Thursday, April 14, 2011

Flyers are no match for Miller in Game 1

Sabres G Ryan Miller
By John McMullen

Philadelphia (The Phanatic Magazine) - Flyers fans tend to live in fear. That's what 36 years of emptiness does to the psyche.

Sure, there's the false bravado or at least a manufactured attempt to show some swagger but in the deep, dark depths of a Philadelphia hockey fan's mind is the expectation of imminent disaster.

The latest calamity came at 5:56 of the third period in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against Buffalo on Thursday when Marc-Andre Gragnani fired a slapshot at Flyers rookie goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who promptly dished up the rebound to Patrick Kaleta on the doorstep like he was Magic Johnson leading the fast break.  The right winger deposited the easy goal in what turned out to be a 1-0 whitewash.

Kaleta's marker erased 40-plus minutes of hockey where the Flyers dominated the action but failed to cash in on four power plays, including a two-man advantage for 38 seconds in the second period.

The difference was Sabres netminder Ryan Miller, one of the NHL's best.

You had a better chance of finding a Buffalo jersey in the sea of orange and black that sold out the Wells Fargo Center than seeing a rebound coming off Miller. He was as clean as they come, stopping 35 shots total, including 16 in the second when the Flyers tilted the ice and played almost exclusively at the Sabres' end.

“We just couldn’t get it past him (Miller),” Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. “Defensively for us, I’m sure it’s the lowest we’ve given up (in terms of) scoring chances since I’ve been here,” Laviolette said. “Their goaltender played well. They capitalized on a nice rebound chance and won a hockey game.

A raucous crowd turned eerily silent during stoppages in play and the waning moments of Game 1 as two things were made perfectly clear -- the Flyers are a better "team" than Buffalo and the Sabres have the best player at the game's most important position.

And just to plant a few more tiny seeds of doubt into long-suffering Flyers fans minds, try these one on for size: Philadelphia and Buffalo have met eight times previously in the postseason and the winner in Game 1 has gone on to win each set. Meanwhile, Sabres coach Lindy Ruff has never lost a playoff series after getting Game 1.

“I think four or five times I missed some tips,” Richards said. “The pucks were near misses. We can’t be discouraged by what happened, losing a game. We just have to be prepared for Saturday’s match. We have to find ways to win hockey games. ”

No comments: