By Jon Smith:
Tell me if you’ve heard this one before – the Flyers played a good-to-dominant game, pounding the opposing goalie with 30+ shots. And lost. Yes, Flyers fans have seen this movie before. This sequel, however, had many more twists and turns along the way, including a controversial (read: terrible) call on Mike Richards for a 5 minute elbowing major.
Back to Miller though, who was outstanding. He was much better in his Game 4 shutout than he was in his Game 1 shutout where he was not challenged nearly as often. Miller had a great game, but stole the show in the 3rd period when he stopped all 11 shots thrown at him as wave after wave of Flyers smothered him in his crease. The signature moment was when he robbed a wide open Danny Briere with his glove hand. Miller was helped by a Buffalo defense that was content with packing the slot in front of their goalie and forcing any possible goal to be a garbage goal off of multiple deflections. Very few times, if any, did the Flyers have the ability to skate into the slot, or make one of their patented cross ice passes for a shot opportunity.
The goalie on the other side of the decision played almost as well as Miller. In fact, it can be said that Brian Boucher had more great saves than Miller. It’s tough to fault Boucher on the only goal of a game. A wide open Jason Pominville off of a pass from Rob Niedermayer was the only goal scorer of the game.
If not the major storyline, definitely a parallel one, was the officiating. The Richards elbowing major is obviously the penalty everyone is talking about today. Richards was against the boards at the Buffalo bench with known cheap shot artist Patrick Kaleta bearing down on him. Richards got his elbow up to defend himself against the hit and caught Kaleta in the head. Kaleta, as he’s known to do, went down as if he was shot from a book depository. Oddly enough though, he seemed fine after Richards went to the box. The Flyers backed up their captain though, as they dominated the 5 minute major and didn’t allow Buffalo to come close to a goal, allowing only one shot on the power play.
That wasn’t the other controversial call in the game though. Dan Carcillo was punched in the face by Miller, and jumped by two other Sabres all on the same play and somehow managed to draw a 2 minute minor for roughing in the second period. There were multiple scrums in front of the net in the third period where Sabres players were allowed to punch, kick, and drag Flyers with no repercussions from the referees.
All that being said, the Flyers have to find a way to overcome all their obstacles, real or imagined, if they want to win Game 5 in Philadelphia. There is no doubt that the Philly crowd will be frothing at the mouth to get at the Sabres and the referees, especially with most people having off for Good Friday and having all day to “prepare.”
As I’ve said before, you can’t take moral victories from a loss in the playoffs, but the Flyers played very well and controlled the game. They need to keep the same effort for all of Game 5 and attack Miller as much as possible and hope they can get some through him.
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