The Series: #2 Philadelphia Flyers (47-23-12, 106 pts.) vs. #3 Boston Bruins (46-25-11, 103 pts)

Regular Season: The Bruins took the regular season series, winning three of the four games.  The Flyers only win against Boston came in overtime.

How they Match Up: Both teams were involved in seven game series last round.  The Bruins needed overtime to defeat the Canadiens in game seven, while the Flyers turned it on in their final game against the Sabres and won handily.  This is a second seed versus third seed match-up, so the two teams are very close.  Both won their respective divisions during the year.

History:

Just mention the words “Playoff series with the Philadelphia Flyers” to anyone who supports the Boston Bruins and watch how they go into convulsions.  Last season the Bruins defined “postseason collapse” when they built up a 3-0 series lead against Philadelphia and then watched it crumble before them.

It was one of those rare times where history actually was made.

Whether the Bruins look at that loss as a building block towards a better showing this year or they allow it to fill them with doubt may determine who wins this series.

Key Players:

Daniel Briere has six goals and one assist after the first round of the playoffs as he routed his former team, the Buffalo Sabres.  Claude Giroux has nine points so far in these playoffs.  Both of these players will need to continue their offensive performances for the Flyers.

Perhaps the biggest key player for Philadelphia is Chris Pronger.  He returned to the Flyers line-up in game six and despite that fact that he only played 4:33 in that game, the Flyers won both games with Pronger on the ice.  He played 17:27 in game seven and to seems that he’ll receive his regular ice time during the next round.  He played an average of 22:49 during the regular season.

For Boston, Nathan Horton scored two game winning goals against Montreal.  He’s certainly fitting in well in his first ever Stanley Cup playoffs.  Another player who is warming up in the playoffs is Chris Kelly.  He has three goals and three assists in the playoffs thus far and has certainly elevated his game.

On the back end, it’s impossible to talk about the Boston Bruins without mentioning their towering captain Zdeno Chara.  The Norris Trophy finalist is always an imposing figure on the blue line.  Tim Thomas will need to elevate his game in order to battle off the Flyers offense.

Potential Weaknesses:

At this point it almost seems redundant to mention the Flyers goaltending as a potential weakness.  Unfortunately, that area remains a question mark for Philadelphia.  Their revolving door in net saw the Flyers use three different goaltenders in the span of seven games.  Brian Boucher started four games, Sergei Bobrovsky started two and Michael Leighton started one.  Boucher picked up all four victories for Philadelphia, however.

For the Bruins, the power play will be a huge weakness if it doesn’t get much better very soon.  Boston didn’t score a single goal with the man advantage against Montreal.  They were 0-for-21 on the power play, which is typically the kind of statistic that sends a team to the golf course.  While the Bruins pathetic performance with the man advantage didn’t cost them the series against the Habs, it could likely do so against the Flyers.

Key Injuries:

The health of Chris Pronger will continue to be a question for Philadelphia.  While he seems to be back to normal right now, that may not last long.  A Toronto Sun article recently remarked that “Chris Pronger looked as if he had just survived a train wreck, not a playoff hockey game” during a post-game press conference.

The Bruins have suffered through a number of injuries this season, most notably to Marc Savard.  However, they seem to be relatively healthy right now.  As healthy as a team in the playoffs can be, that is.

Difference Makers:

The Flyers success will depend on Pronger a great deal.  They’re a completely different team without him than they are with him.  Their goaltending will also need to hold up against the Bruins’ attack.

For the Bruins,  Patrice Bergeron leads the team in points during the postseason.  He could be a big difference maker for Boston.  Milan Lucic only had two assists in the first round.  He’ll be counted on to step up his game against Philadelphia, both on the scoresheet and in the physical department.

Prediction:

Both teams are very strong.  They both spread their offense around and have deep, balanced offensive skill.  They are both very hard-hitting teams who won’t hesitate to throw the body around and grind out goals when needed.  In actuality, this series could go either way.  However, based on stronger goaltending, the edge goes to Boston.  Bruins in seven.