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On the Eve of Round 2...

by Samantha Wood / Boston Bruins
Boston Bruins players, from left, Blake Wheeler, Shawn Thornton and Mark Recchi rest during practice in Wilmington, Mass. Thursday, April 29, 2010.The surprising Boston Bruins barely made it into the NHL playoffs as the sixth-seeded team. Then they upset the Buffalo Sabres. And now they have home-ice advantage in the second round against the Philadelphia Flyers. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Boston, MA – As Round 2 nears, the Bruins are busy preparing at the TD Garden, on the same ice on which they will face the Philadelphia Flyers in roughly 24 hours.

It’s one of the most unlikely scenarios in Stanley Cup playoff history—the sixth-seeded Bruins are facing the seventh-seeded Flyers in Boston. Not to mention, all three top seeds in the Eastern Conference are officially out of the running.

Unlikely, but true.

The Bruins wrapped up the regular season with the worst rated offense in the League, with only 196 goals scored. (The Flyers scored 232, putting them in the 8th slot.)

However, on the other end of the ice, the Bruins fared better. They earned the second-best defensive spot, with only 191 goals scored against them. (The Flyers had 222 scored on them, ranking them 15th).

No matter where they ended up after 82 games, both teams have been performing in the postseason with the energy and optimism as if it were a new season entirely.

The former “underdog” teams have proven themselves to be dangerous against any squad, no matter their regular season resume.

In the first round, the Bruins outplayed Olympic goaltender Ryan Miller and his Buffalo Sabres, four games to two. In a similar fashion, the Flyers upset the second-seeded New Jersey Devils, despite barely making it into the playoffs as the eighth seeds themselves.

Now, with the favorited teams watching from home, Round 2 will be underdog vs. underdog.

“Obviously, Philly being in the second round in five games, means that their goaltender played well also,” said B’s head coach Claude Julien, referring to Philly’s 33-year-old goalie Brian Boucher. “That’s going to be one of those series where it’s going to be hard-fought.

“You know, I can’t stand here and pinpoint one area. I think it’s going to be a hard-fought series and we’re going to need a lot more than just figuring out the goaltender if we want to win.”

Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic leaves the ice after practice in Wilmington, Mass. Thursday, April 29, 2010. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Though each team has specific strengths and weaknesses, one common thread is that of a goaltender surpassing expectations.

Boucher began the 2009-10 season as the Flyers’ third-string goalie and surprised everyone when, after injuries to Ray Emery and Michael Leighton, he took the number one spot and led his team to the playoffs.

The vet now leads playoff goalies in goals against average with 1.59 as well as save percentage with .940.

In the opposite net is Boston’s Tuukka Rask, the much-acclaimed rookie goalie who wrapped up his first full regular NHL season leading in both categories as well. Since beginning his first NHL playoff appearance, the 23-year-old has earned a 2.18 GAA and a .927 save percentage, both of which rank him fourth.

The solid goaltending from both teams have allowed for their respective offenses to pick up speed, and their crash-and-bang styles to flourish in the postseason.

“You have to be in control,” said B’s captain Zdeno Chara. “We know that they have personnel that they like to play that kind of a game, but you just have to play hard and I’m sure they’re going to do the same.

“Like I said, there’s going to be a lot of battles.”

Patrice Bergeron agreed with Chara’s assessment, and added that both teams have proven that, in the playoffs, anything is possible. Preparation is the key, he said.

“We always believed in our capacities and the way that we could play,” Bergeron said. “The first round was a good example of that—that we just believed in ourselves and we just played.

“But we need to be ready for that second round. Obviously Philly, they finished lower than us, but at the same time they’re a good team and they played really well and they’re a good team.”

Both stars said that they were excited to have the series begin. Even before the first puck has been dropped, it has already been an interesting match-up—one that the Black & Gold are more than ready for.

“It’s going to be a tough series,” said Chara. “We all know that Philly likes to play that kind of a style and they’re an extremely hardworking team.”

“It’s going to be a lot of battles and that’s always been the case, playing the Flyers. We just have to be ready for that, and like I said, it’s going to be a good, tough series.”
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