Flyers-Sabres Game 7 Notes
April 26, 2011
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Let me begin by addressing the elephant in the room and getting it out of the way. I could write an entire novel venting about Philadelphia’s goaltending in this series. Keep in mind, Flyers fans have endured years and years of questionable goaltending, helping us develop an extraordinarily high tolerance for shakiness between the pipes. But this series has taken the phrase “goaltending controversy” to a whole new level. Following Game 6, ESPN’s Barry Melrose called it “the worst goaltending he has ever seen from a team”, let alone in the playoffs when it matters most. I will agree.
Let’s face it – goaltending (for both teams) is the reason this series is going to Game 7. Hell, it’s the only reason that the Flyers didn’t sweep the series. But let’s not forget that this series would have been over already if not for the Flyers’ resilience. Their goalies have deflated momentum and put the team in huge holes multiple times, but the Flyers always kept coming back. They know they can win games even when the scoreboard shows they shouldn’t. We could beat the dead dog as much as we like, and make whatever excuses you want, but the bottom line – there is a Game 7 Tuesday night in Philadelphia. What has happened to this point does not matter.
Game 7 Notes
– Danny Briere. There are few players in the NHL that elevate their game in pressure moments as much as Briere does. He has the most playoff points (89 pts) of any player since the lockout. Let that sink in for a minute. As if Briere needed any further motivation, Buffalo Sabres uber-goon Patrick Kaleta made a comment to Briere (and Hartnell) about their recent divorces during the second period of Game 6. Down one goal at the end of the second, Briere uncharacteristically stood up in the locker room and rallied the troops (an equiment manager took a video of his speech).
“It was four or five minutes before we headed back out and he was standing up and he let it rip a little bit,” Laviolette said. “He wasn’t ready [for it to end]. It wasn’t time. We need to dig in. . . . I was inspired. I’m too old and heavy, but I wouldn’t have minded grabbing my skates and going out and trying to help. It wasn’t a rah-rah thing. It was just him venting and him going off and, oh, my God.”
Briere netted two beauties in Game 6 and you can bank on him showing that same killer drive in Game 7. Patrick Kaleta should be wishing he kept his mouth shut.
– Chris Pronger. Pronger’s return to the lineup in Game 6 was more of a morale lifter and mind game than anything. He played only 5 minutes, almost exclusively on the powerplay which seemed to get a huge boost with Pronger in the mix. The Flyers went 2 for 5, showed a few different looks (one of which had Pronger supplanted in front of the net), and moved the puck more effectively than they have shown all series. I still think the Flyers will use him sparingly tonight, but if this one is close in the third period, expect them to unleash the beast.
– Brian Boucher. If you take away a 3-minute stretch in Game 5 where Boucher’s head wasn’t even on this planet let alone in the game, Boucher has been stellar this series. We’re not asking Boucher to singlehandedly win hockey games like the Sabres ask of Ryan Miller on a nightly basis. Just play consistent. Make the saves you should make as an NHL goalie. Control your rebounds. Be smart when handling the puck. That’s all. You want more redemption for Game 5? Here’s your chance. Your teammates have stepped up around you and given you this opportunity.
– Home ice advantage. For the Flyers, there have been more ups and downs in this series than I’ve ever experienced in the playoffs – and it’s only the first round! The Flyers are riding a huge high following a comeback OT win on the road to send Game 7 back to Philly. The Wells Fargo Center is going to be absurd, absolutely rocking. The Flyers need to harness the home crowd’s energy and come out hitting and forechecking the shit out of the Sabres. But don’t give in to the crowd’s thirst for blood and do so wrecklessly. Discipline, discipline, discipline. Nothing can take a crowd out of the game faster than taking an early dumbass penalty and giving up a powerplay goal. Use the inherent momentum you get from the home crowd, but use it in the right way.
– Simplicity. I always seem to bring up this point in the playoffs but it rings even louder for Game 7’s. There’s no extra formula for winning a do-or-die Game 7. The teams that prevail are those that bring clarity and simplicity to the ice – teams that stay within their system and do the little things right each shift. Get pucks deep, win one-on-one battles, make smart plays in your own zone. A lot of teams lose sight of the importance of these smaller aspects amidst the emotion and craziness involved in Game 7’s. Don’t get caught up in the circus. Work hard and make the right decisions one play at a time.
Mark my words, this Flyers team is one win away from making a serious run in these playoffs. The have already faced a ton of adversity and have found ways to overcome it. This is an essential characteristic of a contender and is something they are showing for the first time in a few months. It all starts tonight. Game 7 in Philadelphia.
LET’S GOOOOOOO FLYERS!