Flyers Stump Sabres to Set PA Battle

In a must win situation for the Sabres visiting South Philly, the Flyers removed all doubt with another come from behind victory, 2-1, to secure themselves as the fifth seed in the East.  The Sabres needed at least one-point from this game to keep their playoff hopes alive, but a regulation loss, and the Capitals win over the Panthers ruined their chances at post-season play.

So, the Flyers again gave up the first goal of the game, as former-Flyer Ville Leino stuffed in a rebound from Drew Stafford.  The goal gave the Sabres some life in the second period, and they outshot the Flyers 13-10 after registering only three-shots in the first to the Flyer’s nine.  But the Flyers wouldn’t be out done.

Early in the third, the home team applied some key pressure and got a big blast from rookie call-up defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon, who fired in a rocket from the point that Sabres netminder Ryan Miller never saw.  Bourdon finished the game with a goal, an assist, 3-hits and 3-blocked shots.

The goal gave the Flyers some momentum, and rather than sit back and take the one-point for taking the game into overtime, they hit the ice with jump.  The NHL’s rookie leader in goals Matt Read took a pass from Jake Voracek while streaking up ice, and beat Sabres defenseman Robin Regehr to get a second chance on a breakaway against Miller.

In Read’s first period shorthanded chance at a breakaway, he tried for a deke, but the veteran netminder Miller spoiled his shot with a well-timed poke-check.  This time Read took no chances, and curled in front of Miller, taking advantage of the star goaltender’s inability to move laterally fast enough to cover, and put the puck top shelf for the game-winner.

This win for the Flyers and the Penguins win over the Bruins sets the standings with the Pens in fourth and the Flyers in fifth.  This Saturday’s final regular season match between the two teams at the Consol Energy Center is no more than a warm-up for the playoffs.  It’ll likely be game that sees several key players scratched such as Kimmo Timonen, Claude Giroux, and possibly others.  The likely starter in net will be backup Sergei Bobrovsky who put up a tremendous performance while Ilya Bryzgalov was out with a bone chip in his right foot.  It’s also a good chance the game will be Bobrovsky’s last start for the season.

“We’re going to go in there and play the game,” head coach Peter Laviolette said of going into this Saturday’s final regular season game.  “We’re here to win hockey games.  I don’t think that changes anything.  There’ll be no juggling in the standings.  Given the choice to beat the Penguins or lose to the Penguins, we wanna win.  The objective remains the same.”

There’s no date set for the playoffs as of yet, but the first game will be either April 11 or 12, depending upon scheduling.  The Flyers will have to start the series on the road, which considering their positive road-record of 25-12-3 this season could be a bonus.  The Flyers have had their struggles at home, going 22-13-6.

The rivalry between the Flyers and Pens has been one of, if not, the most heated all season.  Both teams play a tough game in the corners and in front the net.  The Pens and Flyers rank 25th and 30th respectably in minor penalties at 321 and 379, and seventh and eighth in hits at 2,030 and 2,036.

That in addition to the fireworks from last Sunday’s heated affair that saw a complete line-brawl should set the table for a thrilling series.

“It is going to be pretty exciting,” Read said of playing the Pens in the first round. “Our last game was pretty intense and we have one more game against them before playoffs. I think it is going to be a good, hard game. I think it is a good match-up for us.”

The big factor that plays in the Flyers favor is they hold a 4-1 regular season record versus the Pens, and regular season results are a big indicator for which team is more likely to win.  In the last five-seasons, there’ve been a total of 90 playoff series, and 70 of them have been won by teams with at least an equal or better record versus their opponent in the regular season.

The remaining 20-games that saw teams with losing records in the regular season win over a team they struggled with in the regular season typically had to do with things like teams getting hot later in the season, personnel changes and injuries.

The Flyers, however, are dealing with a number of injuries.  They need a healthy Bryzgalov (bone chip fracture), Nik Grossmann (lower-body injury), Danny Briere (back contusion) and if possible James van Riemsdyk (broken foot).  Getting their veteran players is a big part of getting them through to the second round of the playoffs.


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