After mulling over the decision to go pro or stay put, Flyers’ top prospect James VanRiemsdyk, made it official that he will return to the University of New Hampshire for his sophomore season.
Off the heels of a successful freshman season with 11 goals and 23 assists in 31 games, JVR’s decision to stay in college was expected.
After leading his Gatineau Olympiques to a 4-1 series victory in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League championships, highly touted Flyers’ prospect Claude Giroux received the Guy Lafleur Trophy for Most Valuable Player in the playoffs with 17 goals and 34 assists in 19 games. The 5-foot-11 Giroux also broke a Gatineau record for most points in the playoffs (51 pts), with 24 more than the previous record holder, Maxime Talbot (27).
Clearly lacking stalwart defender Kimmo Timonen, the out-of-sorts Flyers gave a decent effort but were simply too sloppy to contend with the Pittsburgh Penguins, who came back from a one-goal deficit to beat the visiting Flyers 4-2, to lead the Eastern Conference Finals 1-0.
Pittsburgh’s Chernobyl monster Evgeni Malkin, scored with just six second left in the second period to give the Pens a 3-2 leas heading into two. The goal would end up being the game-winner as Malkin added another goal in the second period to ice the contest.
The Flyers’ hopes for the cup took a serious hit Thursday, as their number-one defenseman Kimmo Timonen, made the medical decision to sit out the remainder of the year with a blood clot in his ankle. Doctors found the clot after checking the same ankle Kimmo damaged when he blocked a shot in game four against Montreal.
“I got hit with a shot in Game 4 against Montreal,” Timonen told the Inquirers Tim Pannacio. “It’s been getting sorer and sorer every day. We thought we’d get it checked out because it didn’t get better and they found a blood clot.
“This was just an awful day for me. I played in Game 5 in Montreal, but it was really hurting me. I have to be honest: I didn’t expect this result. How many times in your life do you get a chance to play for this, with a chance to go to the Stanley Cup Finals? This is just awful.”
Timonen has had issues with blood clots before in his playing days in Nashville, but such an injury still comes as an abrupt surprise.
Only eight games remain between the Philadelphia Flyers and what seems more and more like destiny.
With 3:04 left in the third period and the score locked at four, Scottie Upshall deflected a Jeff Carter shot past Canadians’ goalie Carey Price, giving the Flyers a late one-goal lead. Minutes later Mike Knuble followed up with a calming empty net goal to finalize the Flyers 6-4 victory over Montreal and advancement to the next round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Three days after the risky decision to start 22-year old Jaroslav Halak in net, Canadians coach Guy Carbonneau made the official call to put 20-year old Carey Price back in net, in an attempt to stave off elimination in game five.
“He deserves a second shot,” said Carbonneau. “I think in the last few days he had time to calm down and refocus and get ready for another long stretch.”
Price struggled in the second round against the Flyers, posting a .750 save percentage in game three, before being yanked in the second intermission.
“It was a tough time, you always want to play, but you have to respect the coaches’ decision,” Price said. “I’m just looking forward to getting back in there. Hopefully, we can pull off a winning streak.”
It was speculated that Price’s glove hand had been injured, which would explain his recent troubles. But such accusations have been denied throughly by Carbonneau and Price. The real explanation of Price’s struggles could be simple exhaustion considering the youngster has had to be mentally sharp for all but five games since former Canadian goalie Cristobal Huet was traded to Washington at the trade deadline.
In the press conference following Wednesday’s 4-2 loss to the Flyers, Montreal Canadians’ coach Guy Carbonneau, refused to give Marty Biron and the Flyers credit after Philadelphia took a demanding 3-1 series lead over his Canadians.
“I am still really confident we can win this series,” said Carbonneau, who’s team has not led in any of his team’s three losses. “One day at a time. We have two days now to recharge, then after that, three games in four nights. I like our chances.”
No one expects “Carbo” to admit defeat, but to say he likes his team’s chances down 3-1 is foolish optimism.
“I can’t sit there with the coaching staff and try to change things or the way we play tactically,” he said. “We’re playing great. We have scoring chances and we don’t give too much, but we lost the game.”
The disbelief that the Habs’ bench general seems to feel over his team’s recent losses can be easily construed to be arrogant and dismissive of the Flyers’ efforts. Guy should be trying to get the extra playoff push out of his players, but instead he is essentially telling them it’s not you, it’s luck. And there is nothing you can do about bad luck.
It would benefit John Stevens and the Flyers to pay close attention to the sentiment felt by the Habs. The disrespect could fuel the Flyers into not repeating what happened in the first round against the Capitals, when they gave up a 3-1 series lead and eventually won in the seventh game.
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R.J. Umberger scored two goals and Marty Biron was dazzling, but it was Danny Briere’s power play goal with 4:48 left in the third period that broke a 2-2 tie, giving the Flyers a 3-2 victory over Montreal in pivotal game four, to take a dominant 3-1 series lead.
Umberger (7) and Scott Hartnell (2) each scored in the second period to give the Flyers another 2-0 lead, but like most 2-0 Flyers leads in the series – it evaporated. Tomas Plekanec’s (3) redirection and Saku Koivu’s (3) rebound goals in the third period got the Canadians back into the contest, 2-2.