|ESPN.com: BlogsColumns||[Print without images]|
BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins return to TD Garden on Wednesday night for Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Philadelphia Flyers with a 2-0 lead in the series. Boston dominated Philadelphia 7-3 in Game 1, then stole a win behind 52 saves from Tim Thomas in a 3-2 overtime victory in Game 2.
If the Bruins want to push the Flyers to the brink, here are three keys they'll need to follow in Game 3:
For the second straight season, the Bruins have a chance to go up 3-0 on the Flyers in the conference semifinals. Last season, of course, Boston couldn't close the deal and suffered a historic collapse by losing the last four games of the series. But this team appears to have a focus on the task at hand that the 2010 squad didn't, and it needs to put those qualities to use in Game 3. The Bruins should be happy to be up 2-0 and confident they can make it 3-0.
But that is all they should be confident about. The key to the Bruins' success so far has been to follow the cliche "one game at a time." They have done a great job of not getting too high or too low, and that's how they have to approach Game 3 coming off another dramatic overtime win.
"Of course we're happy to be in this position, but we know they're a proud team and a good team over there and they're not going to just roll over," forward Shawn Thornton said after Game 2. "We just need to play our game and not let them make us worry about what they're doing."
Thornton is exactly right. The Bruins know first-hand that no series lead or lead in a game is safe. After blowing that 3-0 series lead to the Flyers last spring and coming back from a 2-0 series deficit to the Montreal Canadiens in the first round this postseason, the Bruins know momentum can switch quickly. The focus needs to be on Game 3 and that's it.
It would be really easy to say that one of the keys to success for Game 3 would be to get the power play going and break the 0-for-28 drought that they're mired in. But to do that, the Bruins need to continue to move the puck the way they have during certain intervals of five-on-five play.
|Milan Lucic says the Bruins' top line has created better opportunities by stepping up its skating.|
Toward the end of the second period of Game 2, the Bruins controlled the puck with ease in the offensive zone, moving it around the perimeter and down low for chances in front or from the faceoff circles. They were penetrating the Flyers' defense and making them scramble and work hard. For much of Games 1 and 2, the Bruins also skated as a unit through all zones of the ice, and as Milan Lucic pointed out after Game 1, that was a main factor in his line finally starting to generate scoring.
"I think the reason why we had more space and we created more space is because I felt it was our best skating game as a line," Lucic said. "I felt like I was moving my feet a lot better and skating a lot better. I think we were able to create a lot of speed and that's why we were able to get chances and obviously score some goals.
"If you've got the ice, you've got to move your feet, and also support's a big thing. For our line, we were coming up together better and we were supporting each other a lot better and that's why we were able to get some results."
That would be a formula for success on the power play as well.
It is a difficult task to play a road game at home, but that is just what the Bruins need to do in Game 3. The Bruins finished the regular season with the second-best road record in the Eastern Conference at 24-12-5. The Flyers were first with a 25-11-5 record away from home.
Both teams have been better on the road in the playoffs as well with the Bruins going 4-1 thus far and the Flyers 2-1. Just as the Bruins went into the Bell Centre in Montreal down 2-0 after dropping the first two games of the first round at home, the Flyers are in the same situation.
In the Bruins-Habs series, the pressure seemed to be greater on the home team, and it could be the same here. At least that's what Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said following Game 2.
"When you lose your first two games in your home building, I would say that there is a real expectation for the Bruins to win the series now," Laviolette said. "So it relieves us of the pressure, I believe, a little bit to just go in and play a game in Boston. And while that relieves us of the pressure, it certainly mounts onto them to be successful now that they have a 2-0 lead."
"I really like our guys. I think that we're going to go into Boston, we're going to play a strong hockey game, we're going to win a game. This team never quits, and like I said, we get to remove some of that pressure right now."
Laviolette is absolutely correct. The pressure has shifted to the Bruins, especially considering their epic collapse against the Flyers in 2010. The Bruins need to block the pressure out, keep things simple and play their typical road game.
Following Game 2, Mark Recchi credited the Bruins' success to the team being in a "little bubble" while blocking out the media and what's said outside their dressing room. That's much easier to do on the road, and the Bruins need to find a way to take that approach back in Boston on home ice.
James Murphy covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.