I understand the pessimism given the wildly uneven performance of the team in the last 2 years. Then we can factor in the seemingly unending stream of bad luck and injuries, only the latest being the loss of Brian Boucher who was leading the playoffs with a .233 GAA and posting a respectable .915 save %.
The thing is-- this is not the regular season. If anything the Flyers have shown incredible consistency and resilience getting into the post season and so far. From a statistics point of view, we all know the incredible odds against coming back from a 0-3 hole, but at this point, there are a lot of reasons to think the Flyers have everything in place to mount a historic comeback. I lay out 14 separate factors after the jump.
First thing first, let me inject some much needed perspective: this comes down to winning 2 games against the Bruins. Not the Caps, Penguins, Rangers, Red Wings, Vancouver, Sharks, or for that matter any team that would cause the Flyers to 2nd guess themselves. The Flyers already have emerged into an elite group by forcing a game 6 after being down 0-3, so there's no reason to think that with that out of the way, they can't beat the Bruins in 2 straight games.
My arbitrary list of Factors:
1. Momentum: Flyers
-Clearly the Flyers have had things going their way in the last 2 games. When Scott Hartnell emerges from a 10 month funk, there's just no denying something magical has happened to the Flyers.
2. Goal Tending: Boston
-Huge unknown here. Leighton showed ice water in his veins this year, and has a history of outstanding playoff play in the minors, but we'd still have to give the edge here to Boston. With that said, Rask has looked tired and his defense is being worn down.
3. Defense: Even
-A case could probably be made that the Flyers are in better shape than the Bruins as they are missing Seidman, but I'll call this one even, just to be extra judicious.
4. Personnel & Injuries: Flyers
-Boosh, Carter, Lappy were all huge blows, but there isn't a team in the east that isn't missing key players, even if not equally of that magnitude. As far as Boston is concerned however, they are one of the few teams that has lost players of equal value to their club, and what's worse for them, is that they have lost 2 of them in this series. We were fortunate to get Gags back, and that may be the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back, because he has come up absolutely huge for the Flyers when all we were really hoping for was to get his defensive abilities back. Certainly in game 5 the Flyers got a lot more use out of their call ups, since the game was tilted decidedly in our favor and the coaching staff wisely stepped up the 4th line minutes.
5. Offense: Flyers
There's no doubt that the Flyers have more offensive fire power. They also have made huge strides in solving Rask, and also in finally scoring on the PP. Purely from a morale point of view, the Bruins are clearly demoralized right now.
6. Home Ice: Flyers
Since game 6 is in Philly, obviously that's the gauntlet to game 7 that both teams need to face. With the Bruins looking as worn down as they have at points the last 2 games, the crowd energy should be a positive thing for the Flyers, especially if they can come out early and establish the same high energy and effective forechecking that lead to an 8-2 penalty advantage in game 5. Should they force a game 7 in Boston... well Boston fans were so supportive of their team, they rained down debris at the end of game 4 forcing several stoppages. That's what they did when their team was up 3-1!!!! What happens if they get behind early in a game 7? Might we see a mob breaking out tar and feathers and running Claude Julien through the streets? Say what you may about Flyers fans... we have a once a decade stink bomb incident, and people might have left earlier than they should have in game 3's disappointing loss, but in general, this is a town that loves the Flyers organization, and although we've endured a similar drought, the Bruins fans seem to have a lot less patience at this point.
7. Pressure: Flyers
The pressure is entirely on the Bruins not to choke, which is a much worse position to be in. The Flyers have been playing with their back against the wall and as underdogs right to the wire, and clearly that's a better place to be in terms of pressure.
8. Morale: Flyers
Game 4 was an absolutely huge loss for the Bruins. I don't think you can underestimate how much that cost them from a morale point of view. Not only did they get huge breaks, and get a lights out performance from Recchi, tie it with under 40 seconds in the game, but that still wasn't enough to carry them to a victory that would have had them all in the jacuzzi waiting to see who they face next. Now they're tired, beat up, facing the same questions that have dogged them all year, and seemingly awakened from a very pleasant dream that saw them waltzing through a series that many had expected to be a classic war of attrition against a team that matches up against you more than a little favorably. That dream is now a nightmare as you're playing without 2 of your best offensive players. And if you *don't* win, you literally become part of NHL history, and become part of a group that is literally every hockey player's worst nightmare.
9. Back Checking: Even
Both teams have been really good at this. Maybe the surprise for people is that everyone knows how good the Bruins are at team D, but the Flyers uneven play may have lead people to believe that they aren't a good back checking team, which is really not true, with a few exceptions.
10. Puck Possession: Flyers
The Flyers have controlled the puck for much of the series, and I don't see that changing. If you can't break down the Flyers and pin them in their own end, you're in big trouble, especially when you don't have a lot of offensive fire power.
11. Role Players: Flyers
We're getting huge efforts from Powe, Krajicek and Leino. Is there anyone on the Bruins you can make similar claims about?
12. Difference makers: Flyers
The turning tide comes down to this:
The OMGagne factor is clearly the tipping point of this series. The Flyers got Simon back, the Bruins lost Krejci. I don't think given the last 2 games, too much more needs to be said about much of a factor this turned out to be.
-Mike Richards has been a monster. He's throwing blistering hits out there, and brought some of his best offense to the table.
Is giving the Flyers exactly what they need right now, which is the offensive support from the blueline that you need to crack the Bruin's defensive shell. Pronger and Kimmo continue their hall of fame careers. The Bruins continue to make it tough, but they simply don't have anyone who is able right now to provide the same to their forwards, who just aren't capable of beating the Flyers 5 on 5 right now.
Was really good the first three games. The last 2, he's looked average.
I love the guy, future hall of famer, 43 years old... if this wasn't the Flyers I'd be pulling for him. The Bruins already got way more from Mark in both series than they should have expected. The problem is... he's been their best offensive player. If I was a Boston fan, I'd be beyond worried about things right now.
Probably there aren't a lot of teams that match up to the Bruins, given Zdeno Chara's huge ironman effort and unparalleled shutdown abilities. The Flyers just happen to be one of those teams (cough) Chris Pronger (cough). The difference here is that you can see that Chara now feels he needs to not only continue to be the anchor for their defense, but also find some untapped offensive ability. You could see Chara attempting this in the 3rd period of game 5, and frankly it doesn't bode well for the Bruins, as Chara was -1 in the last 2 games, and has 5 points in the playoffs. The Flyers have wisely been punishing Chara all series and it's been starting to wear the big guy down. When you see Danny Briere throwing himself at Chara you know there's a scheme in place- wear down Chara and you wear down the Bruins team. And it's been working and will continue to work. Meanwhile, Pronger in his methodical fashion disrupts the Bruins whenever he's on the ice, and is able to pick his spots along with Carle, jumping up opportunistically rather than having to try and force the issue.
Savard: Scores a huge OT goal, and has since seemed to have completely lost his perspective. Maybe the Bruins have also lost perspective and forgot that this is a guy who at best should be working his way back into playing shape. Instead the Bruins are leaning on him and his line like they're the Bruins #1 line. Expect to see more frustration and silliness like what happened at the end of game 5 with his attack on Richards. Expect the Flyers to continue to rock Savard any chance they get, and continue to get him off his game and further derail his line.
Bergeron: Wait is he playing? He has to have the quietest 11 points in the playoffs. Worse yet a lot of those came off goals by Satan.
Satan: Played like he didn't have a care in the world since joining the Bruins, and probably he didn't. But now that the Bruins surprised everyone and there's some pressure on, he's in the unenviable position of being the focal point of the Bruins offense, and having to match up against their shutdown D. As a rental player in the tail of his career, I think the Bruins already hit the jackpot with his play, and he has a history of absolutely killing the Flyers. I can't take anything away from the guy and his career, but again... "Really? Satan and Recchi are your top goal scorers in the playoffs at ages 36 + 43? (yup that's 79 combined!)". In the first 3 games Satan had 3 goals, in the last 2 he had none.
13. Power Play: Bruins
One bright spot for the Bruins has been their power play, especially given the success of their PK. If the Flyers were to suddenly derail and spend a lot of time in the box that could swing things back in the B's favor, however unlikely, but the Flyers power play isn't exactly bad, although clearly not as good as it was with Lappy logging substantial minutes. As for the Flyers... well, top 3 in the league through the year, but without Carter it just isn't going to be the same unit.
14. Faceoffs: Bruins
This is not going to change, but the Flyers continue to struggle badly on faceoffs. Several lost faceoffs cost the Flyers big in the first 3 games.
Flyers - 9
Bruins - 3
Even - 2
I like our chances!