By Jon Smith:
After one game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, there is good news and bad news for Flyers fans. The good news is that the Flyers came out and played harder than they had in all of March and April. They checked well, they skated hard, and they unloaded 35 shots on Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller.
The bad news — Miller stopped all 35 shots and the Flyers lost.
It’s hard to take moral victories anytime a team loses a game, and it’s basically impossible during the playoffs, but if the Flyers are able to put the result behind them and look at how they played, there are positives to be taken.
The Flyers came out of the gate on fire and had multiple scoring chances early in the game. Miller proved to be every bit of the Vezina trophy-winning goalie that he was billed to be coming into the series. The Flyers outshot the Sabres 16-9 in the second period, including a prime opportunity having a 5-on-3 for over a minute. Again, Miller came up huge for Lindy Ruff’s squad. It wasn’t just Miller though; Buffalo had 16 blocked shots and on numerous occasions cleared the porch and limited Flyer second chances.
The result of the game can be focused on one stat. Zero. That’s how many times the Flyers converted on their five power plays, including the previously mentioned 5-on-3. The Flyers generated multiple chances and shots on their power plays, but were stymied both by Miller and their own insistence on making the perfect play. While there were stretches on the power play when the Flyers had the puck in the zone putting pressure on the Sabres, there were also too many times of trying to make fancy drop passes entering the zone, something that easily allowed the Sabres to clear the puck down the ice.
Sergei Bobrovsky put some fears to rest with his playoff debut. Not as good as Miller obviously, but Bob held his own, stopping all 19 shots he faced in the first two periods. It finally took a rebound on a slapshot and an unchecked Patrick Kaleta to put a goal on the board against Bobrovsky. Most nights, that’s a performance good enough to win, but not in Game 1, and not against a hot Ryan Miller.
Miller’s game wasn’t a fluke; he carried Team USA to within an overtime goal of winning gold at the last Olympics. This is a goalie who rises to the occasion, and the Flyers are going to have to rise to that level. They played well in Game 1, but they need to play great if they are going to beat Miller and the Sabres to advance.
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