WELLS FARGO CENTER — The Boston Bruins walked into the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday afternoon and punched the Flyers right in the mouth.
“That’s for thinking you’re the best team in the Eastern Conference.”
Before the red-hot but injury-plagued Flyers could blink, their seven-game winning streak was gone. The reigning Stanley Cup champions had the contest in the bag less than three minutes into the game with goals from Benoit Pouliot and Daniel Paille.
The big, bad Bruins continued the beating throughout, easily winning, 6-0, and taking their seat atop the conference where they belong.
“We have to regroup,” said Kimmo Timonen. “Obviously, we weren’t happy the way we played. We can’t be happy the way we played today, I thought it was an ol’ fashioned ass kicking in every area of the game. They were better in every aspect of the game.”
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On May 25, in an abrupt and surprising decision, Detroit Red Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski called it a career, retiring after 11 seasons in the NHL.
The announcement came without warning as the jaws of the collective hockey world dropped in disbelief. Rafalski, 37, walked away from one year on his contract at $6 million. He was playing a solid 20 minutes per game on a good, competitive team and that play had not dropped off as he finished the year with 44 assists and a plus-11 rating.
The Red Wings, who planned for the defenseman to finish his contract, are now left with a gaping hole on their blue line and little time to fill it — a consequence of early retirement that most teams will never face.
However, if general manager Paul Holmgren and the Flyers aren’t paying attention and didn’t see Rafalski’s sudden retirement as a wake-up call to take a look at their own defensive situation, the same could happen to them with 36-year-old Kimmo Timonen.
Since Chris Pronger’s Game 6 return to the line up, the talk has been of his impact on the power play, his veteran presence and the spark he could and did provide. That’s all true and proved so in the team’s Game 7 victory against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday.
But in the long-term, as the big defenseman begins to log more minutes and heal that aching right hand, Pronger’s key contribution will come in the form of pure depth for the Flyers.
“I think his presence back there is huge,” said James van Riemsdyk. “When you get a guy like him back in the lineup it’s huge.”
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.
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.
After leaving Tuesday’s 6-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks with a concerning lower body injury, Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen is expected to practice with the team today in Los Angeles, according to Sam Carchidi. And if all goes well, Timonen will be available when the Flyers take on the Kings, Thursday at the Staples Center.
UPDATE: Timonen is now being held out of practice as a precaution, but is expected to be available on Thursday.
For insurance purposes, the Flyers have recalled 22-year-old Adirondack Phantoms defenseman Erik Gustafsson, who has four goals and 22 assists in 33 games for the struggling Phantoms.