Tuesday, May 03, 2011

A consistent energy level would serve the Flyers well

Bruins G Tim Thomas
By John McMullen

PHILADELPHIA (The Phanatic Magazine) - When the obituary is finally written on the Flyers 2010-11 season, I'm sure it will have a familiar ring to it.

The organizations's inability to obtain a top-tier goaltender is certainly worthy of exploring but it's a little like beating a dead horse. For whatever reason the Philadelphia brass thinks its assets in the salary cap era are better spent in other areas.

That argument was bolstered last season when the Flyers almost won the Cup with the pedestrian Michael Leighton as their netminder.

To me, the bigger problem with this unit is the lack of energy and urgency until their backs are against the wall.

You saw it '09-10 when Philadelphia fell behind Boston 3-0 before storming back to win. You saw it against Buffalo in the first round this year when the Flyers stumbled to a 3-2 deficit against a vastly inferior team and needed a Game 6 overtime win just to survive. And you saw it over the over the weekend when the Orange and the Black did its best sleepwalking impression in a 7-3 drubbing at the hands of the Bruins in Game 1 of the East semis.

Monday was going to be a little different. All over the country, a patriotic fervor erupted when President Barack Obama announced late Sunday night that a brave group of Navy Seals had killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

The Wells Fargo Center was jumping with the type of jingoistic fever I haven't seen in Philly since Sgt. Slaughter battled the Iron Sheik in a Boot Camp Match across the parking lot at the Spectrum.

Peter Laviolette calls it "jam" and there was enough jam in the building to jack Eeyore up.

“That was pretty cool," budding Flyers star James van Riemsdyk said of the atmosphere . "Obviously being an American and playing in a city like Philadelphia, one of the most prominent American cities is pretty cool and the fans were unbelievable. They are so passionate about a country and our sports and to hear that it was pretty special.”

Perhaps it was apropos that van Riemsdyk, one of the few Flyers from the United States, scored two goals before Boston could blink an eye. After all, JVR was born in North Jersey and one of his best friends lost his father to the terror on 9/11.

The jam, at least some of it, dissipated, however, It always does and the Flyers stopped attacking, letting Tim Thomas settle in. Goals by the Bruins' Chris Kelly and Brad Marchand evened things by the end of the first period.

What looked like it was going to be a run-and-gun affair reminiscent of George Gervin's Spurs vs. David Thompson's Nuggets turned into a defensive stalemate.

Brian Boucher had to leave for the last 7 1/2 minutes of the second period with a hand injury before returning to start the third. The embattled Sergei Bobrovsky kept the Flyers in it, however, by stopping all six shots he

Philadelphia should have won in the third when they peppered Thomas with 21 shots on goal, a franchise record for any period of a home playoff game. JVR was a monster and Danny Briere had the best opportunity of all in the last five seconds of regulation but fanned as the puck bounced over his stick while he was looking at an open net.

The jam was back for the extra frame and Philadelphia responded early, buzzing Thomas again and again but the likely Vezina Trophy winner was spectacular. In the end he stopped 52-of-54 shots before David Krejci silenced the crowd at 14:01 of overtime.

"As the game went on I was just trying to work hard and to build to get myself into the game," Thomas said. "By the time the third period rolled around I was starting to feel really good. Fortunately I was feeling good at the right time because they got some shots and some opportunities and kept me busy for the third period.”

“He was pretty good in there tonight," van Riemsdyk added when talking  about Thomas . "I think it’s just a matter of us bearing down on those second chances. That’s all we can really do.”

Krejci's blistering one-timer appeared to hit the back pipe but was initially waved off. The play was reviewed at the next whistle and replay clearly showed the puck hit the rear brace of the net before ricocheting back into play, giving Boston the win and a 2-0 lead in the best- of-seven series.

"I wanted to get a good one-timer and it worked," said Krejci. "I thought it was in but then they kept playing so I just wanted to finish up on the shift and then the ref took a look at it and it was in.”

As the set shifts to Beantown it's clear that the Flyers don't know what they will get between the pipes on any given night. It's clear the power play is woefully inconsistent and Chris Pronger is down again.

About all they can pack for the short trip up I-95 is their energy level and that sense of urgency that seems to only show up when needed.

"We try not to worry about that,"  van Riemsdyk said when asked about the latest hole that the Flyers have dug for themselves. "We are just worrying about one game at a time and that’s all it takes to win. We are down 2-0 now but if we take it one day at a time, one game at a time and I think we will be in good shape.”

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