ECQF Game 1: Ryan Miller, Sabres defense hold off 74 Flyers shot attempts, win 1-0

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 14: Mike Richards #18 of the Philadelphia Flyers watches his shot hit the pads of Ryan Miller #30 of the Buffalo Sabres in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center on April 14, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals -- Sabres lead series, 1-0
[Box Score] -  [Game Page] - [Quotes] - [Buffalo Reaction]
[Shift Charts] - [Head-to-Head TOI] - [Corsi and Fenwick] - [5-on-5 Faceoffs]    

PHILADELPHIA -- All the Buffalo Sabres needed to beat the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 1 was to take a penalty.

When Shoane Morrisonn (who the hell named this kid, anyway?) took a slashing call at the 9:42 mark of the second period to give the Flyers a two-man advantage, Peter Laviolette took one of his infamous timeouts. It didn't really work. 

Two minutes later, the score was still 0-0, the Sabres were back at full strength, and Buffalo had new found optimism in a game that was throughly controlled by the orange and black. Until that point, the Sabres had not been able to get many chances on Sergei Bobrovsky (literally maybe one or two), but following the kill, the Sabres started controlling the puck more in the Philly end.

Ultimately, the Flyers failure to capitalize on their chances led to a goal against on a defensive breakdown by Matt Carle and Danny Syvret following a big, tough-to-handle Sergei Bobrovsky rebound. It gave Ryan Miller and the Sabres the only lead they'd need in the game. 

Miller was very good, and while he'll likely get a lot of the accolades tonight for pitching a 35 save shutout, he wasn't the sole reason the Sabres pulled out the victory. The Flyers directed a total of 74 shots at the net tonight -- 35 on goal, 16 missed and 23 blocked. That last number, in my opinion, has a whole lot more to do with tonight's loss than anything else. 

The Sabres did a fantastic job of collapsing around their goaltender, and to beat it, you have to take those shots a little bit earlier. The Flyers are in the mold where they wait for the perfect shot and the highest-percentage opportunity, but tonight, just about any waiting they did allowed the Sabres to get set in front of their goal.

In my opinion, this was the difference in the game. Miller deserves a lot of credit, but how many of the saves he made were truly difficult? The Flyers need to shoot as often as they did tonight, but they need to do it much earlier if they want to have success. By doing what they're doing, they're seemingly playing right into Buffalo's hands. 

The Flyers were far and away the better hockey team tonight. If they play the rest of the series like they did tonight, they're going to advance to the Conference Semifinals. Tonight in Game 1, it didn't work out. It sucks, it's frustrating and it feels like a kick to the crotch, but this isn't a carry over of the regular season.

The switch certainly felt like it was flipped tonight (cliche!), and despite a really, really tough loss, there's no reason to get down after this one. 

- The Flyers recorded 40 hits tonight.  That equals their regular season high set at Dallas on March 19.

- Outside the locker room after the game, somebody made a joke about Andy Reid running the Flyers power play. As he uttered the words "Andy," the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles came around a corner and walked behind him, and there's no doubt he heard the entire thing. This should make you smile. 

- Patrick Kaleta's goal came 45:56 into the game.  It marked the longest period of time without a goal being scored in a Flyers playoff game since April 17, 2002, when the Flyers beat Ottawa 1-0 in Game 1 of an Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series on a goal by Ruslan Fedotenko 7:47 into the first overtime (67:47).

- The Flyers have lost the first game of a seven-round series 35 times in their history and re now 30-35 all-time in opening games.  They are 14-20 in the previous 34 series in which they have lost Game 1.

- One thing that absolutely sucks about the playoffs: people asking questions of players despite not watching a game all year. Seriously, you know somebody doesn't really know what's going on when the only question they ask is, "Do you think being down 1-0 in the series with what you went through last year could serve you well?" /obligatory media rant

- In the previous eight playoff series between the Flyers and Buffalo, the team that won Game 1 has gone on to win the series.

- In the past three seasons, the Flyers have won three series in which they lost the first game - 2008 ECQF vs. Washington, 2008 ECSF vs. Montreal, 2010 ECSF vs. Boston.

- Seriously, the Flyers played great tonight. This was nothing like the regular season BS we waded through last month. If they keep this up, and there's no reason to think they won't, they will win this series. It sounds tired, but they'll make some adjustments and be back for Game 2. It's not panic time. 

Video will be up later. They'll be on the BSH YouTube page before they're here. 

Questions with Answers

  1. How does Sergei Bobrovsky hold up in his first ever playoff game? Bob did everything the Flyers needed him to do, just as he's done just about all season. You can't ask any more from a goaltender than what Bob gave tonight. 
  2. Can the Flyers hold back the Sabres speed? For the most part, yes. I can think of one scoring chance where the Sabres speed really gave them a crack at the net. 
  3. Does the Dan Carcillo addition to the lineup turn out to be a good decision? Carcillo wasn't really noticeable, which is both good and bad. I'm not sure how much more offense Nikolay Zherdev would have brought to the table.
  4. Are the Sabres able to exploit the third pairing? The Flyers did a good job of mixing up the pairings, but I guess you could argue that they exploited Danny Syvret on the lone goal. It wasn't all DSOD's fault, but he deserves some of the blame for sure. Geoff will have more on this goal tomorrow. 
  5. Danny Briere always plays well against Buffalo. Can he pace the attack tonight? He wasn't as noticeable as he could have been.I'd expect more out of him in Game 2. 
  6. Danny Syvret scores a power play goal, right? He's on the Flyers, come on now. 
  7. Most importantly, do the Flyers play 60 minutes, and do they look as though the regular season woes are behind them? Yes, a thousand times over. 

Comment of the Night

Somebody put some viagra in the flyers slushies so they can keep it up.

>> bfrank27

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