Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Posted: 11 a.m.
By Sarah BaickerCSNPhilly.com
It took practically every second of all seven games in last years Eastern Conference semifinals against the Boston Bruins, but in 2010, the Flyers generated some magic when they surged from a 3-0 deficit to advance to the conference finals.
This year, it was as if the opposite happened the moment they took the ice at the Wells Fargo Center in the playoffs second round. The effort by the Flyers in each of the series four games was about as far from magical as it gets.
Something, it seems, happened between Game 7 of the quarterfinal series against the Buffalo Sabres and Game 1 against the Bruins.
Any time you go seven games, youre kind of on a high, Scott Hartnell said. Youve got to re-check yourself. Boston did the same thing that we did, they went seven games. It was a tough series for them, as well. The Montreal Canadiens gave them a good run, and they ended up sweeping us, so you cant really look at that.
But Game 7 against the Sabres was probably one of our best games, and you turn around three days later and probably have one of the worst games against Boston.
As much as a series can help a team generate momentum, it can also be extremely draining. Game 7s 5-2 win over the Sabres that sent the Flyers on to face the Bruins was arguably one of their best games of the season but certainly, as Hartnell noted, not much carried over from it.
The Bruins, on the other hand, appeared to maintain only the positives from their seven-game series against the Canadiens.
The Boston Bruins were a very good team and very deserving of continuing to play, general manager Paul Holmgren said. For whatever reason, they had the weight of the world lifted off their shoulders when they won a seven-game series against Montreal. I dont know what we were. We werent ready to play the first game of the series against Boston, and then the Bruins came in and gave it to us pretty good.
So what was it about the Sabres series that wore the Flyers down so much?
Too many times against Buffalo, the Flyers fell into early two-goal deficits and were forced to climb out of seemingly insurmountable holes. There are positives to be said for never quitting, but theres also an emotional and physical toll that repeatedly getting into such situations can take.
I think that the Buffalo series may have taken more out of us than a normal seven-game series, Sean ODonnell said. They are physically and emotionally exhausting, there was a lot of ups and downs there. We came back a lot, I think looking back on that seven-game series, it seemed more like a nine- or 10-game series.
They looked more like theyd been bruised and beaten up in a pair of series against high-caliber competition, not just a single series against a No. 7 seed. When they finally faced off against Boston, they looked like a shell of the team they were back in December and January, and lacked fire, jump and the desperation coach Peter Laviolette speaks so highly of.
We looked tired in the Boston series, Hartnell said. Like we were always a step behind. Defensively, we were getting beat out of the corner with the puck, them having the puck. It just seems like we were, not lazy, but we looked tired. I dont know why that was or how that happened.
After six goals and an assist against Buffalo, Danny Briere had just one goal in four games against the Bruins. Kris Versteeg had five points facing the Sabres, and just one against Boston. After registering positive plusminus ratings in all games in the first round, Kimmo Timonen went minus-1 in the first two games against Boston, then minus-2 in the final two games.
Clearly, a switch flipped. The Bruins are a strong, physical and talented team but the Flyers are a much better squad than the one that took to the ice to face them. Whether the Sabres series truly had a significant effect, or something else was at play, will hopefully emerge as the summer progresses.
No matter, the fact remains that the Bruins were afforded a chance to make up for last years historic collapse against the Flyers and because of it, the Flyers went without an opportunity to fight, once again, for hockey's ultimate prize.
Last year, we were very close to the Stanley Cup, Claude Giroux said. We werent satisfied, but we were more satisfied than we are right now. This series, its just frustrating that we couldnt go back to the finals.
E-mail Sarah Baicker at firstname.lastname@example.org