The Sabres took a 1-0 lead in the game and a 1-0 lead in the series with a single goal – a Patrick Kaleta rebound a few minutes into the third period.
Until that point, the Flyers were the dominant team. They got the puck deep in the offensive zone, established a forecheck, worked in the defensemen, and got pucks to the net.
It’s the way an offense it supposed to operate.
But when shots are taken from outside, Ryan Miller simply swallows them up. And once the puck gets low and the play turns into a blue paint scramble, the collapsing Sabres – combined with a steady Miller – settle the play down.
James van Riemsdyk, one of the Flyers’ best players on the night and the game’s first star, said that the Flyers need to be hungrier when going after rebounds to get the “greasy-type goals.”
“We have to do a better job next game of getting those second chance opportunities,” he said. “[Ryan Miller] did a good job of eating the first shot we took. We did some good things but obviously not good enough.”
It can be easy to get frustrated in the face of such a seemingly impenetrable goaltender, but the Flyers remain confident that he’ll crack.
Danny Briere, for one, said that there are going to be nights like that, but if “we keep playing the way we did tonight, then I think we’ll be in good shape at the end of the series.”
Peter Laviolette, on the other hand, said that the days of being happy with your play in spite of a loss are over.
“You know we need to win hockey games,” he said. “That’s what it comes down to when you’re in the playoffs – it’s not like the regular season where you can be happy with the process. The process was good, the scoreboard wasn’t, so we just need to continue to push.”
While the team doesn’t want to be content with their play in a loss, there really isn’t much to improve, either.
The offense worked well throughout the night, despite failing on five power play chances – as with their even strength opportunities, tight defense and a stellar goaltender kept the puck out.
The Flyers’ defense – even without Chris Pronger – was impeccable. Their forwards backchecked to perfection, pressuring Buffalo forwards and allowing the defensemen to step up and shut down plays.
And sitting behind the defense was rookie Sergei Bobrovsky, who silenced his doubters with a solid performance in net. He wasn’t forced to make highlight reel saves, but he was called upon to make some timely stops nonetheless.
Getting strong play on all three fronts is the recipe for success in this sport, and the Flyers have to believe in what they’re doing.
Sean O’Donnell, a Cup winner in ’07, knows his way through a playoff series, and knows that this one is far from over.
“You need to win four games to win the series, and these things are going to happen,” he said. “It’s the first one to four, they got number one, and we’ll be ready for game two.”