GAME PREVIEW: EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS GAME 6 – Flyers vs. Boston Bruins

The Game: The Philadelphia Flyers will look to keep their season alive tonight in Game Six of their Eastern Conference Semifinals series against the Boston Bruins.

The Flyers won a must-win Game Five in Boston on Monday night to set up tonight’s pivotal sixth game.  The Wachovia Center will most certainly be rocking, and the home team is going to have to play a smart – yet inspired – 60 minutes (or more) of hockey to force the all-important “next game”.  On the other side, the Boston Bruins come into the Wachovia Center tonight with questions surrounding them so much so that if you had just tuned into this series tonight, you would think the Flyers were the team up three games to two.  Still, it is the Bruins and not the Flyers who can advance to the Eastern Conference Finals with a victory tonight.  With that being said, the Flyers can not let up one bit from their effort in Game Five.  If they chose to ease off the gas pedal, they may be playing their last game of the season tonight.

The Story: The Boston Bruins won two tight games to open up this series, then pulled away in Game Three to take a commanding three games to zero series lead.  The Flyers have since stormed back and won the next two games to get the series to 3-2.  Still, as I said above, the mountain is steep for Philadelphia.  It got a little more (or less, depending on who you ask) steeper on Monday night when Brian Boucher was lost for the remainder of the playoffs with sprains in both knees after a freak accident occurred in which Ryan Parent fell on top of the Flyers goaltender in his crease.  So now, the reigns are handed over yet again to Michael Leighton, who will need to backstop the Flyers to victory tonight if there even is to be a decisive seventh game.  Leighton, who on Monday night returned to the Flyers line-up from a high ankle sprain he had suffered on March 16, did so just in the nick of time, as Boosh was lost for the season, and the man who once saved the Flyers season was healthy just in time to pull off the same kind of feat in the postseason.  For the Flyers, it’s all about a quick start tonight.  Anything that gives the Bruins an early jump automatically turn the tables and have the Flyers guessing.  The Flyers need to set the tone early, get out in front on the scoreboard, and put the pressure back on Boston to perform.  If that is how things transpire this evening, it could mean very good things for the Flyers.

Who to Watch on the Bruins: Marc Savard, Center.

Savard is an X-Factor in tonight's game

Savard scored the Game winner in Game One of this series, capping off a return to the ice from a vicious hit from Matt Cooke that had kept the Bruins star center sidelined the month prior.  However, he hasn’t been quite as effective since then, as the Flyers have put the body on him and made him be more physical, which immediately eliminates Savard’s notoriously (and effective) finesse style of play.  Last game reached a tipping point, when the Bruins center lost his cool and took a few blatant swings at Flyers captain Mike Richards, earning himself a trip to the penalty box.  Tonight, as a veteran on this team, Savard’s role is paramount.  He will need to create opportunities for his teammates and make sure he can keep himself composed as well, so as not to hurt his club.  There’s no denying the talent and play-making ability that Savard has, and that’s precisely why the Flyers need to keep a close eye on #91 in white tonight.  He can burn a team if given the opportunity, and with the Flyers having their season on the line tonight, the team can ill-afford to give Savard the opportunity.

The Skinny: Game Six will either send the Bruins back home to Boston to prepare for the Eastern Conference Finals, or send the B’s back home with a ton of questions and in preparation for a Game Seven against the Flyers.  It’s not going to be as easy for the Flyers to pull out a victory tonight as it seemingly was on Monday night, and you can bet the Bruins are going to come out and try to match the Flyers’ desperate intensity.  However, the Flyers need to understand that this kind of situation has happened before, and it can happen again.  Case and point: last season.  The Flyers were down 3-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins entering a pivotal Game Five at the Igloo, and the Orange and Black were able to muster a 3-0 win, setting the table for a huge Game Six in Philadelphia.  The Flyers came out on fire, scoring the first three goals of the game, and sending the building into a frenzy.  However, the Flyers began to look toward a potential Game Seven, and the Penguins, never lacking a killer instinct, came back with five unanswered goals over the final period and a half to win the game, 5-3, and take the series 4-2.  I think with Peter Laviolette, the Flyers chances of losing focus (if they are fortunate enough to get the lead) are slim, but there always lies the possibility of looking ahead.  The Flyers must stay focused.

Notes: Michael Leighton replaces Brian Boucher in between the pipes for the Flyers tonight, while Tuukka Rask will tend goal for the Bruins.  The game has been moved back to an 8PM start time, so as to allow Versus to air the third period of tonight’s game at the conclusion of the Penguins and Canadiens Game Seven, which starts at 7PM from Pittsburgh.  For once, some good marketing ideas from this league.  Peter Laviolette asks his team to ask themselves a question before every game: “Can we beat the Bruins tonight?”  Let’s hope the answer tonight is “absolutely.”

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