If the opening four games of the Eastern Conference Semifinals have taught us anything, it's that two teams as evenly matched as the Boston Bruins
and Philadelphia Flyers
cannot rely on momentum from game to game.
Instead, this best-of-seven matchup has been all about grabbing some sort of edge, shift to shift.
"Yes, that's accurate," Bruins coach Claude Julien
said. "Every game has been hard fought. It's been a good series and it hasn't been dominated by either team. The games have been close. We've scored that extra goal in three of them and they did the same (in Game 4). We expect another good, hard-fought game (Monday, 7 p.m. ET, TSN2, CSN-PH, NESN)."
The Bruins currently hold a 3-1 lead simply because they've been able to take advantage of more breaks and bounces.
"I think we have similar teams, similar lineups. Both teams have players who can put the puck in the net and both teams have grit and a lot of physical ability. It's a matter of who executes the best on a given shift." -- Philadelphia Flyers forward Blair Betts
"Usually, the games come down to who makes less mistakes, who makes that last mistake," Bruins defenseman Dennis Wideman
said. "We made the last one in the last game and it's just a matter of who's winning the battles, who's got the extra step whenever the game is going back and forth. Usually, the team that's winning the races to the puck is the one taking the momentum.
"There're a lot of momentum shifts of good power play and bad power play, big scoring chances and mistakes, and it's a chess battle to get yourself going."
As the old adage goes, every team creates its own breaks. Boston certainly has done that, but the Flyers finally got a taste of the good life during a 5-4 overtime victory in Game 4 Friday. They'll look to extend the series at least one more game Monday.
"Making your own breaks is all about hard work and persistence," Flyers forward Darroll Powe
told NHL.com. "If you keep working hard and keep throwing things on net, you're eventually going to get bounces. There's no point in whining about things you can't control. You just focus on your effort and game plan and maybe a bounce or two will go your way."
In every game of this series, the home team has taken a lead only to see the visitors battle back to tie on six different occasions -- or three aside.
The Bruins have received goals from 10 different players in the series and the Flyers from eight. Both goalies equally have been good, coming up big in certain spots and wishing they had another chance in others. For the most part, Boston's Tuukka Rask
and Philadelphia's Brian Boucher
haven't actually stolen a game. Rask is allowing three goals per game with a .909 save percentage in four games, while Boucher sports a 3.75 goals-against average with an .878 save percentage.
Prior to Game 4, the Flyers held a lead in the series for a measly 1:39, following Arron Asham
's goal at the 2:32 mark of an eventual Game 3 loss. On Friday, not only did the Flyers outscore (5-2) and outshoot (30-29) the Bruins while playing five-on-five, but they held a lead in the game for 24:29, as compared to Boston for 3:29.
Perhaps that's the secret to the Flyers' success -- beating their opponent at even strength.
"I think we have similar teams, similar lineups," Flyers forward Blair Betts
said. "Both teams have players who can put the puck in the net and both teams have grit and a lot of physical ability. It's a matter of who executes the best on a given shift."
The Bruins are hitting at 21.4-percent efficiency on the power play in this series (3-for-14). Boston is ranked fourth in the League this postseason with a 25-percent success rate on the man advantage (9-for-36). They've experienced greater success on the road (26.7 percent) than at TD Garden (23.8). The Bruins are 2-1 when connecting for a power-play goal in this series, so it would seem imperative that they strike when given the man-advantage opportunity.
"The main thing for us is being smart in our end," Bruins forward Steve Begin
said. "We need to be strong along the boards, shoot the puck more and get in front of the net and their goalie. That's something we'll have to do a little bit more of."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com