The Boston Bruins will not have to deal with a best-of-five play-in series if/when the NHL playoffs take place this summer. What they will have to deal with, however, is a round-robin ‘tournament’ to determine seeding in the Eastern Conference. Although the Bruins won the President’s Trophy, they’ll be forced to fight for the top seed yet again.
The Boston Bruins are joined by the Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning in the ‘bye to the playoffs’ group. All four will play a round-robin to determine seeds one through four.
Over the next few days, we’ll dive into each opponent for the Bruins. Today, it’s a look at the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Flyers missed the playoffs a season ago, and underwent a series of changes as a result. Chuck Fletcher, who took over as General Manager in December of 2018, put his stamp on this group. He named veteran coach Alain Vigneault as his head coach last spring, and added veteran coaches Mike Yeo and Michel Therrien to assist him.
Fletcher also addressed some key roster issues. The Flyers defense lacked mobility, so Fletcher traded for veteran Matt Niskanen from the Washington Capitals. To acquire Niskanen, the Flyers shipped Radko Gudas to their division rivals. His toughness and penalty killing ability was replaced by Justin Braun, who Fletcher acquired from the San Jose Sharks.
Up front, the Flyers went hunting for a top-six forward and came away with Dorchester native Kevin Hayes. Hayes paid off immediately, collecting 41 points (23 g, 18 a) in 69 games. Fletcher added depth at the 2020 trade deadline, acquiring forwards Nate Thompson and Derek Grant in deals with the Montreal Canadiens and Anaheim Ducks, respectively.
The Flyers were led offensively by Travis Konecny, who had 61 points (24 g, 37 a) in 66 games. Likely Selke Trophy candidate Sean Couturier is the Flyers top defensive forward, and finished second on the team in scoring with 59 points (22 g, 37 a). Jakub Voracek (56 points, 12 g, 44 a), Claude Giroux (53 points, 21 g, 32 a) and Hayes round out the Flyers’ top-five scorers.
Overall, the Flyers finished the season 41-21-7 in 69 games. Their 89 points were good for second in the Metropolitan Division, just one behind the Washington Capitals. The Flyers were arguably the hottest team in the NHL at ‘the pause’ as well. They had a 9-1-0 record in their final ten games before COVID-19 ravaged North America.
The Bruins and Flyers met three times in 2019-20. Although the Flyers won the season series 2-1-0, the Bruins collected points in all three games.
Philadelphia won the first two contests, both via the shootout. The Flyers led 2-0 entering the third period on November 10th, but two Bruins goals forced overtime. The Flyers got the only goal of the shootout from Joel Farabee, and took a 3-2 decision in the first game of the season series.
The Bruins led 3-1 and 5-2 on January 13th in Philadelphia, but simply could not hold off the Flyers. Philadelphia got goals from Couturier, Connor Bunnaman and Travis Sanheim to force overtime. Again in the shootout, the Flyers prevailed. Konecny scored to open the fifth round, while Brad Marchand over-skated the puck on his attempt to tie it.
The final meeting, March 10th, was both Boston and Philadelphia’s last game before ‘the pause’. The Bruins got goals from Matt Grzelcyk and Patrice Bergeron, while Tuukka Rask stopped 36 shots in a 2-0 shutout victory.
It’s been a long time since these two teams met with something big on the line. The Boston Bruins swept the last playoff series between the teams in 2011. That came on the heels of the Flyers overcoming a 3-0 deficit in the series and then in Game 7 during the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
In both series, the winner eventually went on to represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Final. The Flyers lost to the Blackhawks in six games in 2010, while the Bruins of course won it in Game 7 against the Vancouver Canucks one year later.
Prior to that, the clubs had not met in the playoffs since 1978. The Bruins won that series in five. The Bruins also swept Philadelphia in 1977. The Flyers had their fair share of fun in the 1970’s at the Bruins expense as well. The Flyers won the 1974 Stanley Cup in six games over the Bruins, and eliminated them in five games in 1976.