With the series shifting back to Boston one has to wonder if they Bruins can keep their recent home dominance in effect. Aside from Thomas and two or three others it would be hard for them to put in a worse effort than they did in game two. The Flyers had a great effort in the early reaches of the first, van Riemsdyk seemingly generated chances at will and the Bruins just survived aside from that critical minute in overtime, and the two minute span in the first when they tied the game.

In, out and how much. With the status of Pronger, Carter, McQuaid and Hnidy wrapped in tighter secrecy than the raid that brought down Osama bin Laden, who is in and how much time they see could be very telling. McQuaid only played a few minutes in the last game before getting injured, and Hnidy played a handful of shifts in the second game against Montreal when Chara was out. For Carter and Pronger the injuries seem to be sever enough to mean they should only play in must win.

Goalie roulette, which goalkeepers will the Flyers employ tonight and will they prove the chamber that has the bullet or not? More importantly if they prove potentency is the barrel aimed at their bench or the Bruins bench?

What will the first 15 minutes look like? Last game saw all but the game winner scored before fifteen minutes had ticked away, will we see four goals in that time again?

Which Bruins team shows up? Which Flyers team?

 

In the last week or so the NHL front offices have been busy with minutia that either didn’t need to be addressed at all or could have been handled with a quiet call.  On the quiet front, Zdeno Chara’s memo reminding him of the leagues contract with Gatorade (a Pepsi company) and that drinking a competitors product on the bench was in violation of that agreement was a touch over done. One phone call to the Bruins offices, or the equipment management team to remind them to put things in an unlabeled container would probably have led to far less mocking from the fans.

Having dealt with an issue that surely threatened the financial sovereignty they moved on to exposing some of the most villainous men in creation. No, not Al Queda, or the Taliban, not a child pornography ring or human traffickers, it wasn’t even a gang of high school bullies. They let us in on the scourge that is The Green Men. These vile, contemptible and utterly irredeemable scalawags are  known for truly lurid crimes against the National Hockey League, the Vancouver Canucks and civilization itself. Their crimes include: Frequent attendance at Canucks games, traveling to away games for the Canucks, dressing in lycra, and taunting opposing players who land in the penalty box.

While undoubtedly lycra probably belongs on a list of controlled substances as few can put it to good use, its hard to find fault with a group of fans who heighten the enjoyment of a fan base that has had zero Cups, and several ignominious defeats in the post season. They have even spawned their own imitators in other cities. Little traditions like this, and highly recognizable fans are something fans enjoy even when the product on the ice is putrid. Boston has its dancing conductor, the Red Wings have the octopus thrower(s) and keep fan bases engaged.

So here’s a short list of things the NHL can find to do with itself for the next time it has the urge to attack fans or Norris trophy winners.

8: Assist the Islanders in arm wrestling the Town of Hampstead into a viable arena deal. Or are you hoping for them to end up in the arena going up in Brooklyn?

7: Find competent officials. In the past season I’ve seen boarding calls when neither player was within 10 feet of the boards, zero unaccompanied driving calls, and a general level of officiating that looks up at the NFL and NBA.

6: Push hockey in non traditional and prospective markets by hosting major-televised tournaments and events in them.

5: Put serious thought into expansion, which means getting affiliate leagues like the AHL and ECHL to expand as well. There are several Canadian and American cities that could do well with the right ownership and a reasonable arena.

4: Push the expansion of junior and school run hockey programs.

3: Kick the NHLPA until they agree to start censures of their own against players like Matt Cooke.

2: Find someone to run the NHL’s marketing so that even a pinkhat can name at least ten players in the NHL not on their cities team and not just two guys who entered the league in back to back drafts.

1: Review the footage of the end of the lockout when the number 1 was retired league wide in honor of the fans.

Tonights game was almost as much about who wasn’t on the ice as who was. Jeff Carter, Chris Pronger would not play at all removing a scoring threat up front, an then tons of gamesmanship, acres of snarl and boat load of minutes on the backend. Brian Boucher would be injured by a Johnny Boychuck shot in the second and spend the rest of the period in the lockerroom before surprising everyone with his return for the third period. Adam McQuaid proved the only thing in an NHL arena that could hurt him was the arena by missing what promised to be an enormous check on Mike Richards, he went head first into the boards and lay very, very still for almost a minute before getting to his feet and being helped off the ice by Chara and Lucic.

With Andrew Ference pinching in low in the offensive zone the puck popped out to Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk who wasted no time getting up ice. Johnny Boychuck would attempt to take away the pass by going down on the ice as the only Bruins player in front of  Tim Thomas. van Reimsdyk was good enough to get the goal anyway. This was the Flyers first shot. Eight minutes later the Bruins were on the penalty kill. Campbell was in the box for holding, and after almost a minute of scrambling in front of the crease JVR would strike again. Less than ten minutes in the Flyers were up two nothing.

After scrambling, opportunism, and snatching the puck from Flyers right and left, Chris Kelly would get an “ugly goal” from in close with the puck going in a half breath before the net was dislodged. A couple shifts later Patrice Bergeron would make space for himself, draw the attention of four Flyers defenders. He then shifted position slightly, passed the puck to Brad Marchand who had his snap shot set on stunning would tie the game less than ninety seconds after the Chris Kelly goal. That’s where the scoring would stay until very late in overtime when David Krejci would stretch the twine with a goal that brought half the roster onto the ice, but would not be counted as a good goal until over a minute and a review later.

Tim Thomas was the story of the game, more than fifty saves including a third period that saw him stonewall the Flyers twenty two times. By comparison, Roberto Luongo faced just seventeen shots in game one of the Canucks series against the Predators.

After a performance that nearly soared to piss-poor, we can all hope the officials are not the story of the game again. That said, the players on both sides need to bring a little bit more to the table to make things a good game. The Bruins need to apply a little better defensive pressure, and the Flyers as Laviolette said need to do everything better.

Which Bruins line starts the game? It may sound silly, but at one time I could tell you if the Bruins were going to win the game or not just by which line started and how they did.  So will the Bergeron line start the game as they have several of these playoff games? Will the Krejci line do so? Could Julien go off the grid with either of the other lines? Watch them, they will set the tone for at least the first ten minutes.

Which Mike Richards will show up? Late in the regular season, and even into the first series my Twitter timeline was awash with criticism of his effort, and when I did the Horses and Hopefuls post for InsideHockey.com the comment on that post, from a Flyers fan says it all.

Can Milan Lucic get a point? While he was key to setting up the Nathan Horton series winner, and is a plus three so far this post season, its actually been less productive points wise than any of his previous three trips.

Will we see a fight? These were the two teams who brought fighting to the Winter Classic, and neither is shy about shedding the gloves, as chippy as it was getting it might ratchet the tension back down on both sides.

With Boucher starting, and his 2.95 GAA against the Bruins how long will he be in net? Three goals in the playoffs in a high hurdle.

What’s Pronger going to pull out of his bag of tricks this time? He started the sparks in game one selling an interference call on Paille on an icing, and earning a slashing call.