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Saturday, May 7, 2011
19 years in the making: Bruins sweep the Flyers and move on to Eastern Conference finals vs. Tampa Bay
For some reason, I was totally confident going into Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals between the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers last night.
With a commanding 3-0 lead (just like last year), I felt like this Bruins team was different and the shadow of last season's epic demise was about to get forgotten.
My premonitions couldn't have been more right as the Bruins won 5-1 at TD Garden to sweep the Flyers and erase the demons of last season. It's a new team and a new season, time to move on.
Boston advances on to its first Eastern Conference finals in 19 years and they'll have home-ice advantage against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The final score is misleading since the B's added two empty-net goals but Boston led for a majority of the game and gave their skittish fan base reason to believe that they would get this one done in regulation.
The only bad news (there always seems to be some with this franchise) for the B's is that Patrice Bergeron-their MVP so far (not named Tim Thomas)-suffered a mild concussion on a hit by Philly's Claude Giroux. It looks like he's out for the Tampa Bay series, opening the door for Tyler Seguin to get his first NHL playoff experience.
I am beyond bummed for Bergeron. He has almost had his career ended (twice) with nasty concussions. Nobody deserves that but especially not him. Fingers crossed that he can recover and his career wouldn't be further affected. It makes me sick to think how well he has played in this playoff run and how he's probably done for it no matter how far they go.
With the power-play scoreless streak finally ended in Game 3, the biggest issue facing the Bruins was getting Milan Lucic off his personal goal-less streak. Mission accomplished as Looch put in his first two of the 2011 playoffs and it couldn't have come at a better time.
Lucic gave Boston a 1-0 lead at 12:02 of the first period on some tic-tac-toe passing with linemates Nathan Horton and David Krejci on the power-play. All he had to was redirect it in.
The Flyers showed some fight as Kris Versteeg (1st of the playoffs) tied it up at 13:22 of the second period. Mike Richards assisted on the goal but it was all thanks to Brad Marchand who gave the puck away at center ice, allowing Versteeg to basically walk in alone on Thomas (22 saves).
Right after Bergeron went off with his injury in the beginning of the third period, Johnny Boychuk (2nd of the season) scored what turned out to be the game-winner and series-clincher. Michael Ryder sent it back to Boychuk at the point and the put it up high over Flyers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (22 saves), who got the start for the first time in the series.
Lucic scored his second of the game at 15:03 after a nifty pass in the neutral zone from Horton sprung him. Marchand (5th of the playoffs) scored his empty-netter at 18:04 from Mark Recchi and Rich Peverley while Daniel Paille (2nd of the playoffs) got his at 19:35 from Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton.
Exhale. So yeah, your Boston Bruins are one of the final four teams left in the NHL playoffs. One series win away from the Stanley Cup finals. Eight wins away from breaking a 39-year Stanley Cup drought. Heady stuff.
Don't know too much about the Lightning other than obviously Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier. Goaltender Dwayne Roloson has played well in the postseason but honestly, I haven't seen much of either series (vs. Pittsburgh and Washington). I do remember from the regular season vs. Boston that Tampa Bay plays the slimy style of Montreal. Lots of flopping, diving, crying, whining. Not good. As we saw from the first round vs. the second round, the B's matchup so much better with a team that plays with an edge.
The Eastern Conference finals could start as early as Tuesday night, depending on when the Western Conference semifinals (Vancouver up 3-1 on Nashville and San Jose up 3-1 on Detroit) end, or as late as Saturday. The Hub of hockey is alive and well with plenty of action left for us, what a time to be a Bruins fan.