- Joe McDonald, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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BOSTON -- Bring on the Flyers.
Thanks to the Montreal Canadiens, the Boston Bruins will have home-ice advantage for their Eastern Conference semifinal matchup against the Philadelphia Flyers, beginning Saturday with Game 1 at 12:30 p.m. (NBC) at TD Garden.
The eighth-seeded Canadiens narrowly beat the No. 1 seed Washington Capitals in Game 7 of their quarterfinal series Wednesday night, which means the sixth-seeded Bruins host the first two games versus No. 7 Philadelphia.
It will be the first time since 1978 the Bruins and Flyers will face each other in the playoffs.
Like the Bruins, the Flyers had to scratch and claw to earn a postseason berth. Then Philadelphia shocked the New Jersey Devils and goaltender Martin Brodeur in five games in their first-round series.
"Philly has some mojo going too," Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said during a conference call Tuesday before the matchup with the Flyers was finalized. "If we play them it will be a crash-and-bang series. They've got some big physical forwards and they like to play in your face. They've got [Chris] Pronger on the back end, who can play the physical game and can also move the puck. That's the type of series you'll see there."
The biggest factor of the series would seem to be that the Bruins will have home-ice advantage.
Many times during the regular season, however, Bruins coach Claude Julien sat in the press room after a loss at the Garden and shook his head, trying to figure out why his team struggled so often at home.
Boston finished the regular season with an 18-17-6 record at home, while compiling a 21-13-7 mark on the road.
Fortunately for the Bruins, they seemed to figure it out down the stretch, winning critical games against Buffalo and Carolina, then winning all three home games in the first round against the Sabres.
"I've been trying to figure out all year why we played so poorly at home," said Chiarelli. "We were two different teams. We had the second-best road record in the East throughout the year. I think it's just mental. We've had better concentration and better focus. I like the way we played in our three home games [against Buffalo]."
After the Bruins completed practice at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington, Mass., on Wednesday afternoon, coach Claude Julien said he's always taken the approach during the postseason not to worry about playing a certain opponent as opposed to another.
"One way or another, you'll end up playing a good team," said Julien.
The Bruins will face a good, and dangerous team, in the Flyers.
Boston won the season series against Philadelphia with a 2-1-1 record, including the unforgettable 2-1 overtime victory in the Winter Classic on New Year's Day at Fenway Park.
"Philly is a team that plays tough," said Bruins assistant captain Patrice Bergeron. "They fight for every inch and it'll be a tough battle. They also have a lot of skill. We need to be ready."
The Bruins were able to beat Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller in the first round, and now will face suddenly hot Philadelphia netminder Brian Boucher. The Woonsocket, R.I., native spent the majority of the season as the backup and through injuries became the No. 1 guy between the pipes. He responded and played very well against the Devils.
Boucher was very upset when Flyers coach Peter Laviolette, who is a native of Franklin, Mass., and former Bruins assistant coach, did not play him during the Winter Classic. Boucher was dealing with a hand injury at the time, but he'll likely be fired up to play the Bruins in the playoffs.
"He has a pretty solid career," said rookie Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask. "He's a good goalie. He got the chance to play and he's showing everybody that he's capable of doing that. Good for him."
Unlike Rask, Boucher has had extended success in the Stanley Cup playoffs. During his first stint with the Flyers during the 1999-2000 season, he posted an 11-7 record with one shutout as Philadelphia lost in the Eastern Conference finals to the Devils.
The Bruins kept saying it didn't matter who they played. Now that they know they're going to face the Flyers in the next round, Boston is content that there will be only four days in between Game 6 of the first round and Game 1 of the second.
A year ago, Boston swept the Canadiens in the first round and had to wait 10 days before beginning its next series, which the Bruins lost to the Carolina Hurricanes in seven games.
"We allowed ourselves to slip out of playoff mode because we had so much time off," said Julien. "Ten days is a lot no matter who you are and it took us a while to get our game back. When we got it back it was a little too late. Hopefully this short break here is the right amount of time. From what I can see from our players, we're still very enthusiastic and very excited about going onto the next round, so it certainly bodes well."
The players agree with their coach.
"We're in a groove right now. We're in a rhythm," Bergeron said.
Joe McDonald covers the Bruins and Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.