BOSTON – When Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand potted a power play goal on the Bruins’ first man-advantage opportunity Thursday night’s home-opener, it seemed as if it would be business as usual for the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Boston had a 1-0 lead over the Philadelphia Flyers, and the Bruins had dominated the first 10 minutes of the game. However, with two goals in the final 50 seconds of the period, the tide had shifted, the momentum had turned, and the Bruins found themselves trailing by a goal. The feeling lasted the rest of the way, as Philadelphia escaped the TD Garden with a 2-1 victory.
The Bruins, who had been good, lucky and everything in-between to capture the franchise’s sixth Cup, found themselves unlucky, snakebit and unable to beat Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov (22 saves).
However, it was a save by Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen on Nathan Horton in the third period that made the difference. Timonen was able to get his stick on Horton’s shot and keep his team in front. It exemplified the type of night it was for Boston.
“It’s only the first game,” Marchand said. “We’re still trying to get back in things. (Bryzgalov) made a few big saves that kept them in the game. We do have to capitalize on our opportunities.”
One of those big saves came against Marchand, when he robbed the speedy forward of a sure goal in the second period.
“He’s got pretty good speed,” Bryzgalov said. “I just waited and hoped he hit me in the pad or with the puck in the glove. And he did it, he put the puck in the glove. It was lucky.”
The Flyers outshot the Bruins, 29-23, but the Bruins had the better of the chances. The memo on Bryzgalov must have been, “aim high,” because many of the Bruins’ chances went over the net and out of harm’s way.
“We had a lot in the first where we missed the net and we have to be better in that area,” Marchand said.
“We had some great chances and open nets and some chances that we know next time that we’ll put them in,” Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron said. “It’s something we worked on in training camp and we’ll be a lot better at creating chances.”
Boston did well to create opportunities to produce by goading the Flyers into taking penalties. The power play, much maligned in the playoffs last year, clicked right away with Marchand’s goal. However, the Bruins failed to capitalize on the final four chances, and while some of it can be chalked up to puck luck, Boston needed to be better.
“We got shots to the net, we had screens, we had rebounds,” Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. “It was alright, but we just want to get better on our puck movement. It needs to be a little crisper than it was today and just use those chances to score goals and go ahead.”
It wasn’t a poor effort from the defending champs. The Flyers are a good team, and it was a good early test for the Bruins against a team they will surely be competing with for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
“I think it’s a good situation for both teams,” Marchand said. “We had a good battle the last two years in the playoffs, and we knew it was going to be a battle (tonight). Unfortunately they came out on top, but it was great to play them first game.”
That first game is now a memory, like last year’s incredible Cup victory. The celebration is over. The banner is raised. The season is underway. Let the title defense begin.