It happened again, after a team put up multiple goals, the coach signaled for a goalie change. But this time it was different. It wasn’t the Flyers backup goalie stretching and getting ready to enter the game. It was Sabres backup goalie Jhonas Enroth. The Flyers had scored 4 goals on just 28 shots against the former Vezina Trophy winning goal tender Ryan Miller. From the start, the most intimidating fans in hockey where all over Miller and were more than thrilled to watch him leave the game. It was fitting that the guy who had won two games on his own, had to watch the game as his season came to an end.
“They got the pucks in the net, they got the bounces, and we couldn’t get anything going and couldn’t cash in until the third,” Miller said
Most of the 1st period looked very similar to games 1 and 4 to the Flyers and their fans. They dominated the period out shooting the Sabres 16-2 but couldn’t seem to beat Miller. Then with just 19 seconds left, Coburn got the puck off the faceoff and shot the puck towards the net, it deflected off a Buffalo defender and found the back of the net. It was like the part in Rocky IV when he finally cuts the Russian. Rocky discovered that he could be hurt and that he wasn’t machine. The fluke goal seemed to do the exact same thing as it proved Miller was indeed human and he could be beaten. It seemingly was the turning point in the game and the series as the Flyers didn’t look back again.
They came out of the 1st intermission knowing that the game was there’s. The Flyers are the much more talented team and you can bet they realized it. Everyone knew that the only way the Sabres had a chance is if Miller won the game for them. The Flyers continued beating Miller in the 2nd as they added two more goals. Both were not highlight reel goals, as both where scored down low by Briere and JVR. Ville Leino seemed to take any doubt that anyone had that series wasn’t over when he fired a slap shot by Miller at the start of the 3rd period. It was a shot that Miller might have stopped earlier in the series but it wasn’t a cheap goal. Leino was able to get close and fire a big shot that a normal goalie wouldn’t come close to. When the final horn finally rang, the Flyers escaped to the 2nd round with a 5-2 win.
"We had big-time players score big-time goals," Mike Richards said
The Flyers were able to get the puck by Miller tonight but I don’t think that was the key for the victory. Boucher’s play between the pipes was exactly what the team needed. He wasn’t spectacular but he made the saves he needed to make. The momentum that the team had lost in previous game from soft goals will never be known, but I believe it had a huge impact on the team. I don’t think there is anything more demoralizing for a team to be dominating the game for minute after minute. To then have the opponent skate down the ice and throw a puck at the net and have it go in. The ability to trust a goaltender can and will change the way you play in front of him.
Now with Ryan Miller and the Sabres in the real view mirror, the Flyers can start to focus on round 2. It would be easy to be very critical of the team and say that they won’t advance much farther any way. But that is simply not the case. This is still a team that is as talented as any team in hockey. They have goal scorers on every line and many different players who will beat you. Perhaps the biggest storyline for the Flyers is the emergence of young Forward James van Riemsdyk who may have been the team’s best player during the series. His combination of size and speed is a scary thought for any defender. The amount of young talent this team possesses is very scary. The team could have JVR (22), Giroux (23), Meszaros (25), Carter (26), Richards (26), Coburn (26) and Carle (26) for the next decade. It feels odd calling Richards and Carter young because it feels like they have been with the team for a long time, but the reality is that they are just entering the prime of their careers.
With the Flyers going to a 7th game, you would think that there opponent would be at home waiting for them. But this hasn't been a normal first round as 3 of the 4 series will feature a 7th game. Their next opponent can be narrowed down the Bruins, Lighting or Penguins. If the Bruins beat the Canadians tomorrow night, they will play the Flyers. If the Canadians win, the Flyers will play the winner of the Lighting/Penguins game tomorrow night. The Flyers have had the most success against the Penguins as they are 4-1-1 against them during the regular season. They have not had a lot less success against the Bruins or the Lighting this season, they were 1-3 against Boston and 1-3 against Tampa Bay.
The Flyers should be favored against any of the three teams but none of the matchups would be easy. They were the best team in the conference for the majority of the season and their talent has not just gotten up and left the building. The key for the team is to get consistent goaltending. Some may say that Laviolette saved the series by his goalie juggling, while others will argue that the series would have been shorter if he had been more patient. But in reality the answer doesn’t really matter right now. The Flyers did what they needed to do and they will play another day. That’s the only thing that matters in the postseason; just win more games than your opponent. Despite the teams struggle’s against the Sabres, they are still a very dangerous team. You can bet that the rest of the NHL wasn’t very happy to see the Flyers pull it out in the end. This team never gave up last year and they have started to show that same trend this year. So even if they are down 3-0 in the series, or down 3-0 in the game, it is never over with this team! MILLER! MILLER! MILLER!