Game 7 preview: Flyers poised to make history in Boston

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Boston Bruins vs. Philadelphia Flyers
7:00 p.m. EDT, May 14, 2010
Live on VERSUS

Don’t forget, join us here at PHT for a live
chat during tonight’s game.

It’s only happened three
times in the history of major professional sports, twice in the NHL.

With
a win tonight against the Boston Bruins, they will join the 1942
Toronto Maple Leafs, the 1975 New York Islanders and the 2004 Boston Red
Sox as the only teams to ever come back from being down 0-3 to win a
series in the playoffs.

The Flyers were the most improbable of
postseason teams in the NHL a month ago, having squeaked in thanks to a
shootout victory over the New York Rangers in the final game of the
season. Considering they injuries the team had dealt with, the absolutely
horrid record in the middle of the season and the carousel that became
the goaltending position, it’s no surprise that many never considered
the Flyers to even get out of the first round.

After all, who
would expect that Brian Boucher would play not only better, but much better
than Vezina-finalist Martin Brodeur, that the Flyers would take the
defensive hockey that the New Jersey Devils are known for and turn it
against them? Yet that’s exactly what happened, and the Flyers were the
first team in the postseason to secure a series win.

Of course, it
seemed that the team fell back to reality when they lost the first
three games of the series to the Boston Bruins. As I had thought would
happen, the Bruins played the Flyers much tougher and with much better
goaltending than the Devils, against a team that failed to overcome the
injuries to Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne. The Bruins looked like a team
that was confident and sure of it’s system after a series win against
the Sabres, and it showed in three straight victories.

Then the
Flyers were victorious in a big overtime win in Game 4, staving off
elimination while planting the seeds for the issues that would plague
the Bruins in the next two games.

The Boston Bruins have departed
from what made them so successful against the Sabres and in the three
wins versus the Flyers, abandoning their solid approach for emotionally
vicarious outbursts. They’ve lost the mental edge over the Flyers, a
team that has managed to get under their skin with physicality and
timely goals. The Bruins, on the other hand, have played emotionless and
timid, choosing only to have an outburst at the most inopportune times.

While
many thought that his return would be the spark the Bruins needed to go
deep into the playoffs, you have to wonder if Marc Savard’s presence
has been more of a hindrance than anyone expected. He scored an
improbable overtime goal in his first game back, but since then the
Flyers have played on his emotions to the detriment of the rest of the
team; you have to wonder if anyone other than Savard had been a part of
these antics what the response around the league might be.

All
eyes are on the Philadelphia now as they head into Boston, with the
Bruins showing so far that playing on home ice isn’t necessarily the
advantage it should be. They’ve played safe at home, and the Flyers took
advantage of that in Game 5. With the fans ready to turn on their team
at the slightest appearance of a choke, you have to expect for the
Flyers to jump at any chance to set the Bruins behind as early as
possible.

The Flyers are poised to make history tonight, in what
will surely be one of the most-watched hockey games of the season.

Can
they do it? They certainly have the confidence and momentum to do so.

What are the coaches saying about tonight’s Game 7? Look no further than right here.

Devils unveil ‘The Salute’ statue in honor of Martin Brodeur

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The New Jersey Devils on Monday unveiled ‘The Salute’ — a statue paying homage to one of the greatest goalies in NHL history, Martin Brodeur, who will have his No. 30 uniform retired Tuesday at Prudential Center.

“Looking at the pictures of my career and some of the events that meant a lot to me, I always saluted the fans,” Brodeur, a three-time Stanley Cup winner with the Devils, told the Fire and Ice blog.

“That picture, at different times, in different jerseys, actually, like with Team Canada, it all came to that same pose.”

More on the statue from the Devils:

The 900-pound bronze statue was created by renowned sculpture and artist Jon Krawczyk, who worked with Brodeur on the design. Krawczyk, a Boonton Township, N.J. native and lifelong Devils fan, who also created the hockey statue on Championship Plaza outside of Prudential Center, personally drove “The Salute” from his Malibu, Cali. studio to the arena late last week.

Video: Panthers furious after Abdelkader ‘cheap shot’ hit on Barkov

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The Florida Panthers are fuming after their skilled 20-year-old forward Aleksander Barkov left Monday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings following a hit from Justin Abdelkader.

Abdelkader caught Barkov with a hard hit near the goal line as the Panthers player tried to move the puck up ice early in the second period.

The only call on the play was to Panthers’ blue liner Alex Petrovic for the retaliatory cross check on Abdelkader. Barkov left the game and didn’t return with an upper-body injury.

Members of the Panthers irate with the hit, and the fact there was no call.

“It was a cheap hit, I don’t know how the ref didn’t call it,” Nick Bjugstad told the Miami Herald. “It was frustrating, the whole bench felt that way. We’re not happy with it. It turned the game around. Barkov has tough shoes to fill. It looked pretty serious. We’ll see how the league handles it and I think they will. I just don’t know how it wasn’t handled on the ice.”

“You hate to lose your top player, but that’s part of the game,” added Panthers’ head coach Gerard Gallant.

“We’re disappointed to lose him. I thought it was a cheap shot but the referees didn’t see it that way and explained to me it was a clean check. It’s tough. It happens quick and we get to see the replay. I think it’ll be looked at. [Abdelkader] left his feet a little and got him in the jaw.”

The Panthers gave up three goals in the third period in a 3-0 loss to the Red Wings.

Penguins thump the Ducks as Crosby’s hot streak continues

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In a meeting between two clubs enjoying hot streaks and their own subsequent climbs through the standings, the Pittsburgh Penguins bested the Anaheim Ducks courtesy another dominant Sidney Crosby performance on Monday.

After that slow start, Crosby has put together a growing number of dominant performances of late.

The latest, a four-point night, helped the Penguins to a 6-2 final over the Ducks, stopping Anaheim’s winning streak at six games.

— He extended his scoring streak to a career best seven games, and did so with two beauty goals versus the Ducks.

— From Dec. 18 to Feb. 8, he’s appeared in 21 games. In that span, he’s recorded 34 points.

— Crosby is now into the top five among NHL players in points, with 53 in 51 games this season.

He wasn’t the only Pittsburgh player to have a big night. Keep in mind, Evgeni Malkin wasn’t even in the lineup due to a lower-body injury.

Ten different Penguins players recorded points. In addition to Crosby, Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang had multi-point efforts, and four players — Kunitz, Crosby, Olli Maatta and Patric Hornqvist — were plus-four.

The Penguins now move into third in the Metropolitan Division, while the New York Islanders slip into the first Wild Card spot in the East. Pittsburgh’s lead over the Islanders, however, is only one point.

The Islanders also have a game in hand.

Panthers’ Barkov (upper-body injury) leaves game versus Red Wings

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The Florida Panthers will be without Aleksander Barkov for the remainder of their game versus the Detroit Red Wings on Monday.

As per multiple reports, Barkov will not return due to an upper-body injury suffered after a hit from Justin Abdelkader early in the second period.

Abdelkader wasn’t given a penalty on the play. Barkov didn’t play another shift after that hit.

In 42 games this season, the 20-year-old Barkov has 16 goals and 35 points.