Winning in the post season comes down to production. If one team’s best players out-produce the other, the series is usually there for the taking.
It’s a simple formula.
Yet, while the Flyers’ big scorers have produced nine goals in two games, the Sabres are still looking for answers. And that’s why, despite having the better goaltender in Ryan Miller and holding the Flyers to a power play efficiency of 11.1%, the Sabres are down 2-1 in the series and holding on for dear life.
It was like deja vu.
Trailing 3-2 early in the third period of Game 3, the Buffalo Sabres earned 1:15 of 5-on-3 time thanks to a Nikolay Zherdev hold and a Darroll Powe cross-checking call.
But just like the Flyers’ Game 1 two-man advantage, for the Sabres, it was the turning point of the contest. And just like for the Flyers, not converting proved costly.
For nearly every team in the playoffs, home-ice advantage has been a crucial and desired aspect in gaining an edge on the opposition. However, for the Flyers, their strategic advantage comes as the visitors.
“I think when we get away we just kind of relax,” said Jeff Carter. “When you’re on the road there isn’t much to worry about except for going out and playing hockey. For whatever reason, we seem to play our best hockey on the road.”
With less than two minutes left and Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals tied at three, it became painfully obvious that Jeff Carter was not a playoff finisher.
With a chance to win the contest and send the series back to Chicago for Game 7, Carter grabbed the puck, swung around the Blackhawks net and fired one of his many wrist shots right into Antti Niemi.
The Blackhawks went on to win in overtime.
There’s something to be said for a steady veteran hand when a precision job is needed. And that’s exactly what Brian Boucher gave the Flyers in Game 2 on Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres.
Coming in relief of shaky rookie Sergei Bobrovsky in the first period, Boucher steadied the ship, making 20 saves and more importantly, gave the Flyers an opportunity to take the eventual 5-3 victory.
“I think [Boucher] is very calm,” said Danny Briere. “He’s been around. It takes a special kind of person to come in while we’re down 3-2, in front of 20,000 fans, during a big game. He kind of settled things down for us and I think that was one of the reasons why we played with a little more composure maybe in the last 45 or 50 minutes.”
On Friday following the Flyers’ afternoon practice, the players all equally shrugged off the shutout home loss to the visiting Buffalo Sabres in Game 1. The mantra followed by the still-confident group was one of ‘we played well enough to win’ and ‘we’ll get them on Saturday’.
And while the lack of concern for their Game 1 defeat may seem counterproductive, the Flyers are focusing squarely on the crux of the entire series — Game 2.
VOORHEES, N.J. — In Thursday night’s hair-pulling 1-0 loss to the Buffalo Sabres in Game 1, the Flyers racked up 35 shots and 74 total attempts at goalie Ryan Miller.
Yet, they still want and need more.
WELLS FARGO CENTER — The intensity may have changed, but the Flyers power play hasn’t, and it cost them a Game 1 playoff victory in a 1-0 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday.
“There were lots of things that happened tonight that were good,” said coach Peter Laviolette with regards to his team’s power play. “There were lots of shots and attacks. However, like the rest of the game, we didn’t find the back of the net.”
WELLS FARGO CENTER — It wouldn’t be a Flyers postseason if it were easy.
Now trailing one game to none thanks to a an underwhelming 1-0 win by the seventh-seeded Buffalo Sabres on Thursday at the Wells Fargo Center, the No. 2 Flyers have every reason to worry.
But they won’t.
VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers are not the same team without Chris Pronger.
That’s an easily stated fact.
The 17-year veteran works like a pillar, particularly in the postseason, holding strong as everything collapses around him. His grit, violence and experience is unparalleled. His presence and skill around the net is as intimidating as it is effective.
However, as the surly blueliner painfully inches his way back into the line up after suffering a broken hand on Feb. 24 and re-injuring it sometime in mid-March, it would serve in the Flyers’ best interest to forget the big man and start the series against the Buffalo Sabres like Pronger won’t play — which might not fall far from the truth.