Greenberg: Flyers desperate for Pronger and Carter

Greenberg: Flyers desperate for Pronger and Carter
May 3, 2011, 5:29 am
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Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Posted: 1:30 a.m.

By Jay Greenberg

As many times as James van Riemsdyk turned Johnny Boychuck, Andrew Ference and even Zdeno Chara, during the most dominating postseason performance by a Flyer since Keith Primeau almost singlehandedly beat a deeper, and ultimately championship Tampa Bay team in 2004, all that spinning done by the Bruins defense couldnt ultimately save the Flyers Monday night.

So Peter Laviolette felt the need to add some spin on his own.

When you lose your first two games in you own building, I would say there is a real expectation for the Bruins to win the series now, said the Flyers coach. So it relieves us of the pressure and while it relieves us of the pressure it certainly mounts upon them to be successful now that they have a 2-0 lead.

I really like our guys. I think they are going to go into Boston and play a strong hockey game and were going to win the game.

So never mind what 18 Bruins and even 18 Flyers say about last year being last year. The coach who masterminded only the third comeback from down 3-0 in NHL history, in this same matchup in 2010, is endeavoring to get in the Bruins heads again before Boston goalie Tim Thomas destroys whatever brain cells the Flyers have left.

You cant control the goaltender, only what we do, said Laviolette. We scored a lot of goals this year. I have a lot of confidence we will score goals.

Last round, the Flyers lost two 1-0 games to Buffalo and Laviolette still proved right about that in the end. The Flyers kept pounding away at Ryan Miller, scored five goals in three other games, and pulled the series out.

I truly believe this team still has a lot of fight into it, said Laviolette.

You didnt have to have lived through last years second round to know that, only had to watch the Flyers, their knees seemingly turning to jelly after blowing a quick 2-0 lead Monday night, survive a bad second period to dominate in the third and overtime.

They are a hard out -- we wont need to watch the next two in Boston to be convinced of that. But their hard charge suffocated Monday night in the pads of Thomas, which are a lot softer than Brian Bouchers.

We dont want to steer you wrong. But the law of averages says that if Boucher, who stopped Daniel Paille on a breakaway at 2-2, who needed training-room treatment both during the second period and after the game for a Boychuk shot that caught the butterflying goalie on the side of the leg, keeps steering these wide-angle drives right up the slot, all the fight the Flyers assuredly have left isnt going to get them over another hump.

With Tuukka Rask on the Bruins bench, the Flyers do not match up in goal this time. And without Chris Pronger, who missed Game 2 with a bad back that has led to a hamstring problem, and Jeff Carter, who has a knee sprain, the Flyers do not have as many ways to win on offense and defense, too.

You know its not 2010 anymore, because with seconds to go in the regulation, Danny Briere whiffed on a wide-open net and because a rimmed puck hopped over Kimmo Timonens stick, setting up David Krecjis winner.

Does Timonen, no spring chicken, play that puck correctly if he is not, in Prongers absence, into his 31st minute of ice time in a surprisingly wide-open and therefore exhausting game? Would Carter, the Flyers leading goal scorer, have put his gifted hands to one puck lying in the slot and shoot one that finally Thomas couldnt stop?

Well never know, but last year when Simon Gagne returned for Game 4 he not only kept the Flyers alive in overtime, but also gave them one more good player that ultimately made the difference in Game 7.

Last round, the Bruins looked scared to lose all the way through Game 7, but they got through it and as a result are playing with so much confidence now they dont care if they ever score a power-play goal, which they just might not. Its up to the Flyers to change that vibe. Their coach cant call enough timeouts, or engage in enough post-gamesmanship to do it for them.

They may have the best player in the series in van Riemsdyk, but if they dont have their best defenseman, best scorer and the better goalie, its just a matter of time until either Carter or Pronger or both come back to save them, or the Flyers run out of games waiting for them.
Related: Emotional JVR nearly carries Flyers past Bruins Leg, back injuries sideline Pronger

Jay Greenberg covered the Flyers for 14 years for the Daily News and Evening Bulletin. His history of the Flyers, Full Spectrum, was published in 1996. He can be reached at

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