PHILADELPHIA – Here they come again. That’s right. The stories that start piling up year after year when the Flyers are on the edge or eliminated from the NHL playoffs. The articles about how “The Flyers don’t have a goalie.” To be fair, nobody felt goaltending was a problem this year before the Flyers entire team went into a tailspin the final 6 weeks of the season, myself included. Sergei Bobrovsky gave us no reason to believe he would falter and Brian Boucher was having an excellent year. Soft goals were a thing of the past.
Well, things changed tonight. The Flyers dug themselves a hole so deep that even dominating the game for probably the final 50 minutes couldn’t deliver a win to the Flyers. The Flyers spotted the Sabres 3 goals in the first period. Brian Boucher was pulled in favor of Michael Leighton after the Sabres scored on a 4-on-3 power play 15:36 into the 3rd period. That goal was not Boucher’s fault, but the first 2 were and they were real bad goals. Leighton has not played in the NHL for quite some time now. He was strong after relieving Boucher up until he allowed a juicy rebound to Tyler Ennis in overtime and the Sabres got the 4-3 victory and now have the Flyers on the verge of elimination with a 3-2 series edge. Boucher said after the game he takes “full blame” for putting his team behind the 8-ball.
After the Flyers went down 3-0 they looked like a different team. They controlled seemingly all of the loose pucks. Outside of the power play, which was still horrible (0-5 again), the Flyers controlled the even strength play. James van Riemsdyk played another excellent game and he got the scoring started for the Flyers in the 2nd period. Meszaros added a blast a minute later, and Danny Briere got a backhand rebound up over Miller to tie it early in the 3rd.
It looked like the Flyers had it. It looked like they were going to win. But in overtime, the team came out of the gate with some high risk plays and risky passes. It didn’t take long for that to bite them. Ennis netted the game winner 5:31 into the extra session off of Leighton’s big rebound from a Mike Weber slapper.
Can the Flyers still win this series? Sure. Claude Giroux said postgame that nobody in the locker room expects to lose the series, even now. The Flyers will need to get consistent goaltending and defense and score the timely goals on the road to extend things. They have been the better team this series, and it hasn’t been close. They cannot spot the Sabres two goals on Sunday, period. The sloppy play has to stop.
The Flyers goaltending history is really quite interesting. No matter how well goaltenders play in the regular season, they always seem to have let downs in the postseason. Brian Boucher, Roman Cechmanek, etc. The last Flyers goalie I remember to have played a consistent goal in the playoffs was Robert Esche.
Now the question everyone is going to get caught up in is who starts Game 6 for the Flyers in Buffalo? The goaltending which hasn’t been a problem all year is a problem. Again. Who will it be?
Chris Pronger Status
I talked to a couple folks who attended skate today. The reports of Pronger “wincing” after slap shots they felt were exaggerated. They described him shooting the slappers at “about 80%” full strength. Sources think he has a chance to play in Game 6, but they describe it as “slight.” Who knows with everything that has gone on.
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