Tag Archives: Philadelphia Flyers

All good things come to an end

Game seven between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Buffalo Sabres went against the grain as it relates to the rest of the series.  The Flyers took control of the contest from the start of the game all the way until their 5-2 victory. 

The Flyers will move onto the Eastern Conference Semi-finals and their opponent is yet to be determined.  For the Sabres they have to take pride in their second half surge and new direction under Terry Pegula and company.  The Flyers were the better team for most of the previous six games and that seemed to culminate in Game seven.  Regardless of the injuries the Sabres sustained throughout the series it was unfortunate to see their season end so abruptly and harshly. 

Some thoughts on how things developed throughout Game seven:

Derek Roy should be commended for the heart and determination it must have taken to get to the point where he could play in Game seven.  He was initially told he would be done for the season and then maybe the second round of the playoffs where that thought seemed impossible for this Sabres team.  Nonetheless, Roy put the work in necessary to get back when the Sabres needed him in Game seven.  You could tell he did not have game shape which after being out for four months and dealing with a leg injury it is difficult to work yourself back into shape that quickly.  Fans should not judge him solely in regards to his performance and if Tim Connolly would have been healthy it seems uncertain if Roy would have played.

The Flyers were the much better team in each game and Ryan Miller was the reason this series and Game seven stayed close.  The Flyers put relentless pressure on the Sabres in the first period outshooting the Sabres 16-2 and creating numerous scoring opportunities. A late goal by Braydon Coburn off the face-off was deflected by Mike Grier past Miller.  The Flyers registered 36 shots and many of their earlier shots generated quality scoring opportunities. Miller’s first period performance helped hold them off the board until the Flyers broke through on that late first period goal with 20 second remaining.

Even though the Sabres won the face-off battle 37-34, Paul Gaustad lost two face-offs that led directly to the Flyers first two goals. 

The Flyers forecheck and the Sabres inability to clear their defensive zone hurt them considerably in this game.  It was a constant advantage that the Flyers enjoyed throughout the series and in Game seven they really capitalized on pressuring Miller and the Sabres.

Danny Briere had a fantastic series against his former team that was capped with a 1 goal, 1 assist performance.  He has scored 94 points in 93 career playoff games.  His departure is well documented, but it is hard to swallow for Sabres fans that a point per game playoff performer left town.  This series put the Flyers depth on showcase, especially at the center position.  His and Claude Giroux’s play carried the Flyers through difficulties in goal.

Drew Stafford is going to be an interesting component to this offseason.  Coming off a 30-goal season the forward played extremely well at times in the series, but failed to generate much on the score sheet (1g, 2a).  Where his value is set on the market is going to determine whether or not he stays with the Sabres.

Chris Butler’s regression through the series really hurt the Sabres, especially with the injury problems that the team faced with Jordan Leopold and Andrej Sekera. Hopefully the young defenseman can learn from this postseason and continue his growth going forward.

This game was more a reflection of how well the Flyers played as opposed to how poorly the Sabres played,.  The Flyers generated more offense, played a more sound defensive game and for the first time in the series played better on special teams.  The Sabres seemed overmatched and even overwhelmed by the emotion of the Game seven.  Turnovers early in their own defensive zone and shooting pucks over the Flyers goalie really hurt any potential chance of building momentum early.

Three Stars:

  1. Danny Briere (1g, 1a and proverbial pest all night)
  2. Claude Giroux (2a)
  3. James van Riedsmyk (1g and solid all around play)

Regardless of the outcome, if many Buffalo Sabres fans were told back in December that they would have the opportunity to compete in a Game seven in the first round of the playoffs they would have been completely happy with the chance.  While that is little condolence for the season being over there are many positives that can and should be taken away from the season including the new direction under new ownership.  There are many questions that management will need to address come July 1 and beyond, but fans should anticipate an exciting offseason and 2011-12 hockey season. 

Over the next weeks and months, we will take a look back on the 2010-2011 season as well as a look ahead to this offseason.

Twitter: @brianbund

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Game 7 preview

 

Here we go!

Is there anything better in sports than a game 7?  Unlike other do or die situations in the NFL and college basketball there are six games played back and forth that build animosity between the players and allow a series of story lines to unfold.  The Philadelphia Flyers and Buffalo Sabres series is no different and based on the fact that every game has been decided by one goal with the exception of a late empty net goal in game 3.  The last two games have been decided in overtime.  Looking ahead, game 7 should provide an electric atmosphere in the Wells Fargo Center and for some excellent television.  Some story lines to watch for in game 7:

First and foremost, with Tim Connolly’s absence there is going to be some pressure for Derek Roy to actually produce for the Sabres.  Sabres fans would have much rather seen Roy’s addition to the lineup serve as additional depth has now turned to needing 15-20 minutes of ice time with the possibility of playing on both special teams units.

In addition to Derek Roy’s return, both Andrej Sekera and Jochen Hecht practiced with the team.  There is no way to know until probably game time who, if any out of the three return to the lineup but being able to insert any and all of these players into the lineup would be a boost for the Sabres.

Will the Flyers’ goalie situation stabilize?  Brian Boucher has been announced he will start in net and in all likelihood Sergei Bobrovsky I assume would be the backup.  The Flyers have resorted to pulling their goalie in three games this series; however they have managed a 2-1 record in those games they do so.  The Sabres need to continue to attack the Flyers’ goalies and sustain pressure for the entire 60 minutes.

Can Ryan Miller steal another game?  Two of the three wins for the Sabres have been because of Ryan Miller playing brilliant hockey resulting in two shutouts.  Miller has played well in the entire series and the Flyers put relentless pressure on him to come back in game 6.  How Miller responds and how well he plays is going to be crucial for the Sabres to advance.

Can the Sabres stop Danny Briere and Claude Giroux?  Together they have combined for 12 points in the series.  Briere’s five goals have all seemed to fall in clutch situations where the Flyers genuinely needed the lift including game 6.  Giroux has had 1 goal and 6 assists and generally had his way with controlling the puck into and through the Buffalo zone.  How well the young Sabres blue line handles these two players may go a long way to winning a road game 7.

Can someone else step up and help Thomas Vanek carry this team offensively?  Vanek has two multi-goal games in this series.  It is the first time a Sabres player has done that since Chris Drury.  Only two other Sabres have two goals, Tyler Ennis and Nathan Gerbe.  If this team is going to compete offensively with Philadelphia they are going to need to have a more balanced attack.  Drew Stafford has played a remarkable series and at times been the Sabres most dominant player, however he only has one goal and game 7 would be a huge moment for Stafford to make his presence felt on the score sheet.

The Sabres blue line is a combined -8 for the series and as a whole the Sabres have not played well against the Flyers at even strength.  It sounds cliché to say that they need a total group effort in game 7 but this unit really does.  At times each defenseman has played extremely well in the series only to have another unit struggle and take untimely penalties.  Their ability to withstand the Flyers forecheck and reclaim the area surrounding Ryan Miller is going to be a crucial aspect of game 7.

The Sabres are 1-5 in Game 7s all-time and the Flyers are 8-6.  The road team has won 8 out of the last 10 game 7s.

Who wants to be a hero?  Game 7 provides the element of either extending or ending your season in one game.  Players have the opportunity to lift their name within franchise player history in moments like these.  Players like Danny Briere and Thomas Vanek are the likely players to continue their hot hand, however in situations like these it can come from the most unlikely of sources.  Barring a complete letdown this game has itself positioned to be a fantastic ride for hockey fans and a gut wrenching experience for fans of both teams.  As Marv Levy used to say, “Where else would you rather be than right here, right now?”

Twitter: @brianbund

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Blown chances

The Buffalo Sabres blew an opportunity in Game six to clinch their series with the Philadelphia Flyers in front of their home crowd.  The Sabres lost 5-4 in overtime on Ville Leino’s winner.  The Sabres lost another forward in the mix and head into Game seven back in a hostile Philadelphia atmosphere.  The Sabres flew another two goal lead and the game bounced back and forth leaving fans wondering what if.  Looking forward to Tuesday is going to be great to enjoy a Game seven, but also heart wrenching at the same time.  Here’s some thoughts of the game:

First, to get this out of the way the Mike Richards hit on Tim Connolly is going to have to be looked at hard by the league.  This is his second infraction of the series and has taken Tim Connolly off the ice for at least Game seven.  The league has made a concerted effort to state that they are trying to make hockey a much safer sport.  Hits from behind driving players into the boards are as dangerous as they come and here is a chance to send a message by holding a player out of a do-or-die situation.

I have been critical of Tim Connolly’s performance in this series, but he still remained the Sabres best option as a number 1 center.  Lindy Ruff stated after the game that Derek Roy will return and should ease the loss of Connolly, however it would have been nice for the Sabres to have both healthy to give some more depth at the center position.

Danny Briere is the quintessential goal scorer. His first goal was finding room in front and putting home the loose rebound with no one putting pressure on him.  The second goal was a huge slapper on the power play that tied the game at three.  He’s driving Sabres’ fans nuts, but man is he good at hockey.  He now has 93 points in 92 career playoff games.

The Sabres blew a two goal lead.  Again.

James van Riedsdyk has continued to be a force in this series for the Flyers.  He has drove hard to the net in each game, played well on the forecheck and played a well rounded game in each game.  He’s the player that I notice the most consistent basis for the Flyers.

The Flyers goaltending situation is abysmal, but they are 2-1 in games where they make a goaltender switch and the Sabres haven’t been able to generate sufficient offense after the first period.   Boucher came in and had 24 big saves for the Flyers and held off the Sabres from continuing their first period pace.

Thomas Vanek can be an absolute beast when he’s in front of the net.  His play coupled with the play of Drew Stafford gives the Sabres two power forwards that at times are the only players that can really be a menace to opposing teams in the offensive zone.

The Sabres performed great on faceoffs which is a state I put a lot of value in and glad they won it 44-34, but the Flyers shot advantage took its toll on the Sabres.

At this point it is extremely difficult to not appreciate the type of effort and tenacity that Nathan Gerbe plays with.  His play down the stretch of the regular season as well as this playoffs shows what most fans expected of the Hobey Baker winner.  He is the type of player that fans love to root for.

Tyler Myers plays such a strong game in long stretches of the game.  He had 3 assists, but still finished -1.  I like the edge that he has incorporated into his game and just want to see him truly dominate games for an entire game.

 Three Stars

  1. Ville Leino (1 g, 1a)
  2. Danny Briere (2 g)
  3. Thomas Vanek (2g)

Is there anything better than game 7 of the Stanley Cup playoffs?  Tuesday night should provide an electric atmosphere and an opportunity for this group of Sabres to really put an exclamation point on this season.  The return of Derek Roy and his effectiveness are going to be the key to the game.  With the loss of Connolly they are going to need to get production from their centermen.  The Flyers are going to continue the same game plan as always and hope their goaltending doesn’t fail them.  The Flyers have played better in almost every game throughout the series, however two of the games the Sabres have had Ryan Miller refuse to let in a goal.  Not that he needs to shut the Flyers out, but I do think he is going to need to play an ‘A’ level game on the road to help his team.  The Sabres are going to need to have Ryan Miller play his best game and hopefully carry this team to the next round.  Nonetheless, Tuesday should be a lot of fun.

Follow me on Twitter: @brianbund

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He’s just a little guy…

One win to advance, Thirteen to go

The Buffalo Sabres have a chance to return home and close out the series against the Philadelphia Flyers after their 4-3 overtime victory.  The Sabres jumped out with a couple weird angle goals, but put pressure on the Flyers from the start.  The Flyers responded in their home arena and pushed the Sabres back on their heels, but ultimately lost the game in overtime.

Tyler Ennis was the Sabres best forward all night and as much as I feel he may overcomplicate his moves while entering the offensive zone he was the only player that consistently put pressure on the Flyers.  Not to mention scoring the game winner allows him a free pass.  He needs to play more games like tonight and drive hard to the net and play smart along the boards.

I was skeptical of Ennis at times and I’ll gladly eat this delicious plate of crow. 

I had a sneaky suspicion that Tim Connolly was going to do something big in the game.  I was wrong.  Go figure. 

The shot by Mike Weber was as big a part of Ennis’ goal.  It was a hard, low slap shot that created the rebound opportunity.  Rebounds have been available to the Sabres throughout the series and they capitalized on the opportunity. 

Brian Boucher had a rough night and there is no excuse to have the two pucks bounce off of you from that deep.  On top of that he seemed completely shocked that Marc-Andre Gragnani would want to shoot the puck on a 4-on-3.

I really wish that the referees would just drop the puck.  I understand and can appreciate that there is a protocol that they are supposed to follow, but at time it is tough to watch and the defensive zone faceoff is so crucial in some instances in the playoffs

Ryan Miller may have been out of position in some cases tonight, but he also made huge saves through the third period.  He was put in a difficult position in the James van Riemsdyk goal and was forced to leave the net.  With the Flyers controlling most of the second and third periods the Sabres needed Miller to play well and he helped carry the team through.

This game was played a lot more cleanly than I had anticipated after the end of Game four.

I really hope that Jason Pominville is ok because the replay certainly looked like the skate caught his ankle area pretty well. 

For five games the Flyers have forechecked as well as any team I can remember and it once again led to a goal.  The game tying goal left Chris Butler off his feet and Mike Richards dumped the puck out front for Danny Briere to quickly put it in.

Game six on Easter Sunday should provide a unique atmosphere in the building and plaza.  The Sabres have the opportunity to close the series out at home and there are rumors that Derek Roy could return and if Pominville is going to be out for a prolonged period of time it could be the type of boost that the Sabres need.  The Sabres are going to need to be able to handle Philadelphia’s desperation and keep the crowd revving throughout the game.

Three Stars:

  1. Tyler Ennis (2 goals)
  2. Claude Giroux (2 assists)
  3. Ryan Miller (36 saves and some big third period saves)

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