By JAY BOEHMER
Staff Writer — firstname.lastname@example.org
The Flyers stepped back onto the ice at Boston’s Garden for the second time this series with confidence having fixed their weak points from Game 1, seemingly poised to split the first two home games and tie the series.
In the first game, Danny Briere was caught in the spotlight, failing to cover his man at the center position. Last night, he was moved to the wing alongside Claude Giroux and Ville Leino, one of the Flyers’ many line changes.
After a high energy start for both teams, the Flyers fell behind once again. Mike Richards was removed from the faceoff circle, allowing Patrice Bergeron, a puck drop ace for his team, to win the puck back to his defenseman, Johnny Boychuk, for a quick wrist shot past Boucher.
Late in the period, after a botched Boston breakout, Danny Briere fed Mike Richards on the cycle for a quick shot through traffic to beat goaltender Tuukka Rask.
The second period went along business as usual until the midpoint, when a series of quick passes around the horn in the offensive zone set the Bruins up to find Miroslav Satan in the high slot for a snap shot to beat Boucher to regain the lead.
With less than three minutes remaining, Briere was mistaken for his much taller teammate, Chris Pronger, and sent to the box for the hooking Pronger committed. This good fortune allowed the penalty to be killed by the Flyers’ top D man and when Briere left the box, he was found streaking across the Bruin’s blue line as he ripped a wrister over the shoulder of Rask.
The Flyers struggled through the third, taking a pair of penalties that kept them on their heels for much of the period. This all came to a head when a puck bounced up over everyone’s head before landing in the slot on the stick of Milan Lucic, who turned around and slapped a knuckle puck that dropped down and past Boucher for the 3-2 lead.
Despite a last minute surge with an empty net (aided by Chris Pronger’s desperate save with seconds left), the Flyers were left unable to tie the game, losing their second straight.
The Flyers’ largest concern must still be the loss of Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne. Without them, the pressure falls even harder on the rest of the lineup. The forward lines are in constant flux as Coach Laviolette tries to avoid ice time for players like Andreas Nodl, Jared Ross, and Arron Asham.
This inability to roll lines is leaving players like Mike Richards and Claude Giroux all the more exhausted, struggling to perform. Both players were on the ice for over 23 minutes, well above that of any other forwards.
Aside from that, the Flyers’ attempts in the faceoff circle were all in vain, losing nearly a third of them. Boston’s dominance afforded them control of the puck for much of the night, an obvious first step towards shots, goals, and a win.
Philadelphia looks to recover from these back to back losses when they return to the Wachovia Center for the third and fourth games of this best of seven series.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
Line Changes: The Flyers mixing of lines seemed to breed a lack of chemistry, as the players were often lining up beside a new set of players from one shift to the next.
On defense, Laviolette cannot trust his third pair, Lukas Krajicek and Ryan Parent. This means the top two lines have to suck up even more minutes, softening them up as the game drags on. And in the occasion that the third pair ends up on the ice, they are often taken advantage of, as shown by their combined minus 4 rating on the night.
Faceoffs: Many say that dominance in the faceoff circle is a matter of pride. Right now, the Flyers are being embarrassed. If they can’t bear down and take control of the puck drops, they’ll be without the puck in all the key moments. This leads to defensive zone scrambling, taking penalties, and giving up goals.
Home Ice: Each of these two teams is undefeated at home in these playoffs. The Bruins have obviously played more games at home, but the point remains that the Flyers thrive on home ice. Their fans have often been voted the most disruptive in the sport for a reason. Look for this to play a role as Philadelphia looks to take the next two games and climb back into this series.