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Brickley a familiar presence for postseason

By Chad Finn
Globe Staff / May 7, 2010

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The voice is familiar, even if the numbers on your remote to watch the Bruins may not be.

With Games 2 and 3 (as well as tonight’s Game 4) of the remarkably resurgent Bruins’ Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Flyers airing exclusively on Versus, there’s probably some comfort in knowing the analyst is plugged in to the black and gold as if he’s been calling their games all season.

Then again, that is exactly what Andy Brickley has been doing.

Brickley, the affable and insightful color analyst on NESN’s Bruins telecasts, has been skating an extra shift during this postseason in the same role on Versus.

Although he could wind up on NESN again should the current series extend past tonight — it owns regional rights to Games 5-7 — for the moment his emphasis is providing balanced analysis.

“I’m pretty right down the middle when I do a Bruins broadcast,’’ said Brickley, in his third year of contributing to Versus’s coverage and his 10th with NESN. “I feel like I have an educated hockey fanbase that’s watching the game. I’m not going to lie to them because they see what I see. I’m there to share knowledge and answer the question of ‘why did that just happen,’ to try to take the viewer inside the hockey player’s mind, to understand his decision-making and what he’s trying to do. I think I do that consistently with Versus broadcasts as well. Obviously you just can’t do it from a Bruins perspective.’’

Brickley says the greatest challenge isn’t studying up on other NHL teams — “I get my reps in doing games the Bruins aren’t playing in from time to time during the regular season,’’ he said — but finding and developing a chemistry with his play-by-play partner.

“You want the viewer to enjoy what they’re watching not only because of the game, but because those two guys in the booth enjoy working together,’’ Brickley said. “And because I don’t work on an every-game basis with whoever I’m calling a game with on Versus, that’s when you have to make it seem like you’ve been working with this guy all along. I think that’s more of a conscious effort.’’

Which to Brickley means building camaraderie long before the puck drops.

“You try to spend time with whoever is calling it, whether it’s Mike Emrick, Joe Beninati, whoever I’m doing the game with. You want to have dinner the night before, you want to have lunch the day of the game,’’ Brickley said. “It helps to be real familiar as best you can so once the game begins it’s almost second nature.’’

When asked if that’s something that comes easily on NESN alongside excitable, Gordon Lightfoot-homaging play-by-play voice Jack Edwards, Brickley laughs heartily.

“Oh yeah, absolutely, it’s easy with Jack,’’ Brickley said. “I love the spontaneity that Jack and I have. Because we spend so much time together, especially on the road, that stuff just comes naturally. I love talking to him. He’s a great conversationalist.’’

When it’s suggested that Brickely often appears to be wearing a bemused look when Edwards launches into one of his trademark solliloquies — most recently, he analogized the Bruins’ series victory over Buffalo to the 1975 sinking of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald — he chuckles.

“Yeah, they have that tripod camera that we face when we do the open [on NESN], and if they leave that camera on and running, there’s probably some pretty funny and fun stuff that would be on,’’ Brickley said. “Good thing that’s all under lock and key.’’

Most observers would probably agree that the Bruins’ postseason run has been a pleasant surprise given their uneven regular season and lengthy list of injuries. Count Brickley among them.

“I think I was like most fans,’’ Brickley said. “I didn’t really know what to expect because there was no precedent at any point during the year where you could get a good feel for what this team was. There were a lot of steps forward and a lot of steps back. They dealt with a lot of injuries and high expectations coming into the season. It’s been a weird season in that regard.’’

“They finally rallied around one another, they finally realized that they needed more accountability as a group to one another, and the job that they were able to do over the last 12 games — they were 8-3-1 in their final 12 — and do it really with some key injuries.’’

The Bruins had to play at a playoff level just to make the postseason. Brickley suggests it’s logical to assume the experience was beneficial.

“You look at some of the wins they had in those 12 games, when they beat the Rangers and the Thrashers, who were 1 point behind them both times they played them,’’ Brickley said. “And then they beat division leaders like New Jersey, Washington, Buffalo. And then when you saw they were going to get in and you saw they were going to draw Buffalo, you said, ‘Wow, that’s a really good matchup for them.’ ’’

Brickley hopes he will continue to have a chance to provide context and commentary should the Bruins play another round. But he’s uncertain what his role will be beyond this series.

“I wish I had an answer for you,’’ Brickley said. “But I’m not quite sure where I am on the food chain. Up until now, when they’ve gotten to the conference finals, I’ve been out. Eddie Olczyk is the top guy, Darren Eliot is part of the mix. But if the Bruins advance and I’m not doing the conference finals, I hope that NESN would want me on at the remote location, whether it’s Montreal or Pittsburgh, to be a hockey presence personally. But that conversation has not happened yet.’’

Chad Finn can be reached at finn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globechadfinn.

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