Twice now in this series, the Flyers have looked ready to seize control, only to have the Bruins walk away with victory. Frustration, to politely put it, is an understatement.
After thoroughly dominating the second and third periods of Game One, the Flyers were bombarded by a tremendous Boston attack in overtime and eventually dropped the contest by a score of 5-4. Tonight, after Danny Briere evened the score with less than a minute left in the second period, it was the Bruins and not the Flyers that came out in the third the more hungrier team. As a player, fan, coach, what-have-you, you have to give it to the Boston Bruins right now. They don’t lead this series by luck, they lead it by desire and work ethic. Each of which have been far superior to their Philadelphia counterparts.
Much like the Flyers did in their first round victory against the New Jersey Devils, the Bruins are doing all of the little things right, and they are creating bigger things for themselves as a result. They are winning the battles for loose pucks, not being intimidated by the Flyers’ physical presence, and, of course, are winning face-offs. In fact, that’s precisely how the Bruins struck first for the second straight game, as Patrice Bergeron easily beat Scott Hartnell – who had come in to take the draw after the official waved Mike Richards out – and won it back to Johnny Boychuk who ripped a beauty of a slapper past Brian Boucher to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead in the first. At the time, it was a tough goal to give up for the Flyers, who certainly played a much better first period in the second game than they had in the first, and probably deserved a better fate early on. Nonetheless, they were down – again – and it would be up to the Orange and Black to score and get back into a deadlock for the game.
Cue Mike Richards.
Richie, who I’ve bashed on and on over the year, has finally proven himself to me. Sure it took a lot longer for me than everyone else, but I’m now proud to say that Mike Richards is the Philadelphia Flyers. He is everything I’d want in a captain at this stage of the game, and I was wrong about my opinions of him early on. I wholeheartedly admit that now, and I haven’t been more proud of a Flyers’ captain in the post-season since, well, Keith Primeau went “Suprimeau” on us back in 2004. (Come to think of it, I’m going to write a post about how much Richards has grown on me tomorrow. Stay tuned for that) Going back to Richards, he single-handedly willed the Flyers back into the game, with a great individual effort that resulted in the tying goal of the contest back in the first period. At the end of the first, the score was tied and the Flyers held the shot total advantage. Things looked good.
The second period started with more of a Bruins-led attack. The period also featured a goal on each side that I’d bet both Brian Boucher and Tuukka Rask would like to have had back. Boosh let in a weak goal by the in-house Flyer-killer Miro Satan to make the game 2-1 Boston before Danny Briere scored with less than 30 seconds left in the second to make it 2-2. Like I said earlier, a late goal by the Flyers MUST have meant they’d head into the third on a momentum spurt, right? Eh, not exactly.
Much like in the overtime frame of Game One, basically the entire third period of Game Two was played in the Flyers end. Brian Boucher made some big saves, but the Flyers took two bad penalties (a too many men call and a hooking call on Danny Briere) that really put them behind the eight-ball moving forward in the period. While each penalty was killed off, it resulted in extreme fatigue amongst the players the Flyers were counting on the most to get them goals in the late stages, and when a whacky bouncing puck was turned on by Milan Lucic and slapped by Boucher for Lucic’s first goal of the playoffs with less than 3 minutes left in the third, the sun had set on the Flyers’ chances of evening the series.
A team that was utterly fatigued and severely under-manned showed some serious issues this evening, as the Flyers top players (Richards, Briere) came to play, but the secondary players who NEED to step up (Hartnell, JVR) were absolutely nowhere to be found. It’s a sad trend that will need to change as this series shifts gears to the Wachovia Center for games three and four and a must win third game of this series for the Flyers. A loss in Game Three all but ends the Flyers season. A win, and they can then focus on evening up the series in Game Four.
It’ll be tough, but the Flyers will need to erase the sting of back to back one goal losses from their minds and come out flying in South Philadelphia on Wednesday. If they don’t, they may be on their last heartbeat heading into Friday.