The two most common first round upset picks league-wide seem to have been Buffalo over Philly and Montreal over Boston. I picked both Boston and Philly to win in 6 games. Neither ended up happening, as the results met in the middle — both home teams scored Game 7 victories.
But the troubling part if you’re a Bruins or Flyers fan is that your team made it hairy enough to go seven games in the first place. Both teams had decided physical advantages, and Boston actually had solid goaltending. And other than each of the Flyers’ three goalies having one donkey jog each, Bobrovsky and Leighton each turned in one good performance, and Boucher actually had four. The only reason the Flyers didn’t take six of seven games is 1) two of the good performances came in relief of the starting donkey, and 2) the series would have stopped after four wins.
I think the disparity in talent was wider in the Philadelphia – Buffalo series, but the Flyers could look to either the suspect goaltending or the absence of Chris Pronger for 5.9 of the 7 games. And in Philly’s defense, once Pronger was fully back in the lineup in Game 7, they never left any doubt as to who was the better team and who was moving onto the second round.
Boston, on the other hand, left doubt up to this very minute as to whether the better team actually prevailed in the series. It’s true that the Bruins did well to win 4 of the last 5 games to take the series after falling behind 0-2 at home, but 3 of those 4 wins came in overtime. That’s not to discount them, it’s just to say that Boston didn’t really assert it’s physical dominance like Philadelphia did when it came right down to it. It could be that Montreal is actually a very good team, or that they have Boston’s number or something. The Habs did win 4 of 6 in the regular season. But the thing that would worry me if I were a Boston fan is that my team was unable to dictate possession against a team with woefully smaller forwards. If Boston couldn’t beat up on these Montreal forwards, how are they going to handle Philadelphia’s reincarnation of the Broad Street Bullies? Throw Pronger back into the mix, and suddenly Zdeno Chara is no longer the scariest, most physical defenseman in the series either. All of this doesn’t add up well for the Bruins, and in this series between teams that like to let inferior opponents push them to the brink, I’ve got to think that the Flyers will get to four losses slower than the Bruins will.
Because I don’t like to pick good teams to get eliminated in Game 6 at home, and I don’t see this one going 7, I’ll take the Philadelphia Flyers over the Boston Bruins in just 5 games.