The Flyers came into today’s Game 2 of the NHL Playoffs as a team that needed to win. Let’s not sugarcoat it, the Flyers were not as “alright” as everyone would have liked to believe. This is a team that struggled terribly to end the season and lost Game 1 by a 1-0 score despite controlling much of the play throughout the game. However, the Flyers have had a problem finishing and taking leads in several games this season. On the occasions where the Flyers would play well over the last 6 weeks, the games were similar. Examples: LA, Washington, Rangers, Buffalo. The quotes sounded very similar. The result was the same. And it’s just not good enough to win a playoff series.
The Flyers came in to Saturday’s Game 2 with plenty of spark. They were playing this game like it was a must win. And make no mistake about it, it was. It wasn’t pretty, the power play wasn’t good (1 for 10), and the parade to the box started minutes into the game, but the Flyers got it done winning 5-4 in front of the playoff crowd and out shot the Sabres 34-28. After the game forward Ville Leino was asked if this was a must win for the team. “Yeah, pretty much,” Leino said. “It’s tough when you lose two in a row and have to go on the road and win one.” Ville played an OK game tonight. Aside from his power play goal he did what he does best as far as puck possession and trying to make things happen. He made a few errant passes early in the game but most of the Flyers forwards did. The passing was one area of concern in this game that needs to be stronger if the Flyers are going to get Game 3 in Buffalo. As the game went on, the Flyers seemed to tighten things up and play better defensively. It seemed like the officiating made it tough for the Flyers to establish any kind of flow in the game. It was one of the most questionably called games I have ever seen.
The ice time was pretty jacked up due to how many power plays and penalty kills the Flyers special teams units had to be on. You had guys like Darroll Powe logging almost as much ice time as top forwards. Powe logged more ice time tonight (15:40) than Kris Versteeg (13:13), Scott Hartnell (13:52), and Ville Leino (11:34).
I asked Sean O’Donnell after the game how taxing it is for the special teams units to spend half of the game on the ice. “Well that’s one of the tests you have,” O’Donnell told me. “You go up there and whether it was a good trip or a bad trip you just have to keep moving forward and know what you have to do next. I guess that first period got away from us for a bit. It seemed like we would work hard, get a goal, do something to give them the power play, and they’d score. Then we’d work hard, get a goal, and they’d score. Hopefully we’ll learn from that and stay a little more composed at times. You know, you want to have enthusiasm but it was just nice to get that split, go to Buffalo and see what happens.”
Peter Laviolette was asked after the game if he was frustrated with the amount of calls in the game. “The game’s over,” Laviolette said. “The game happened the way it happened. Whether I’m frustrated or not it’s irrelevant. Any time there’s 30 minutes of special teams it taxes people. It doesn’t leave a lot of flow to the game.” Laviolette seemed to give the politically correct answer as he was pretty irate for many of the calls on the bench all night.
Officials Dan O’Rourke and Brad Meier called 24 penalties tonight. There was 27:29 of combined special teams time tonight (and three 5-on-3’s combined) for the Flyers and Sabres. A little ludicrous? One would think so. Can the NHL be happy with this type of effort from their officiating crew? They called a lot of minor stick infractions and really petty offenses that usually don’t get whistled in the playoffs. It made the game really tough to watch. One Sabres player who wished to remain anonymous told me, “It was just ridiculous. It totally killed the flow of the game for both teams and it’s not good for the fans either. [Expletive] horrible.” Is there any chance these guys officiate into the next round? Is this how the NHL wanted the game called? I can’t even imagine that to be the case.
One glaring sore spot: Sergei Bobrovsky was pulled tonight after the Sabres pulled ahead to take a 3-2 lead in the first period. The first two goals I would say were not his fault. One was an expiring 5-on-3 and one was a power play goal with a defensive breakdown in front. However, the rookie did seem a bit rattled. Who would you go with in Game 3 in Buffalo? Naturally one would think that the veteran Boucher would be able to adapt to the pressure of a key game on the road to break the series tie. However, Bobrovsky has bounced back nicely from bad games this season and Laviolette might be thinking the same thing. “I’ll be prepared for whatever,” Boucher told reporters after the game. “We’ll deal with that tomorrow.”
As per Peter Laviolette policy, he would not talk about who his goaltender would be. In fact, he seemed to get a bit annoyed when asked about the goaltender twice. He was asked why Boucher wouldn’t be starting if he’s a veteran goaltender with the experience. “We don’t have a starter, per se,” Laviolette said. “We don’t talk about goaltenders. I hate to keep repeating myself. We don’t talk about goaltenders, injuries, or lineups. Ever.” Laviolette then jokingly asked, “Is everybody here?” He wanted to make sure everyone got the memo for the future.
I’ll leave it to you: Boosh or Bob for Game 3? Is it even a question that Bob will be back in there if you know the way Laviolette thinks? Either way, the Flyers need to tighten up on defense and play a good road game no matter who’s in net.
Other Game 2 Notes:
* Chris Pronger Update: There have been a few conflicting reports. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi posted earlier he heard Pronger is 50/50 for Game 3. Judging by the fact he hasn’t taken shots yet I don’t know if that’s possible. CSNPhilly.com’s Tim Panaccio heard he’s definitely a no go for Game 3 and still no word on Game 4. Don’t expect this to become any clearer any time soon.
* On the Sabres 2nd goal which was reviewed in Toronto, Hockey Ops released the following statement: “Hockey Ops was ensuring that the puck entered the net in a legal fashion.” – Guess they didn’t want the Sabres to give up 2 goals through the side of the net in the past 2 decades?
* Per the Elias Sports Bureau – the six combined goals in tonight’s first period is the most in a period of a Flyers playoff game since May 20, 1997 at the NY Rangers in Game 3 of the 1997 Eastern Conference Finals, when the Flyers scored four and the Rangers scored two in the third period. The Flyers won the game 6-3.