Friday, May 6, 2011
Posted: 10:42 p.m. Updated: May 7, 12:20 a.m.
By Tim Panaccio
BOSTON A season that began with unbridled expectations and a rookie goalie in Pittsburgh ended Friday night at TD Garden with far more questions than answers about the collapse of the Flyers.
For Bostonians, the nightmarish 3-0 collapse of the Bruins in last years Eastern Conference semifinals to the Flyers was quickly eradicated with a four-game sweep. This time, it was 5-1. Boston will face Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference finals.
Theres no easy dissection of what happened to the Flyers after the All-Star break except to say, the collective mentality of being bored with the regular season and well turn it on when the playoffs begin, was pure fiction.
Its disappointing to end on a loss every year, with high hopes, with the team that we had, with the confidence that we had in each other, team captain Mike Richards said. It sucks. Theres no other way to put it really.
On paper, this was once again a Stanley Cup contender, albeit one that won't make it back to the Final. Nor will reigning champ Chicago, for that matter. In reality, the goaltending again collapsed like a house of cards, becoming the first Flyer team to start three different goalies during a first-round playoff series. Six times their starter didnt finish in 11 postseason games.
Meanwhile, a power play that ranked in the top 10 in November plummeted to the bottom 10 by March while missing Chris Pronger and failed miserably right through the playoffs.
Prongers absence (backhamstring) against the Bruins was as big as Zdeno Charas presence for Boston, but not the sole reason for the Flyers ouster.
You notice the impact a guy like Chara has on the other side, coach Peter Laviolette said. When you dont have your big guy in there who plays the same style, the same way, we certainly missed him but I wont use injuries as an excuse.
Indeed, general manager Paul Holmgren said his biggest disappointment was that the remainder of his defense failed to raise their game to compensate for Prongers absence.
The Flyers lacked scoring across the board, lacked the ability for a goalie to steal a game and were simply dominated by the more physical Bruins in many puck battles, right down to faceoffs in two of the games.
Had they pulled out Game 2, theyd still be playing.
We didnt play our best hockey against Boston and its disappointing, Claude Giroux said. Its not where we want to be. Its our fault. We have to learn from it. I really think they outworked us and won more battles.
The Flyers got too comfortable coming from behind during the regular season and it caught it up to them in postseason.
It seems like this team enjoys getting our backs to the walls and then responding, Sean ODonnell said. I think it took a little more out of us in the first round than it should have.
Thirty-six years since the Flyers last won a Cup, fans are left to argue that even though Sergei Bobrovsky, who started and finished the playoffs, might represent the future, this club was built by Holmgren to win now.
Unless the Flyers get a proven No. 1 goalie this summer to bide Bobrovsky and their other young goalies time, their window of opportunity will slam shut while the acquisitions of Pronger, Kimmo Timonen, Danny Briere, etc., will have been for naught.
Thats the sobering reality.
Laviolette started Bobrovsky, explaining he liked how he played in relief in Game 3. He played very well and gave the Flyers a chance.
The Flyers worked harder, but didnt play all that much better and certainly didnt generate enough quality scoring chances on Tim Thomas to win.
Defensively, we werent able to generate what we had done all year, Laviolette said. They did a good job in the neutral zone, a good job in their end. We couldnt penetrate. Defensively, they did a good a job.
The third period began tied 1-1 and the Flyers killing off one of eight penalties, as Bobrovsky had several strong saves in the crease, even after the penalty expired.
Minutes later, Jeff Carter won a faceoff against Chris Kelly, but the puck came back to Michael Ryder, who fed Johnny Boychuk at the blue line. His slap shot deflected, giving the Bruins a 2-1 lead.
A turnover by Matt Carle led to Milan Lucics second goal of the evening. That iced it.
Im not sure where it went wrong, Richards said. You know, its a slippery slope when you stop playing your brand of hockey. I give the Bruins a lot of credit, they played extremely well. We just didnt have an answer for it.
The Flyers started strong but faded in the opening period as they were badly outshot, 13-6, and worse, out-chanced. Bobrovsky had a number of quality stops a couple on Chara alone and got some needed help from his penalty killers, who did a good job a shot blocking on Bostons three power plays.
It could have been a scoreless period, but Dan Carcillo took a needless cross-checking penalty on Bruin forward Greg Campbell at 11:30. If Campbell were on his feet, Carcillo probably gets away with it, but he had already been checked to the ice as play stopped when Carcillo gave him an added shot and thats a penalty.
As bad as the Bruins power play has been this postseason, they made this one count with some precision passing down low as Lucic finally scored a goal in these playoffs off cross passing across the crease from Nathan Horton for a 1-0 lead at 12:02.
David Krejcis line with Lucic and Horton had eight goals, 11 assists for 19 points. They single-handedly destroyed the Flyers.
The Flyers went almost 14 minutes without a shot that opening period, thanks to taking five penalties.
We got into some penalty problems, ODonnell said. I think it kind put us on our heels a little bit.
Their best chance came early during a Carter power-play entry zone slapper, which Thomas handled. There was a brief scrum where both Carcillo and Richards had rebound chances, but couldnt finish. That was it.
Now, despite having 1:53 of a power play carry over into the second period, the Flyers didnt even get a shot on Thomas. The Flyers went 2 for 14 in the series with the extra man.
Bobrovsky faced a lot of traffic and shots as the period wore on. Boston was outshooting Flyers 19-9 at one point.
Like Lucic, Kris Versteeg had not scored in the playoffs, either. That changed at 11:22 when Brad Marchand turned the puck over at the blue line trying to make a play with both teams skating 4-on-4.
Richards and Versteeg came up ice against Dennis Seidenberg with the latter backhanding the puck past Thomas, tying the game.
Yet through two periods, the Flyers had eight penalties versus 13 shots. You cant expect to win games with that kind of ratio.
We put a good effort, it just seems we werent hitting on all cylinders, ODonnell said. It seemed like when we did get a chance it was jumping over a stick or they were getting a stick in the lane.
Their second goal to go up by one went off a shaft. Im not taking anything away. They deserved the series, but it seemed like we were a little bit off and they were playing real well.
The Flyers werent playing well for most of this series.
Well spend a lot of time over the next little while evaluating and see what went wrong, Holmgren said. But we got beat by a better team in the series.
E-mail Tim Panaccio at email@example.com
Related: Flyers hope added aggression can prolong series Buy Flyers Gear