The Boston Bruins can do something Friday night they couldn't do last season: sweep the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference semifinals and advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 1992. Here are four keys to achieving that feat in Game 4 at TD Garden.
Philadelphia Flyers vs. Boston Bruins Game 4, Friday at 8 p.m. ET | TD Garden
1. Don't forget last year
Throughout the regular season and the playoffs -- and especially this series -- the Bruins' mantra has consistently been that last year was last year; the blown 3-0 series lead over the Flyers in the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals has nothing to do with the 2011 Eastern Conference semifinals against the Flyers. Lo and behold, they hold another 3-0 lead against the Flyers.
With all due respect to the theory of moving on -- and yes, in some sense, the Bruins have -- who are they kidding?
The Bruins could go through the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs and win their first Stanley Cup in 39 years, but let's face it, they still will always have to live with being that team that blew the 3-0 series lead and 3-0 Game 7 lead to the Flyers in 2010.
Boston sports fans, ask yourself this question: Would the 2004 World Series and breaking of the 86-year curse have been as sweet if the Red Sox hadn't beaten the Yankees in the American League Championship Series and exorcised their demons of the past? No. Now the Bruins have the chance to exorcise their demons -- and even better, they were able to beat the hated Montreal Canadiens in the first round. This couldn't have been scripted better. The Bruins need to stop pretending they won't enjoy writing this all-important chapter.
The players who were there shaking hands with the Flyers after Game 7 last year need to remember that feeling and tell those who weren't there that they're not going to come close to doing that again. Time to finish what they started last season and complete the sweep.
2. Match the Flyers' desperation
When a team is facing elimination, it's going to leave everything out there on the ice. That's what the Bruins expected in Game 3 with the Flyers down 2-0 in the series, but they successfully stopped any momentum Philadelphia could generate before it had a chance to start. The Bruins need to do that again and need to pretend it's their backs against the wall. They need to play with controlled desperation when the Flyers come out with an all-out game of desperation.
Obviously, the first goal will help, as it did in Game 3. But the Bruins must match the Flyers' motivation no matter what and, at the same time, stay calm and within the game plan.
3. Keep going on the power play
After going 0-for-30 on the power play, the Bruins finally scored on a 5-on-3 advantage in Game 3 when captain Zdeno Chara blasted one by Flyers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky at 18:38 of the third period. The Bruins' power play had been getting better to that point and was finally rewarded. The Bruins need to keep getting the puck down low and have their defensemen pinching when they can. If they can get Chara closer to unleash his shot and then have guys in front, the goals will continue to come.
In Game 4, the power-play chances will probably come because, while they will try to be disciplined, the Flyers will be aggressive as they try to stave off elimination. The Bruins need to use every power play they can to deflate the Flyers and take advantage of their desperation.
4. Play for each other
The Bruins players would never admit it, but during that series against Philadelphia last season, they stopped playing like a team and got caught up in their own frustrations and mistakes. But throughout these playoffs, the Bruins have backed each other up not only when opponents take shots after the whistle or take liberties with Tim Thomas, but also when one player or line is struggling.
When the first line has been flat, the second and third lines have picked up the slack or the fourth line has taken a game-changing shift, such as the long one it had in overtime of Game 2 prior to David Krejci's game-winning goal. They need to do that in Game 4 and going forward in the playoffs -- keep playing as a team.
James Murphy covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.