After his team swept the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday night, Milan Lucic of the Boston Bruins was asked if it was a relief to finally have questions about their seven-game collapse to the Flyers in 2010 rendered irrelevant.
"It's nice that we're not going to have to answer any more of those questions. I think we learned a lot from that experience last year," said Lucic, who finally revealed himself as a playoff participant with two goals in their Game 4 series-clincher.
"In this series, we went right after them."
That they did. And the Flyers did little to battle them back.
It makes you wonder what the Flyers learned last postseason in their improbable run to the Stanley Cup Finals, because it wasn't evident in this four-game humbling. They couldn't match Boston's level of competition, physicality or consistency. They looked tired, taxed, passive where the Bruins were aggressive.
They didn't look like the Flyers.
Bobby Holik, a former Stanley Cup champion and an analyst for NHL Network, joined us on Puck Daddy Radio earlier this week and said something changed in the Flyers around February in the regular season:
"They were not playing with the same edge, the same drive and hunger they had last year. That's where the difference is. The team's not much worse or not better. But only here and there are they playing with the same edge.
"Every since around February, they started playing a skill game. That's all good, but the strength of their game is playing with an edge. And what is going to get them out of the playoffs is not playing with that edge. … They are one of the best built teams in the League. What separated them from the rest was they could take all that talent and skill and play hard-driving hockey. It's there, but it could be too late for them to bring it out."
There were three main factors in the Flyers' demise in the playoffs. The first is that the Bruins flat outplayed them in the four games, in nearly every facet, to the point where the worst power play in the postseason potted goals in Games 3 and 4.
The second was the goaltending and defense, as the Flyers used two different goaltenders in each of the first three games and hung them out to dry frequently. The Flyers pulled their goalie six times in 11 playoff games. Padded by some empty netters, the Bruins outscored the Flyers 20-7 in this series. That's inexcusable.
And the third, and perhaps most significant, was the absence of Chris Pronger.
The Flyers lacked leadership; Pronger provides it. The Flyers lacked snarl; Pronger provides it. The Flyers lacked defensive cohesion; Pronger provides it.
"You notice the impact a guy like Chara has on the other side. They have the same style, play the same way. You certainly miss him," said Coach Peter Laviolette after Game 4.
The Flyers played 11 games in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs. They had Pronger for 41:45 of them. Compare that to their run last season, when he was their backbone and averaged an absurd 29:03 per game. His loss to injuries proved insurmountable.
The Flyers enter the summer with a projected cap space of $430,845 according to Cap Geek. That isn't a misprint.
But they also enter the summer with undeniable talent, depth and potential to contend in 2011-12. It's a tricky offseason for GM Paul Holmgren, mostly because, like everyone else, it's hard to understand how this Flyers team could be so dominated by the Bruins in the semifinals.
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