By Joe Haggerty
BOSTON I was asked by Comcast SportsNet Central to come up with three reasons why both the Bruins and Flyers are different than they were a year ago, when Philly rallied from the same 3-0 series deficit it faces now. Here's why the Bs won't repeat last seasons historic collapse:
1)More scoring: Its not the monumental struggle to score goals for the Bruins this time around as it was last year, when Daniel Paille and Miroslav Satan were top-six forwards by the end of the Philly series and Trent Whitfield was taking regular shifts as a bottom-line center over a young forward named Brad Marchand. The Bruins scored nearly one extra goal per game this season than they did last year, when they had the NHLs worst offense. Last year's Bruins had one 20-goal scorer; this year's version has a 30-goal scorer and three other 20-goal scorers. Its still mind-boggling that Marco Sturm led the anemic Bs in goals scored with a mere 22 last season before blowing his knee out in the playoffs.2)Health: Sturm and David Krejci were both out with injuries by this point in the series last year, Dennis Seidenberg (last year's big trade acquisition) never played in the postseason at all after hurting his wrist near the end of the regular season, and Marc Savard was a shadow of himself trying to cut through the fog and fill in against Philadelphia. In addition, Tim Thomas sat on the bench for the entire postseason, mainly due to a balky hip that required surgery. Krejci, Seidenberg and Thomas have been difference-makers this time around. Bostons only injury this series has been bottom-pairing defenseman Adam McQuaid, and thats something they can overcome. 3)Experience: Captain Zdeno Chara and assistant captains Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi were among the nine Bruins on this years squad who lived through the historic collapse. That experience -- feeling the bitterness of the loss, being the butt of jokes over the summer, hearing about it constantly during this season -- has strengthened their resolve this time around. Theres a time-honored belief in sports that teams have to lose, and sometimes lose epically, before they learn how to win, and the Bruins have shown over the last few weeks that theyve most definitely learned how to win.Conversely, here are three reasons why the Flyers are different and wont be able to shock the world this time around:1)Goaltending: The Flyers did switch from Brian Boucher to Michael Leighton last season during their series against the Bruins when an injury sidelined Boucher, but this year they've been going with a goalie-by-committee plan that simply isnt working. The Flyers have been forced to switch goalies in all three of the games against the Bs thus far -- and actually started three different goalies in their seven-game series against Buffalo in the opening round -- and still haven't come up with anyone who looks like he might be the backbone of a comeback. Boucher, 35, has been hanging on for a long time as a fringe guy with moments of brilliance, but he looked cooked while giving up that five-hole goal to Nathan Horton before getting lifted from Game 3. A good lesson for Flyers GM Paul Holmgren: This goaltending-on-the-cheap philosophy is a really crappy idea.2)No Chris Pronger: The mean, minutes-munching workhorse of a defensemen with a Stanley Cup ring and Norris Trophy-level skills played just under 20 minutes in Game 1, and hasnt been heard from since. Maybe its a back injury. Maybe its a hamstring problem. Maybe its a sinus infection, or maybe he aggravated the hand injury he was coming back from. Whatever the case, Pronger is hurting badly and doesnt figure to play again in the series. Thats a huge loss for the Flyers, and every bit as big as if Chara went down for the Bruins. His absence cant be underplayed, and theres been a real lack of intimidation coming from the Flyers with no Pronger around.3)The Odds: The sheer mathematics involved with a team coming back two straight seasons against the same opponent when down 3-0 in a seven-game playoff series is astronomical. Prior to last season, the last time an NHL team blew a 3-0 series lead was 35 years ago (Penguins to the Islanders); it's a once-in-a-generation (if that) sporting phenomenon that doesnt come around all that often. It would have to be the most soft, spineless, weak-minded, spiritually bankrupt team of all time to blow 3-0 playoff series leads in consecutive seasons -- to the same opponent, no less -- and the Bruins are none of those things.