Flyers Shake Slow Start, Blow by Sabres

When the Philadelphia Flyers took the ice against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night, there were two main storylines hovering over them. The first was in respects to the NHL All Star Game selections. Many were puzzled by Daniel Briere’s exclusion from the game. Briere leads the Eastern Conference’s first-place team in goals scored and is having a terrific season.

The other topic in question was how would goalie Sergei Bobrovsky play after sitting behind Brian Boucher for the team’s last three games? This was especially interesting because Bobrovsky had not played well at all in his last two starts. Anaheim scored five goals against the young Russian, and Florida had chased him from the ice in a decisive 5-0 blowout loss.

Both players left their imprint on the Sabres in helping the Flyers win their fourth consecutive game.
In the first period, it surely didn’t seem like Bobrovsky was ready to be back in net. Just five minutes into the game, the Sabres netted the game’s first goal. Paul Gaustad whacked away at a loose puck in front of Bobrovsky and eventually deposited it in the back of the Flyers’ net. Less than five minutes after Gaustad scored, Bobrovsky failed to hug the post on a weak backhanded attempt by Cody McCormick and it proved costly.

With fifty minutes remaining in the game, it seemed inevitable that Boucher would have to save the day for the Flyers if they were to win. However, the Flyers woke up offensively and ‘Bob’ repaid Head Coach Peter Laviolette’s faith in him.

Scott Hartnell got the scoring started for the Flyers a with well-positioned deflection on a Kimmo Timonen point shot. The goal came on the power play for the team, and was set up by Mike Richards’ enormous hit on Jochen Hecht. The hit allowed the Flyers to regain possession of the puck in the offensive zone and took Hecht out of defensive position. Not long after, Timonen fired from the point and Hartnell beat Ryan Miller to make the game 2-1.

During the second period which saw the Sabres outshoot the Flyers 15-6, things didn’t look good for the orange and black. However, Timonen broke out of the penalty box and created a two-on-one rush with Briere. He waited long enough to make Miller commit and found Briere who went top shelf on the great net-minder to equalize the game at 2.

Through two periods, there was room for doubt that the Flyers could put the game away against the recently hot Sabres. However, Philadelphia took over the game in the third period and removed any such doubt about the game’s result.

Just 2:17 into the third period, Briere found Ville Leino on a centering pass that was deflected by Miller to give the Flyers a 3-2 lead. The goal was reviewed, but there was no distinct kicking-motion to disallow what would turn out to be the game-winning goal. Although the three unanswered goals were certainly disheartening for the Sabres, they refused to back down.

After nine minutes of quality chances for both sides, Richards once again showed his defensive prowess as a forward. He blocked a Buffalo point shot and broke away on Miller. Using a nice forehand to backhand move, he slipped the puck between the left post and Miller’s skate, putting the game out of reach. Scott Hartnell would seal the game’s fate with an empty net goal with less than two minutes to play.

The victory was a shining example of how the Flyers continue to be successful this season. They weathered what they could of an intense Sabres attack early on, and eventually wore down the home team with their depth and unrelenting forecheck.

Strong goalie play was there when they needed it. Bobrovsky picked up his game after the two early goals and finished the game with 38 saves on 40 shots. And Briere? He added onto his already impressive season. He finished Tuesday’s game on his old home ice with his 22nd goal and three assists. His four point effort tied his previous career-high point total in a game.

That’s not too shabby for a non-All Star.

As I prepare for an excellent matchup Thursday night in Boston, feel free to follow me at www.twitter.com/mtrible or email me at mtrible@thecheckingline.com