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NHL Playoffs: Flyers, Bruins try to forget last year

Boston’s epic collapse last year is for the media, not the players.

History was made — to rephrase the NHL’s favorite marketing slogan — when the Flyers overcame an 0-3 series deficit to shock the Bruins last year. And now, after both squeaked out first-round wins in seven games, they get to do it again with a new twist.

Revenge? Maybe.

“I don’t buy into that whole what happened last year or what somebody says in the newspaper,” said Flyers coach Peter Laviolette. “Are they going to play harder than they did last year ... I don’t think it’s possible. You’re playing for the Stanley Cup.”

While the teams will play it down, that will be the motivating theme. Both sides have vivid memories, though some cast members have changed — especially in goal. Boston now relies on Tim Thomas, rather than Tuukka Rask, while Brian Boucher seems entrenched — at least for the moment — in Laviolette’s revolving net.

“It’s a completely different element in that atmosphere,” said Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger.

Emotions aside, what will decide who advances to the conference finals, will likely come down to the little things: winning the board battles, getting traffic in front of the net, cycling the puck, winning faceoffs and special teams.

Boston had the better of it head to head this season, going 3-0-1, including 2-0 in Philly. But that’s meaningless now. These are two teams that specialize in grinding, tight checking, physical hockey.

The Flyers have more scoring depth, with Claude Giroux, Danny Briere and James van Riemsdyk playing lights out, coupled with the return of Pronger to bolster the defense and power play.

The Bruins, anchored by Zdeno Chara, are more fundamentally sound. And falling behind early in the series won’t be fatal, since both clubs have climbed off the deck to advance.

Whether history is made again remains to be seen.

Burning questions

1 Who minds the net?

Unless Bernie Parent or Ron Hextall shows up, it seems like Peter Laviolette is ready to commit to Brian Boucher in goal — at least for the first period of Game 1. Boosh responded to every challenge versus Buffalo and should some-thing happen to him, Sergei Bobrovsky may finally be over his playoff stage fright.

2 Who has the power?

If you thought the Flyers’ power play was bad in the playoffs, wait till you hear about the Bruins. Boston went 0-for-21 versus Montreal. During the regular season the teams ranked 19-20. Capitalizing on the man — or two-man — advantage may be the key.

3 My giant or yours?

The Flyers fought past Sabres big man Tyler Myers. Now they must deal with Zdeno Chara, who has made life miserable for them for years. The good news? Chris Pronger seems almost fully recovered from the broken hand that sidelined him six weeks, which would give the Flyers a shot in the arm both on defense and on the power play.

 
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