By Michael Felger
Two quick Bruins thoughts for you heading into Game 2 in Philadelphia tonight:
I've working on some theories about goaltending in the NHL playoffs, and in the Philadelphia Flyers we have a great case study.
They are the team that proves my theory -- the importance of goaltending in the postseason has been oversold to you.
But they are also the team that proves the theory has its limits.
Put another way:
While goaltending may not be the most important thing in the postseason -- as I keep saying, I'd put it third on the list behind overall team skill and, for lack of a better description, testicle size -- that doesn't mean it's worthless.
Far from it. History has shown that if your goaltending isn't good enough to at least compliment first two things, then your run will come to an end short of the Stanley Cup. You may get by for a round or two, and if you're a truly talented team then maybe even a third, but you will ultimately fall short of a championship.
This is all a long way of saying that the mess in the Flyers net is going to catch up to them eventually this postseason. They will get beat because of their clown-car rotation of Brian Boucher, Michael Leighton and Sergei Bobrovsky.
The question is whether the Bruins are good enough to be the ones to do it.
They weren't last year. Neither were the Devils nor the Canadiens. And the Sabres didn't have enough this year, either. In every one of those series, the opponent had the decided edge over the Flyers in net, but Martin Brodeur, Tuukka Rask, Jaoslav Halak and Ryan Miller weren't enough to overcome the Flyers' talent and toughness.
The only team to beat the Flyers in the postseason the last two years was the only one that had more skill, last year's Blackhawks. Then and only then did Philly's problems in net cost them, as Chicago averaged just over four goals a game in the Stanley Cup Finals and ultimately closed it out on a bad angle shot by Patrick Kane in overtime of Game 6.
So there's the answer to the question:
How far can you go with bad goaltending?
Deep into the Cup Finals.
The point for the Bruins in this series should be clear: Tim Thomas, for all his excellence this year and this week, won't be enough to take out the Flyers alone.
If the Bruins don't continue to apply pressure offensively, if they don't continue to finish around the net and get skilled plays from their skilled players, they will lose.
The way the B's played in the offensive zone on Saturday was what it will take the rest of the series. The first line played like a first line. The defensemen, particularly postseason standout Dennis Seidenberg, took chances and made plays. And most importantly, the forwards created enough action in front of the crease for Boucher and Bobrovsky to look like what they are -- not good enough.
But don't be fooled. If the Bruins don't continue to give the Flyers goalies an opportunity to collapse -- they won't. And your big advantage in net won't end meaning a thing.
A final word on the way the Montreal Canadiens played in Game 7 last Wednesday:
What a disgrace.
Jobs and reputations were at stake. Everything was on the line. It was a defining moment for a host of players who have devoted their lives to competition. And the Canadiens tried to win the game on a series of fakes, dives and embellishments.
The worst, in my mind, was Jeff Halpern going down in a heap after a behind-the-play collision with defenseman Andrew Ference. Of course, Halpern stayed down long enough for the trainers to come out and help him off the ice -- even though he obviously wasn't hurt. Halpern returned to the ice a few minutes later.
It was an embellishment that could have cost the B's the game and Ference a suspension. Fortunately, the NHL once again refused to take the cheese from the Canadiens and Ference wasn't disciplined.
"It sucks," Ference told us on 98.5 the Sports Hub. "Initially I always give guys the benefit of the doubt. I grew up out West, and guys don't stay down unless they have to be carted off by the Zamboni . . . But he's back out there less than two minutes later. So that one's tough to swallow, knowing it can get you in trouble, especially at that time in the game. It's a big penalty. It would be a shame.
"Ninety nine percent of the Canadiens game I really respect . . . They have a lot of really, really good things about their team. But that stuff is hard to swallow. Same with the Spacek one the night before when Looch hit him. He wasn't out too long, either.
"It's just not how I grew up. I have a really good memory I have of a coach I had growing up who sat us down in the locker room and told us he's never, ever going to come on to the ice to help us off. And if we need help, the Zamboni better come cart you off because both legs better be broken. And I think I was 8 years old at the time. So that's how I grew up and that's how I learned to play the game."
The Canadiens clearly operate by a different set of values.
E-mail Felger HERE and read the mailbag on Thursdays. Listen to him on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.