Apr 25, 2011, 6:30 PM EDT
With no single right or wrong answer in net today, we’re reminded that this Flyers team was built for that question not to be a dire concern. The depth at every skating position is designed to obviate the need for a true #1. Whether that’s actually true or not (especially with recent injuries), we’ll have all summer to reflect on it. Today, the forwards and defensmen need to play as though there’s a trash can in net. The goalie needs to play like his team may only score a single goal. No more softies. No bad rebounds. The softie allotment has been expended this series. All eyes are on the man in the Flyers’ crease.
Just before game time, CSN is reporting that Michael Leighton will start the Flyers, meaning the team will start three different goalies in six games. You couldn’t have written this story in training camp, but growing up a Flyers fan, it’s not exactly science fiction either…
No matter who’s on the ice today from the forwards to the crease, the Flyers need to play an exceptional game in all facets. The Sabres have shown us that they will win if given any opening. If they don’t come home with a win, the criticism will be heavy on players and coaching staff alike. There is no time left to get anything figured out. They need to win today on their strengths, despite the weaknesses we know they have.
Perhaps the biggest question is whether the power play can get its act together when it matters most. Tim Panaccio reports that JVR was taking the front-of-the-net role in the limited practice they ran yesterday. He was out with Giroux and Briere, with Richie and Kimmo at the points. I like it. Although JVR’s not a garbage goal man, he has the size to protect the real estate and the hands to do the deflection and shovel work the position demands. But more than that, he’s been the best player on the ice for the Flyers this series, and I like that Lavvy is saddling him with a big part of the responsibility to get the power play on the board when the team needs it most.
At various points over the past calendar year, the team has played very well in front of each of the goalies. However, it likely wasn’t easy for Lavvy to sleep last night, because if the Flyers are downed by the Sabres and his goalie of choice allows even one questionable goal, the decisions throughout the series and especially today will be pointed to as the primary reason.
History may not recall that this has been a very tight series, with each game being very close and very good. Both teams are playing some great hockey, making each other pay for mistakes. But there’s no comfort in that if the Flyers do not advance out of this series. For the first time all season, the Flyers face a must-win game. Their fight to come back from a 3-0 deficit on Friday reminded us of what we saw last season, which is that they can’t be counted out. They’re absolutely good enough to hang a few on Ryan Miller and shut the Sabres’ offense out.
As of this writing, we’re still waiting on the Chris Pronger status update. Pronger was on the first bus over to the arena, and they’ll probably need to tie him down to something if he is not going to play. [Update: Looks like Pronger is indeed going to play. Ben Holmstrom will try to fill Zac Rinaldo's big shoes in taking the Jeff Carter roster spot.]
It’s time to pull out all the stops if he can play, and every player on the ice needs to play like the Stanley Cup is waiting in the tunnel. If not, they won’t get anywhere near the hardware this spring.
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