Boucher Loses His Head (in a Good Way), Flyers Win on Buffalo Ice, Take Series Lead

Boucher Loses His Head (in a Good Way), Flyers Win on Buffalo Ice, Take Series Lead

The night began with the Buffalo crowd serenading newly minted Flyers starter Brian Boucher and ended with the Sabres fans quietly filing out while Boosh & Co. celebrated their second straight win to pull ahead in the opening round series. The veteran goalie rewarded his coach for sticking with him after a strong relief performance in game two, stopping 35 of 37 shots and making some huge saves and decisions in a rough third period that included a 5-on-3 stretch.

Jeff Carter opened the scoring on a first period power play, Danny Briere stayed hot both in the playoffs and against his former team, and Nik Zherdev scored his first ever playoff goal on the way to a 4-2 Flyers win. But fans on both sides will be talking about Boucher's decision to toss off his mask with a play still alive—legally. [Video Below]

The special teams play was a big part of this one, with the Flyers going 1-3 on the power play and holding the Sabres to a 1-6 mark, including a first period double minor and a 5-on-3 stretch in the third period that yielded no Buffalo goals. Sabres fans were plenty pissed at Boucher's decision to knock his own mask off during that two-man advantage, but after a shot to the mask popped one of his straps, it was within the rules to toss off his mask to signal to the ref that he needed the equipment maintenance.

I'm not saying I wouldn't have flipped out a little at the replay of said event had it been Ryan Miller tossing his mask off while the Flyers were trying to tie up a playoff game while on a 5-on-3, but Boosh would later say even the ref told him it was the right thing for him to do.

Carter's goal to open the scoring was a momentary silencer both for his critics at home at the voices in the crowd. He bounced a dump-in off of a Sabres' defender's dumper, gathered the puck and fired it past Miller up high.        

Nathan Gerbe would get the Sabres to within one before the end of the second period on a shot Boosh would definitely like to have back, but that was the end of the scoring until Kimmo Timonen iced the game with an empty netter late in the third. There were some moments of heartburn before that though, including the third period 5-on-3.

The momentum is clearly in the Flyers' favor after back-to-back wins erased the one-game deficit. They're getting to the Buffalo crease early, with Monday night's first period goal coming on a power play generated by Darroll Powe going to the net and getting roughed up for it. Boucher made huge saves in every period, saving his best play for the third. There is clearly no question who this team's starter is at the moment, but we've already seen how quickly things can change. Boosh has looked very sharp though, especially in his win in Buffalo's raucous barn.

It's now up to the Sabres to respond, and the Flyers to keep stepping up their game, improving their pressure and play in their own end as the series moves on.

Full highlights:

Youtubes by Mr. Flyer Guy

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

CAMDEN, N.J. — If all goes as planned, a time will come when the Sixers can roll out a dominating frontcourt duo with Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor sharing the court in lengthy stretches.

That moment has to wait, though, as both Embiid and Okafor are on minute restrictions. As he returns from a knee injury, Okafor currently is coming off the bench and backing up Embiid.

“This conversation with Jahlil and Joel is more intelligent and applicable at a later date,” Brett Brown said at practice Friday. “When Jahlil’s minutes start going up and Joel can, then it’s a real conversation. I do think you may see them sooner than even I thought together. But as far as making it a real constant part of a strategy or rotation, it’s beyond too early days.”

In an ideal world, Brown could pair the two bigs now and use all of their allotted minutes (Embiid 20, Okafor 14) at once. That would leave an extensive workload on second-year bench player Richaun Holmes.

“This is a hot topic,” Brown said. “I will say it one more time: If I play Jahlil and Jo together, I hope Richaun can play 35 minutes.”

It’s an unrealistic expectation for Holmes, who averaged 13.8 minutes in 51 games last season. Brown caps the majority of the Sixers at six-minute segments to keep them competing at a high energy level.

“Right now, he’s a backup,” Brown said of Holmes. “I think he’s going to be an NBA player for a very long time. I just feel like in the role, he’s a second-year player that didn’t really have much of a role last year. He’s shown everybody that he’s for real. He really can play a role. At this early stage, that is the key word.”

Embiid and Okafor have been envisioning competing together since Okafor was drafted two years ago. They became friends long before they were NBA players and have an easy chemistry on the court as a result.

“I think it’s going to be exciting,” Embiid said. “We played a little bit together today in practice. We’re figuring out how to play with each other. It’s a process and we’ve got trust it.”

Yes, the players know they have to wait, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for them to resist an opportunity to play with one another.  

“I think once we figure it out, we can really dominate together,” Okafor said. “We were able to flirt with it again today. We accidentally keep ending up on the same team even though Coach keeps telling us to make sure we alternate. But we’re having fun. We’re trying to put some pressure on it because we want to play together.”

Is that accidentally with air quotes?

“Yeah, exactly,” Okafor said with a laugh.

'Trust the process' has a different, more personal meaning to Joel Embiid

'Trust the process' has a different, more personal meaning to Joel Embiid

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid is all about trusting the process.

He manages to insert the well-known phrase into just about every interview, hashtags it on social media and soaks in the chants during games. 

While “trust the process” is commonly associated with former Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie’s patience-required approach to building the team — which resulted in three years of dismal losing and suffering setback after setback — Embiid has his personal take on the mantra.

“I think I have my own process,” Embiid said Friday at practice.

Embiid is playing for the first time this season after waiting two years to recover from foot injuries. His long-anticipated debut was a focal point of “the process,” and his return to the court marked a new chapter in the organization.

“I went through two surgeries, lost my brother, thought about some stuff I shouldn’t have thought about, so that’s my own process,” he said. “And then the process of going through the rehab and finally getting back on the court and getting the chance to finally play in the league, that’s my process.”

Embiid is now synonymous with the word. He credits Sixers fans for the moniker, which he added to his Instagram profile. 

“I don’t think it came from me,” he said. “Fans just started and then I just went along with it.”

Wednesday marked the next step in the process, both for the Sixers and Embiid. His regular-season debut (20 points, seven rebounds, two blocks) was a long time coming and garnered buzz all over the NBA world.

“I was the third pick and then I missed two years,” Embiid said. “The excitement in the city, everybody’s happy to finally see me play. Even though it was weird because a lot of people kind of wrote me off a long time ago saying that I’d never play as a Sixer, I’d never play in the league. So it’s all fun. Everybody’s going to have an opinion.”

He’s just got to trust in his own.