f four Game 7’s in the 2011 playoffs have proven anything, it’s that there is extreme parity in the NHL.
Prior to Tuesday’s Game 7 beat down in Philadelphia, that was no more evident than the seventh seed Buffalo Sabres and second seed Flyers who separated by just one goal. Aside from goaltending, the difference between the two teams was almost non-existent — until the final game.
The game changer? The Flyers came armed with big guns.
“When we need to have a big game, the bigger the game the bigger the players that we have,” Mike Richards said. “Danny [Briere], Kimmo [Timonen], [Chris Pronger], and Claude [Giroux] step up and it’s nice to see that we have confidence when we play in big games.”
Less than a week after Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff chastised the Flyers, mainly captain Mike Richards, for ‘whining’ about the officiating and behind-the-play activity from his team, it was the long-time bench boss who was singing for discipline.
In the third period of the Flyers’ eventual 5-4 overtime win, Richards became tangled with Sabres’ forward Tim Connolly heading into the corner. With Connolly stumbling forward, Richards tried to separate him from the puck with a shove. The push, however, which garnered a two-minute boarding penalty, sent Connolly face first into the glass with the momentum of Richards along with falling.
Connolly, who has a concussion history, never returned to the contest and is ruled out for Game 7 on Tuesday at Wells Fargo Center.
VOORHEES, N.J. — The Buffalo Sabres lit a fire under the Flyers at the tail end of Wednesday’s 1-0 loss, as Paul Gaustad dropped the gloves with James van Riemsdyk and Nathan Gerbe threw a going-away hit on Kimmo Timonen after the final whistle.
On Thursday, it was Sabres’ coach Lindy Ruff’s turn.
It has been a long and draining couple weeks for the Flyers.
Close losses in important games, including four head-scratching defeats in their last five tries, had the word collapse on the tip of everyone’s tongue.
But with the bad taste of their near-meteoric fall down the standings rinsed away by an Atlantic Division title clinch, the second-seeded Flyers, thanks to nearly a week off before Game 1 at the Wells Fargo Center against the No. 7 Buffalo Sabres, get a chance to wipe the slate and prepare for a brand new season.
Mike Richards hasn’t exactly had a stellar season.
Despite amassing 65 points in 79 games, the 26-year old has appeared closer to being the Flyers’ problem rather than their solution during the late-season plummet. His sporadic production and even more sporadic physical effort had many wondering what type of leadership the quiet captain was providing. If not off the ice, where?
But on Tuesday night, something changed.
Kris Versteeg gathered the puck in the defensive zone early in the second period of Sunday’s Flyers-Rangers contest at Madison Square Garden.
From his own slot, the newly acquired forward tried to brainlessly push the disc through hard-checking Rangers’ forward Ryan Callahan, who easily scooped it up and fired top corner into the Flyers’ net to give the Rangers the 4-0 lead. The Blue Shirts would further their advantage to seven before the final whistle mercifully rang.
“Turnovers are what’s killing us,” Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger told the media after Sunday’s game. “We can look at second-effort and all the rest of that after, but turnovers, we have to get the puck in deep and forecheck and get some sustained pressure down in the offensive zone and start grinding on teams as we’ve done in the past. Until we do that, teams are going to pick us apart like they have been. ”
Sitting second overall in the gritty Western Conference with 47 points, the Vancouver Canucks are no slouch of an opponent. But when the Flyers hit the ice tonight at 10 PM at Rogers Arena, they might just have history on their side.
Dating back to 1989, when (now general manager) Paul Holmgren was the head coach of the Flyers and the Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel, were eight-years-old, Philadelphia hasn’t lost a game in Vancouver. The odd and probably coincidental statistic spans 10 games, the last being in Oct. 2007, which was a memorable 8-2 Flyers victory. The contest was highlighted by a then-Flyer Jesse Boulerice cross-check to the neck of Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler, which earned the enforcer a hefty suspension.
“There’s no rhyme or reason to it,” said veteran Flyers defenseman Sean O’Donnell. “I mean, they don’t play very often.
“I think it’s meaningful when you see a stat about not having beaten a team in 10 straight, when you play each other a lot, because it’s pretty much the same personnel. But when you stretch it out over 20 years or more, it’s just a bizarre coincidence.”