Friday April 30th, 2010

Season series: Tied, 2-2

Oct. 22: Philadelphia 4, Boston 3 (SO) Dec. 14: Philadelphia 3, Boston 1 Jan. 1: Boston 2, Philadelphia 1 (OT) Mar. 11: Boston 5, Philadelphia 1

How the Bruins can win: With his first playoff series win in the books, Tuukka Rask has earned the faith of his teammates. Cool Hand Tuuk is impossible to rattle, so the Flyers will need to come up with something more than "crash the net" if they hope to get to him.

Boston also comes in with an edge in health. While they're missing Dennis Seidenberg and Mark Stuart, they're getting Marc Savard back in the lineup. The Flyers will have to do without two top-six forwards in Simon Gagne and Jeff Carter. The Bruins have shown that they can win despite the holes in their lineup, thanks to strong efforts from players like Johnny Boychuk. Philly has yet to show it can do the same.

Winning the special teams battle is a key component of every club's pre-series planning, but it's especially critical for a Bruins side that looks little like last season's high-scoring squad. The B's held the Sabres without a power play goal in the first round. That'll be a tough act to repeat, considering that the Flyers had the third-rated power play during the regular season. But as long as the Bruins can minimize the damage, they have an edge.

How the Flyers can win: With Gagne and Carter out for the duration of this series, the Flyers will rely on goaltending, defense and an upgrade in production from their support staff. Brian Boucher was the key to their surprising first-round upset of the Devils. The B's won't throw a lot of chances his way, but they're resilient. Controlling his rebounds will be the key.

Chris Pronger was magnificent at both ends of the ice against New Jersey. He'll be tasked with eliminating Savard and providing more offense from the point, especially if the Flyers hope to snap Boston's 19-for-19 streak on the PK. But the real trick for Philly will be replacing the offense of Carter and Gagne. Mike Richards stood tall in the first round, and Danny Briere chipped in with a pair of game-winners. You know what they'll bring to the table. Claude Giroux (four goals in the first round) needs to stay hot. James van Riemsdyk (one assist) needs to show up.

Key performer: Brian Boucher. There weren't many who thought Philly's third-stringer was up to the task of beating Martin Brodeur, but he proved his doubters wrong with a dominant first-round performance (1.59 GAA, .940 save percentage). That may earn him a few more believers this time around, but most observers would still give the edge in net to Rask, who won't give up much, especially with Philly missing two key scorers, so Boucher's ability to keep the games low-scoring and close will be the key to any chance of success.

Keep an eye on: Physical superiority. We won't see Wayne Cashman or Dave Schultz in the trenches (ah, those were the days...) but there'll be plenty of testosterone on display in the greasy areas. Whichever team is able to assert its physical will over the other will have a decided edge. Pay attention to Milan Lucic -- he was spotty in the first round against the Sabres -- and Scott Hartnell as well as defenders Zdeno Chara and Chris Pronger.

X-factor: Marc Savard. What can Boston really expect from their No. 1 center who only now is making his return from that rules-changing concussion? To be fair, not too much. Adrenaline will probably lead to a solid opening night performance, but you have to wonder where his legs and lungs will be after that seven-week layoff. Considering the impact that his return will have on a lineup that showed a little something against the Sabres, he has to prove he can contribute to earn back his minutes.

Prediction: Bruins in seven

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