Finally! (Courtest YardBarker)
Wow, what a way to finish the season! On Friday, the Flyers lost 4-3 in a back-and-forth thriller. After Richards scored 40 seconds into the game, the Rangers scored the next 3 goals and seemed in control. It looked liked they would be ok, sitting back, letting Lundqvist do his thing. That strategy failed miserably, as the Flyers tied it up, and looked to clinch a playoff spot. Unfortunately, a giveaway by Pronger lead to a Gaborik goal and a 4-3 win. After Boston and Montreal clinched on Saturday, it set up a meeting on Sunday to determine the last playoff spot.
The Flyers came out hungry, and looked like they would dominate. All of a sudden, for the second game in a row, Jody Shelley gets a goal. This is a nobody, a bum, a fighter that hadn’t scored all season long, until now. Oh yeah, he also scored on Friday, making this back to back games with a goal. Now, four minutes into the most important game of the season, the Flyers are trailing, and the crowd is quiet. For most of the season, this team didn’t play with enough emotion or intensity, but this game was different. After the goal, the Rangers didn’t get another shot for the next 13:25, while the Flyers ripped 18 shots on net during the period. One shot hit the post, but that’s as close as they came. Was this going to be one of those games where the team does everything they can, but great goaltending stops them in their tracks?
The second period started off a bit slower, until Ian Laperriere decided to beat the crap out of Aaron Voros. That picked up the crowd, and more importantly the team. While not as dominant as the first, the Flyers continued to carry the play. They went on odd man rushes, they fired shots from the point, they fried from close range….they were denied. Lundqvist showcased everything he had, and it was damn frustrating to watch. What made the game even better, is that the refs stayed out of the way. They let go a lot of cross checking (which benefited Pronger the most), and called only the most blatant penalties that just couldn’t be overlooked. As frustrating as it was to watch the show that Lundqvist was putting on, there were two glaring issues that the Flyers needed to fix to give them even more of a boost. On almost every shot from the point, there was no screen. Guys were standing next to the goalie, waiting for rebounds. Problem is, this guy is too damn good for that. He doesn’t make those kinds of easy mistakes, and it’s a terrible strategy to employ. The other problem was that New York won almost every critical face-off. As dominant as the Flyers looked, they still had to waste energy getting the puck back. I was scared that this would impact them in the third.
The teams headed into the third with the Rangers barely clinging onto that 1-0 lead. They were making very little effort to add to it, and seemed content to play defense. The Flyers season had come down to one period. They had almost everything going for them, except for the brick wall blocking their every attempt. A bit over 6 minutes in, Carter took a swing at a bouncing puck and missed. The Rangers grabbed, it and took off the other way. Carter roared back on defense, stole the puck before NY even got to the blue line, and carried it back the other way. He dropped it to Hartnell, who crossed it to Briere, as Carter headed towards the net. Briere ripped a one-time, Carter tipped the rebound, and out of nowhere Matt Carle jumped up from the point and rammed the rebound home. GOAL!!!!!!!!!!!!! Finally, the Flyers broke through, the game was tied, and we had newfound hope. The Flyers continued to push, and the Rangers were still stuck in defense mode. Gaborik had a chance in the last few minutes, but like every time he touched the puck, everyone converged on him.
The game went to overtime, where each team played a bit timid. Again, the Flyers tried a bit harder, but nothing really came of it. New York’s strategy seemed to be that they would take it to a shootout, and rely on superior goaltending. It seemed like a sound strategy, because the Flyers are not a great shootout team over the years. Briere deked out Lundqvist, and Boucher stopped Chrsitensen for a 1-0 lead. After Richards missed a wrister, Parenteau tied things up. Now it wasn’t only down to the last game, the last period, or overtime. It was down to the last shooter in a shootout! Giroux came in, deked a little, but then fired a wrister through the 5-hole. Surprisingly, the Rangers went with the vastly overrated and babyfaced Jokinen, instead of Gaborik. He comes in fast, goes forehand-backhand, but lets go a weak shot that Boucher easily stops.
AND THE FLYERS ARE GOING TO THE PLAYOFFS!
- The Rangers lacked a lot of intestinal fortitude in this game, and probably could have used Avery.
- Speaking of Avery, I hate him. I hate Dubinsky. But I hate the coach, John Tortorella even more. He looks like a fool on the bench, yelling and screaming about everything. Sure the refs let a lot go, but it went both ways. The calls they made were correct, stop crying. I wish he were a player so someone could crush him into the boards.
- Why the hell did NY try to hold onto something as fragile as a 1-0 lead. I understand they’re confident in their goalie, but you gotta give him some support. When you play prevent defense, you prevent yourself from winning.
- It was a decade ago when Boucher came out of nowhere to lead the Flyers on a magical playoff run. Now, we face the team that killed the dream, the New Jersey Devils. Game 1 is Wednesday night, and I’ll provide a playoff preview before that.
Thanks for reading!
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