The Flyers opened their series with the New Jersey Devils by fighting off rust, erasing another deficit, and overcoming suspect goaltending. Mr. Playoffs had another unforgettable showing, too.
After the Flyers eliminated the Pittsburgh Penguins a week ago, the Flyers could have found themselves matched up with any of the six remaining teams in the Eastern Conference. If the Flyers had their choice, I’m sure they would have selected the New Jersey Devils or Florida Panthers. The Rangers and Senators both had hot goaltenders, as did the Washington Capitals. The Flyers potent offense could overcome a hot goaltender, but overcoming a hot goalie while overcoming your own lousy goalie is a daunting task. And even though Tim Thomas of the Bruins wasn’t at his best, his play was still leaps and bounds above Ilya Bryzgalov’s.
In the Devils, the Flyers find themselves facing a legendary goalie that struggled and often looked out of whack in round one against Florida (though not as out of whack as Bryzgalov). At this point, it’s painfully clear Bryzgalov isn’t going to win the Flyers many games, if any at all. As a result, the Philadelphia offense will need to do the heavy lifting for the Flyers in order to reach the ultimate goal. While I can’t believe I’m saying this, Martin Brodeur makes that task slightly easier than Henrik Lundqvist or the inexplicably hot Braden Holtby would have. Though he wasn’t horrible, Brodeur’s play in Game 1 proved as much. As for the game…
After a week off, the Flyers understandably looked sluggish early. It’s unavoidable. Players can practice and prepare themselves mentally all they want, but it doesn’t translate to the ice because the level of intensity just cannot be simulated. The Devils were coming off an emotional rally from a three-games-to-two deficit against the Florida Panthers. New Jersey required no adjustment to the tempo of the game. Clearly, the Flyers did as they allowed the Devils to skate unchecked and win the majority of the battles for loose pucks. It wasn’t fun to watch but at the same time, these Flyers aren’t exactly fast starters, so not even Peter Laviolette was panicking. And while I’m sure Laviolette’s advice for his team during the 1st intermission wasn’t appropriate for all ages, it certainly was effective as the Flyers once again erased an early deficit to grab a one goal lead led by none other than Mr. Playoffs, Danny Briere.
It’s been said the NHL Playoffs are a second season. For Briere, the playoffs were a welcomed opportunity to erase a forgettable and frustrating regular season. He hasn’t let that opportunity get away. It was Briere who ignited the Flyers 2012 playoff run by triggering the Flyers rally from an 0-3 deficit in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Since then, only the magnificent Claude Giroux has scored as many postseason goals. Briere is also second in the NHL in postseason points behind, you guessed it, Claude Giroux.
On Sunday, it was Briere who knotted the score at one on a brilliant pass by Jakub Voracek. In the 3rd period, it was Giroux’s unbelievable lazer over Brodeur’s shoulder that gave the Flyers a one goal lead. (Watch the replay. After he realized the puck was behind him, Brodeur flung around with a “who the **** shot that” look on his face.) After scoring the game-winning goal in overtime that wasn’t a game winning goal, Briere scored the actually game winning goal that delivered the same message to the Devils that the Flyers delivered to the Penguins just a few weeks ago; We won’t quit. No lead is safe. Good luck stopping us.