What We Learned

Game 1 of the 2011 Flyers vs. Bruins series started off with a proverbial thud for the home team, but what can the coach, the team, and the fans take from the whipping?

Forget the irrelevant. In a pregame interview with NBC, 43-year-old Mark Recchi, a former Flyer and current Bruin, said that the Bruins players have not been pre-occupied with thoughts of making up for last years blown chance of closing out the Flyers after taking a three games to none lead. “Nearly half of this team wasn’t here last year, so it’s not a big deal to us. We are just focused on this year.” Same old cliché’s from a veteran hockey player who does not want to give his opponent any headlines to post on the bulletin board in the locker room. It is completely understandable for Recchi to not draw attention to the past; but if you believe that the Bruins players haven’t been thinking about a rematch since game-seven ended last year, then you probably have pictures of the Lochness Monster, Big Foot, and the Abominable Snowman hanging up in your room. At the same time, the Flyers can’t think of what happened last year, its not going to help them this time around.

Impose fear and close shooting lanes. The Flyers not only have to match the Bruins physical play, with more than Pronger and JVR answering the call, but they also must sacrifice themselves in front of shots for the sake of the team as much as Boston is willing to do. That does not mean that they should go out and hit everything that moves or lay down in front of every shot taken, it means they have to be physical and smart at the same time.

Stay out of the box. The Bruins power play is basically non-existent, but it was easy to see that penalties kill momentum in one fell swoop, damaging any hopes of building sustained pressure on top of one or two positive plays.

Help out the goalie. It is abundantly clear that Tim Thomas is better than whichever goalie plays for the Flyers. Realizing that fact means that the Flyers defense has to play twice as hard as the Bruins do without the calming sense to rely on in net. Covering open spaces in the slot and behind the net, tying up opponents sticks that have any chance of redirecting a shot, back-checking at a fervent pace, and keeping the odd-man rushes to a minimum are all musts. When the weakness is the goalie the idea is to make it easier on him, not to showcase the biggest flaw even more.

Set up match-ups that work in the Flyers favor. Why is the fourth line playing against the Bruins top line? What has Carcillo done to garner so much love and top-line playing time from the coaching staff? As the home team the Flyers have the ability to get the last change before the puck drops. Even the Bruins coach, Claude Julien, said he wants to keep his top guys away from “certain players” on the Flyers bench. Well he only gets the ability to set that up in three games this series, other than that he has to try and react to what Laviolette does. Take advantage of it!

Ultimately, this playoff series will involve the athlete’s body, heart, and determination more than his ability with his stick. Some Flyers players didn’t figure that out before Game 1 was out of reach.

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