Chance to face rivals is lost
Habs provided dream matchup
With just one more win in the four opportunities they were given, the Bruins could have dispatched the Flyers and advanced to something big: an Eastern Conference finals showdown against not just their biggest rivals, but the eighth-seeded team in the East.
With home-ice advantage, no less.
“Guys know what’s up ahead,’’ coach Claude Julien said before last night’s 4-3 loss. “But at the same time, you don’t want to be looking up ahead.’’
The Canadiens have the hottest goalie of the playoffs in Jaroslav Halak (8-5, 2.42 goals-against average, .933 save percentage), who first turned back Washington in Game 7 of the first round, then backstopped Montreal to a 5-2 win in Game 7 against Pittsburgh in the second round. The Canadiens also boast Michael Cammalleri, the postseason’s sharpest sniper (12 goals, three more than No. 2 gunner Joe Pavelski of San Jose).
But even though the Canadiens rolled through two of the East’s most powerful squads, the Bruins would have welcomed the challenge of taking on their archrivals for the third straight postseason. Although the Canadiens won five of the six regular-season meetings, the Bruins would have had home ice. There was a possibility that Dennis Seidenberg, out for the entire postseason because of wrist surgery, could have returned for the third round. The Canadiens have been without Andrei Markov (knee), their best all-around defenseman.
Instead, Round 3 will begin tomorrow night at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia.
“I’ve already started clicking in my head about it,’’ said Flyers coach Peter Laviolette. “But I’m going to wait until I get on the bus to start thinking about Montreal. It’s great. We get to wake up tomorrow as a team and as a group and go to the rink. We’re still here. We’re still standing.’’
But perhaps Gagne’s most significant influence was how his return gave the Flyers some offensive balance. With Gagne missing for the first three games, Laviolette was forced to put Scott Hartnell with Mike Richards. But when Gagne returned to his top-line position alongside Richards, Hartnell was dropped to a line with Danny Briere and Ville Leino. Last night, Hartnell scored Philadelphia’s second goal, at 2:49 of the second. Later in the second, Hartnell assisted on Briere’s tying goal at 8:39.
Conversely, the Bruins saw Marco Sturm tear the ACL and MCL in his right knee on the opening shift of the series. Then in Game 3, after taking a pass from Zdeno Chara, David Krejci couldn’t avoid a Richards hit that left him with a dislocated right wrist.
With two top-six forwards missing, the Bruins felt their absence most sharply in a 4-0 rout in Game 5.
“I don’t think we can put everything on the guys that we lost,’’ said Patrice Bergeron. “It hurt. That’s obvious. But they were missing some good guys as well. We’ve been a team that showed a lot of character all year through injuries and stuff like that. We’ve never put the blame on injuries. We always tried to battle through it. I don’t think that should be an excuse right now.’’
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at email@example.com.