown D-man with slashes on Zdeno Chara, Daniel Paille, and Brad Marchand. And they need even more pressure on the penalty kill, which doesn’t indicate turning fortunes for the 0-for-26 Boston power play.
“I think we just need to take a step back and calm everything down,’’ said Bruins winger Milan Lucic. “Hopefully one will go in off a shinpad or something and it will get rolling.’’
The instant solution to the Bruins’ power play is a player who might not ever return because of concussions: Marc Savard, who has a sweet touch and eagle-eyed vision. The ace playmaker, a fixture on the No. 1 power-play unit, is home in Peterborough, Ontario, where his man-advantage skills are now best employed via tutorial texts to Julien.
“Every once in a while, I’d say, ‘I thought you were going to text me to give me some tips on certain parts of our game.’ As soon as I opened that door, he took advantage of it,’’ Julien said with a smile.
Savard was never himself this year. But for the better part of the last four seasons, he was the power-play quarterback. Everything went through Savard, usually stationed on the right half-wall. He could feed pucks to Chara at the point. He could go down low to goal-line man Mark Recchi. He could thread cross-ice seam passes to Patrice Bergeron.
But with Savard no longer available, the Bruins have had to adjust to a top-heavy formation. Instead of flowing through the half-boards, the play starts at the point from the sticks of Chara or Tomas Kaberle. Savard has been gone for a long time. But one reason the Bruins continue to misfire may be the adjustment from half-wall to point.
“We definitely miss him there. That’s not a big secret,’’ Julien said. “The way he was just poised and would find those areas where to move the puck. Certainly that created some awareness for the other team. They knew how dangerous he was. We lost that part when we lost Marc Savard. It’s not a part that’s easily replaceable. Somehow we’ve got to be able to improve our power play without Marc Savard. It’s been a challenge.’’
In the playoffs, the power play is the only area where the Bruins haven’t compensated for Savard’s absence. They are deeper up the middle with David Krejci, Bergeron, Rich Peverley, and Gregory Campbell. Last season, after Krejci dislocated his wrist in Game 3 of the second round, the Bruins rolled out Bergeron, Savard, Vladimir Sobotka, and Trent Whitfield. Savard was maybe operating at 75 percent. Sobotka was playing with an injured shoulder.
So far in this postseason, Bergeron has a 2-8—10 line, trailing only the Flyers’ Claude Giroux among active playoff scorers. After logging just 1 point against Montreal in the first round, Krejci exploded for two goals and two assists Saturday. Peverley has been centering a third line between Chris Kelly and Michael Ryder that has resembled the No. 3 threesome of Krejci, Ryder, and Blake Wheeler from two years ago. Campbell scored his first career playoff goal Saturday.
The Bruins have a 52.5 percent winning percentage on draws, second-best entering yesterday among active teams behind San Jose. Bergeron has won 61.1 percent of his draws.
After Game 1, the Bruins appeared to have solved their No. 2 concern after the power play. The Canadiens focused all their energies on neutralizing the first line and were nearly successful. Aside from a pair of overtime winners by Nathan Horton, the first line hardly resembled a go-to unit. Lucic looked especially lethargic.
Lucic didn’t record any points Saturday. But he was on the ice for three of his team’s goals. He recorded two shots and four thumps, not including the straight left he landed on Zac Rinaldo to earn a 10-minute misconduct in the third period.
Lucic skated well and was engaged in the play, no doubt sparked by the legs and hands of Krejci, his trusted centerman.
“He did some good things,’’ said Julien. “He had some body checks. He skated much better. There was no doubt he was a much better player for us [on Saturday].’’
Lucic and friends submitted a solid performance. The penalty kill went 4 for 5. Tim Thomas made timely saves when required. Now if only the power play could find some life.