Philly could face slow playoff start with Pronger iffy

Pronger/By S. Bradley

So much of the Bruins’ battle plan for the playoffs is based on at least one of the other few Eastern Conference powers — Philadelphia, Washington, Pittsburgh — suffering an early upset.

In that light, Boston had to like the news that came up from Flyers country.

Veteran defenseman Chris Pronger, out since March 8 with a broken hand, has suffered a setback in his attempt to return for the regular season and now won’t be playing again until the playoffs. Like Bruins head coach Claude Julien trying to downplay the significance of Zdeno Chara’s health issues after Boston’s loss to Toronto Thursday, Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren sounded like he was whistling past the graveyard when discussing the comeback plan for his star blueliner.

Via the Courier Post:

“It was a long shot anyway that he could play before the end of the regular season. It’s not like he hasn’t been in a playoff game before. It’s more about making sure he has the strength and mobility he needs.”

It’s all well and good to have confidence Pronger will be right once the postseason starts. And the Flyers have played pretty well without him. But we all know that a month off is a significant amount of time to miss in an NHL season, and returning for the first time when the intensity is turned up to 11 in the playoffs can be a tough task. It’s difficult enough to simulate game speed in practices; it’s impossible to get up to playoff speed without just jumping into the fire.

On the off chance the Flyers start the playoffs without Pronger, they could be cooked — at least in that they might not be able to take care of their first-round opponent with as much ease as they would with him patrolling their back end. A rusty Pronger could also be a hindrance.

Any help the Bruins get from outside forces to smooth their road to the Stanley Cup final is welcome. Pronger’s problems definitely fall into that category.

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