May 3, 2011

I fear the mustache of Tim Thomas.

Monday night's Flyers/Bruins showdown had everything you'd want from a postseason hockey game.

Patriotism! Amped up on the blood of Osama bin Laden, the fans went wild for a stirring "God Bless America" duet from Lauren Hart and Zombie Kate Smith. The unbridled enthusiasm translated into a hot start for the Flyers.

Deception! Despite Paul Holmgren's repeated text messages to the contrary, Chris Pronger is not healthy. Is it his back? His hamstring? All we know for sure is that he's less than 100%, and there's no hope for a deep run without Pronger.

Intrigue! Brian Boucher left in the second period with what seemed to be a dislocated finger, although Peter Laviolette dubbed it a "malfunction" after the game. The Flyers are the kings of playoff spin, and I'm not sure I mean that in a good way.

Excitement! James van Riemsdyk continued his postseason domination with two goals and eight shots, prompting some bloggers to declare their undying love for the budding star. He's the best player on the ice right now, and it's not even close.

Disaster! Even though the Flyers put 54 shots on goal, only two snuck past mustachioed Bruins netminder Tim Thomas. Dominating the third period and overtime is neat, but you won't beat a team like Boston without taking advantage of any and all opportunities. The Flyers, now 1-5 against the Bruins this year, found that out yet again on Monday.

Boston is beatable. They're thin on defense, susceptible to lengthy outlet passes and allow more than a few odd-man rushes. They also have no answer for American hero JvR.

But they've got Thomas, the great equalizer, and he's already standing on his head. This is also a different team than last year's choke squad. The Bruins have come out with an aggressive, and justified, air of confidence around them. When they go into attack mode, the Flyers look taken aback. And Laviolette's team has turned the puck over way too much to survive being stuck back in their own end.

I still think the Flyers can win this series. And that's not even because of past experiences; home ice doesn't always mean what it should in hockey, and the Flyers have proven to be an excellent road team. Their margin of error slims by the day, though, and this handsome, terrifying face will continue to stand between them and victory.

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