The Flyers took a 2-1 series lead with a 4-2 win on Monday night in chilly Buffalo. Here are a few notes on tonight’s crucial Game 4.
– Brian Boucher. Laviolette’s call to start Brian Boucher between the pipes for Game 3 proved to be the right move. The veteran played outstanding, stopping 35 shots fired his way in front of a hostile and rowdy Buffalo crowd, handling the emotions and buzz in Buffalo like a seasoned playoff goaltender should. One surprising fact I learned during the game, going into Game 3 Brian Boucher held a career 2.18 GAA in the postseason, 5th best among all active goalies. It would be a tick higher had he not made what is known in Philadelphia as “The Save” (see below) back in the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals. Game 4 provides Boucher with the opportunity to build on his performance from Game 3 and solidify (for now) his hold on the starting duties.
– James. Van. Riemsdyk. I tend to reserve my expectations and judgement as much as I can with young, heralded players, but it has become glaringly clear between the last handful of regular season games plus the first three games of this playoff series, that JVR has arrived. Following in the footsteps of Claude Giroux and Ville Leino of last year’s post season, the 21 year-old has saved his coming out party for the playoffs. He has one goal and 15 shots through the first three games, but most noticeably, has been physically dominant on both ends of the ice, using his 6’4″ frame to outgrind and outskate everyone on the Sabres. We all knew this day was coming for the South Jersey native when we drafted him with the 2nd overall pick in 2007 (behind Patrick Kane). I’m just glad it has come at the most crucial point in the season. Look for JVR to continue to be one of the best players on the ice tonight in Game 4.
– Nodl or Zherdev? Enigmatic Ukrainian forward Nikolai Zherdev made the most out of his opportunity to play in Game 3 in favor of injured Andreas Nodl by skating hard, creating chances on the power play, and oh yeah, potting the game winner. He was clicking with linemates Mike Richards and Kris Versteeg as well. I haven’t heard much on the status of Nodl’s “upper body injury”, but even if he’s healthy, I would have a hard time seeing Laviolette scratch Zherdev after his performance on Monday night. Nodl didn’t do much of anything in Games 1 and 2. Play with the hot hand and get Nik back in there regardless of Nodl’s injury status.
Zherdev dunks the game-winning geno in Game 3.
– Pronger Update: Chris Pronger took wrist shots for the second day in a row on Tuesday, a good sign that his broken wrist is improving. He won’t play in Game 4 and, in my opinion, won’t play in this series unless the Flyers face elimination.A win tonight and that can pretty much guarantee that he can rest until, at a minimum, a very very “if necessary” Game 7. A loss tonight opens the possibility of “rushing” him back for a crucial Game 5 in Philadelphia.
– Keep it up Jeff! I received a text from captaindan during Game 3 saying ,”You were pretty pretty pretty spot on with the keys to the game tonight.” I’m still confused how it’s possible to stutter so badly via text message, but nevertheless, it looks like Carter and Briere read my post before Monday’s game.
Jeff Carter needs to snap the fuck out of whatever Sea Isle jager-bomb daydream he’s been in the last two games. The Flyers leading goal-scorer has been invisible in this series, wiffing on wide open opportunities, shying away from any form of contact (as usual), and coasting around the ice like a lost puppy dog. Carter needs to buck up and show us why the Flyers resigned him to a long-term deal this year. This also goes for Danny Briere, who has been smoking whatever Carter has. WAKE UP! IT’S THE PLAYOFFS!
Jeff Carter silenced the crowd in the first period of Game 3 with a powerplay wrist shot that beat Miller up high, and Danny Briere added a slam dunk shelf job of his own. Most importantly, Carter had his legs – he played great in his own end, particularly in the scrambling final period, winning battles along the wall, digging out loose pucks, and playing physical. Carter needs to keep boosting his confidence with continued performances like these.
– Forget Game 3. It was a great win in front of a hostile Buffalo crowd. Boucher played great. The powerplay looked better. Slumping players (Carter, Briere, and Richards) got off the shnide. Build on those positives, but don’t let it go to your head.
Ticketless Sabres fans gather in sub-30 degree weather outside HSBC Arena to watch their team lose Game 3 on a screen smaller than the TV in my living room.
– Go for the jugular. Everyone talks about the importance of Game 3’s. Let’s talk Game 4. A win tonight and the Flyers head back to Philadelphia for Game 5 with a chance to eliminate the Sabres in front of a home crowd (I will be in attendance). A loss tonight and it’s a whole new series. You know Buffalo will come out with some serious desperation. The Flyers must rise to the occasion and step on the neck of the down Sabres.
LET’S GO FLYERS!