Flyers Still Optimistic, Despite Heartbreaking Loss


After a comeback reminiscent of historic Game 7 of the 2010 Eastern Conference Semifinals fell short, the Philadelphia Flyers suddenly find themselves behind the eight-ball, on the brink of an upset that would knock them out of the playoffs and stun the hockey world. It would be very easy to look at the series scores and say, “Oh well, we tried our best.” But the Broad Street Bullies are still ready to fight.

“We just have to go play good hockey like we did the last two periods, and we’ll win,” said Claude Giroux.

A notable problem last night was the Flyers’ defense, which seemed to collapse too quickly and give up too many second chances to the Buffalo Sabres. Luckily, most of those chances failed to find the back of the net. Unfortunately, the one that did was the one that came off of Tyler Ennis’ stick in overtime. The game-winning goal came after an Andrej Meszaros whip around the boards failed to be picked up by Matt Carle. The puck went to the point, then was passed along the blue line, where the original shot was taken. Michael Leighton kicked the puck to the opposite side, directly onto Ennis’ stick, with Carle a good five-to-ten feet away from the play and unable to disrupt the follow-up shot.

“The puck came down the wall and I remember chipping it out, and it just didn’t get out,” said Carle. “I didn’t see Ennis behind me, and it was such a bang-bang play, that there wasn’t much for us to do.

“You have to have a short-term memory. And we need to be on all four cylinders tomorrow when we get to Buffalo…guys are excited to get up there, and then get back here for Game 7 in our building.”

One of the bright spots from Game 5 was James van Riemsdyk, who continues to excel under pressure in this quarterfinal series. He scored the first goal in last night’s game to spark the three-goal comeback – similar to the goal he scored against the Bruins last postseason to spark the same exact three-goal comeback. The organization has challenged JVR’s game all year, even making him a healthy scratch for a few games at a time to prod him to pick up his game. And he’s done just that.

“I think once we got that first goal, everyone started to play better,” said van Riemsdyk. “It’s going to take everyone raising their game to the next level to win the next two games.”

With regards to the struggling power play, the Flyers were practicing the umbrella with Kimmo Timonen at the point, Giroux and Mike Richards on the sides, Daniel Briere behind the net, and van Riemsdyk at the point. Yet there is no decision on what the man-advantage will look like when the puck drops tomorrow.

“We’ll have to see. It’s another option we have to look at. If that’s where they want me to be, then I’ll look forward to wreaking some havoc in front of the net.”

Nikolay Zherdev, after a year in which he played just over 50 games due to being benched, was arguably the best Flyer in last night’s loss to the Sabres. He was all over the ice, both on the offensive and defensive side of the puck. Zherdev had numerous takeaways, a couple hits, and seemed to be in the right position almost every shift.

But more importantly, coach Peter Laviolette has a difficult decision to make for Sunday’s do-or-die Game 6. After starting Sergei Bobrovsky in Games 1, 2, and 3, then Brian Boucher in Games 4 and 5 – and pulling Boucher for Leighton in Game 5 – who starts on Sunday? With no room for error, both the goaltenders and the coach understand what weight this decision carries.

“Without commenting on anything [regarding who is starting in Game 6],” said Laviolette, “Brian is a veteran goaltender in the league and has done an excellent job. He’s proven that he can come back and play.”

Alan Bass, a writer for The Hockey News and THN.com, is the author of The Great Expansion: The Ultimate Risk That Changed The NHL Forever. He has worked for the Philadelphia Flyers’ Fan Development department, going to schools throughout the tri-state area to teach about fitness and the importance of teamwork. He is the General Manager of the Muhlenberg College Division II hockey team as well. You can contact him at Alanbasswriting@aol.com.

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