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Flyers-Canadiens Game 2: Postgame

Sunday, April 27, 2008

As the old hockey adage goes, big time players elevate their game when it matters most.  It’s been a job to see Martin Biron, who many in the hockey world doubted could handle the pressure of being a number one goaltender in the playoffs, lead his team with outstanding saves.  In last night’s tile, he made 34 saves on 36 shots, including major glove saves on a Plekanec breakaway and on the barrage of shots during the late second period Montreal power play.  Red Fisher of the Montreal Gazette actually compared him to legendary Canadiens netminder Ken Dryden.

The Flyers, despite being slower than the Canadiens and continuing their ongoing struggle to clear the puck, hitched their wagons to the man-on-fire.  Outside of the four goals scored, the Flyers’ play left much to be desired.  Carter and Hartnell both overreacted in defense of Martin Biron, taking penalties that could have destroyed the Flyers momentum easily without the stellar goaltending.  Randy Jones has been caught on his heels multiple times by the slick Canadiens forwards, which is symptomatic of the greater problem that Flyers often are running at the Habs instead of skating with them.  Topping it off, the Flyers gave the puck away 15 times, usually doing so in the vicinity of the bluelines.  Without Biron, that type of giveaway ends up in the net.

Notes:

– Jeff Carter responded to a tough game with a beautiful goal.  That’s the way you want to see young players react to adversity.

– Danny Briere scored, much to the chagrin of the assembled Habs fans.  He needs to be active on the score sheet for the Flyers’ to have a chance at this series.

– The “Bee-ron” taunt and Briere boos weren’t so successful for the Bell Centre crowd, raucous on this particular Saturday night.  But who will the Flyer faithful target with no clear favorites this round?  My guess: Alexei Kovalev.

– There may be holes in their on-ice execution, but I love the Flyers’ attitude towards these games.  Every interview I’ve seen and read has been focused with a slight hint of optimism.  The Versus broadcast aired a chat with Biron prior to the game in which he pointed out that the Flyers are confident they know how to win in big games.  His quote in the Philly Inquirer: “It’s playoff hockey.  This is fun.”  There’s something almost Capital-esque in their approach.  And that’s what they’ll need to win.

According to those who would know, Don Cherry discussed the Koivu goal during the CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada broadcast.  Apparently Lasse Kukkonen was cut in the face by a skate blade, which may be the event that caused Martin Biron to look the wrong direction.  Kukkonen fortunately received only a small cut, so it won’t affect his ability to play.

– The Flyers vastly improved their faceoffs from Game 1, winning 53% overall.  Danny Briere stood out – 8 for 12. 

– Carter’s stick once again broke in nearly the same location, allowing the Canadiens to keep the puck in the zone and force a Flyers penalty.  Should he consider switching from composite to wood?  Georges Laraque cited the Carter faceoff as a reason why he personally uses only wood.  Then again, Laraque isn’t exactly known for scoring goals.

– Did anyone else notice that Guy Carbonneau was wearing an orange tie?  It struck me as odd . . .

– Tom Kostopoulos, the Habs’ resident agitator, took a pot shot at Kimmo Timonen after play had ended, launching yet another scrum.  John Stevens called it cowardly.  I say it’s evidence of the refs allowing highly aggressive borderline hits throughout the game.  There will be fireworks before this one’s over.

– In other agitator news, Scottie Upshall engaged in a heated debate with Canadiens captain Saku Koivu.  I don’t think that trade favors the Habs.  And apparently neither did Steve Begin, who jumped in to prevent Koivu from fighting.

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