Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Satan feels it against Philly
By Matt Kalman
BOSTON -- When it comes to the NHL playoffs, Bruins winger Miroslav Satan owns the Philadelphia Flyers.
That fact was pointed out to him after Monday's morning skate in preparation for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series with those Flyers at TD Garden.
"I'm not going to talk about it then," the 35-year-old veteran, who has obviously honed his hockey superstition over the years.
The trend, however, is just too great to ignore. And it continued in the Bruins' 3-2 victory Monday, as the elusive winger scored a goal and assisted on Milan Lucic's game-winner to run his career total to 10 goals and 13 assists in 23 games against his favorite opponent.
Satan has now nine points (four goals) in eight games this postseason. This after he joined Boston in January and contributed just 14 points in 38 games. Satan has been able to make sweet music alongside David Krejci since the playoffs started, and since Game 6 of the Buffalo series Lucic has been creating space for his good-hands linemates.
"That's one thing," Satan said of the impact of his linemates on his increased playoff production. "And you know, I've got a much bigger role than during the regular season. To be on the ice and to have more ice time, so I play, I feel more into it and I can play better."
Back in his Buffalo days, Satan and the Sabres seemed to run into Philadelphia every year in the playoffs. Four times between 1997 and 2001, Satan met up with the Flyers. Twice the Sabres prevailed and twice they were sent home.
The faces have changed and the league's enforcement of the rules has tightened, but the tough-guy mentality in the Philadelphia dressing room remains. Satan says the way to counter the Flyers' ruggedness also has remained consistent.
"You have to be hard to play against also, and the same way be smart and not sucked in or take any penalties," he said.
Satan has found that scoring is probably the best way to answer whatever the Flyers throw at his teams, whether it's shots on net or fists to the face. And skating alongside Krejci has made producing offense a smoother endeavor.
While Satan is Slovak and Krejci hails from the Czech Republic, they can understand one another's languages. However, that's not necessary because Satan says they use the silent "hockey language" on the ice.
"We don't speak on the ice. There's no need, we just play," said Satan.
Krejci said a little verbalization goes on during play.
"Sometimes we speak in our language on the ice so that helps too," said the center. "But I know what he can do. He has great hands, so we try to help each other out there and that's what's happening right now. He's hot lately, so hopefully he'll stay hot and I'll try to help him as much as I can."
A four-time 30-plus goal-scorer in the NHL (including one 40-goal year), Satan has shown that age hasn't diminished his finishing skills. One spot in particular has been kind to him -- the right faceoff dot in the East attacking zone. Including Monday's score, Satan has put two past Flyers goaltender Brian Boucher from that spot in this series. It might be time to name that piece of real estate "Satan's Spot."
Of course, if he keeps on his current pace and the Bruins keep marching on in the playoffs, fans will be ready to name the whole building after him.
"He's finding ways to score goals and that's the reason why he was brought on this team, to provide and produce and score goals," said Lucic. "He's done a good job of that. He's on the top of his game right now, playing with a lot of confidence and that's why he's been successful."
Satan has come a long way this season from his autumn days without a contract, skating with injured New York Islanders players on Long Island. He signed with the Bruins just in time to be thrust into the lineup because of an injury to Patrice Bergeron -- one of too many injuries to count to key Bruins players this season.
The Bruins slowly eased Satan into the lineup and he nudged his way into the team's solid dressing room chemistry. His scoring touch and Stanley Cup-winning acumen have become big parts of the Bruins' success.
"He's been a real good addition," said coach Claude Julien. "Like I said, you've got to give management credit for that one, to bring him in. Right now, he's so useful with the injury to Marco Sturm and other things that have happened to us. He's just stepped in and done a tremendous job."
Philadelphia won't be the opponent forever, but Satan is going to enjoy feasting on the Flyers while he can. He was asked if there's something about those orange and white jerseys that brings out the scoring machine in him.
"No. I think I'm just trying to win the series, that's all," he said.
At this pace, Satan's going to lead Boston to that series victory and push his career record against the Flyers over the .500 mark. Then maybe he'll be more willing to talk about his playoff mastery of Philadelphia.
|Miroslav Satan had a goal and an assist Monday, giving him 23 points in 23 career postseason games against the Flyers.|
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for ESPN Boston and runs TheBruinsBlog.net. His first book, 100 Things Bruins Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, will be published by Triumph Books in the fall and can be pre-ordered here.