Skip to content
Our Archives
Link copied to clipboard

Briere: Depth and versatility fortifying Flyers

Be honest: You did not expect the Flyers to be leading by three games to one in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Be honest: You did not expect the Flyers to be leading by three games to one in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Many people had the Montreal Canadiens winning the playoff series in six games. That's not going to happen. The Flyers are in command.

It will take seven games for Montreal to win this series, which continues tomorrow night at the Bell Centre. But there are two days off between games, and that could affect the Flyers' momentum.

"To me, it does not matter in a playoff situation because both teams are faced with the same schedule," Flyers coach John Stevens said yesterday. "This is the first time since we started [the playoffs] that we had more then a day between games. I think it's actually good for us.

"We've had guys play a lot of big minutes . . . and went right on the road and started the next series" after eliminating the Washington Capitals.

After the Flyers' dreadful stretch in February, in which they lost 10 in a row, it was hard to imagine they would be playing this well into May.

Center Danny Briere said the Flyers' depth and versatility had helped turn things around.

"You look at our team, and we don't have that superstar like the [Alexander] Ovechkin or the Sidney Crosby or the [Jaromir] Jagr," Briere said yesterday.

"We are a team that relies on depth," he said. "I think we have different lines that can score and give you that boost on any single night. That is the way we played all year, and it's certainly not going to change now."

The Flyers have seven players who had 20 or more goals in the regular season (although when Vinny Prospal arrived in a February trade, he already had 29). They are like the Buffalo teams Briere played on, with lots of scoring balance throughout the lineup.

"It's certainly nice having other guys step up, and you don't feel like you always have to be the one to carry the load," Briere said.

"You know what? I think it's great for the team spirit as well, how different guys are stepping up and playing the hero on different nights," he said. "Everybody feels like they are part of the team."

For whatever reason, the Flyers seem to thrive on the dramatic. From the moment the puck was dropped in October right up through Game 4 on Wednesday night, the team has seemed to respond only to adversity. It seems to delight in breathtaking finishes.

Most of those finishes involve goalie Marty Biron, who has a 2.50 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage in the series.

"It is thrilling," winger Mike Knuble said. "When I was in Detroit in 1997-98 as a young guy, I remember watching Mike Vernon and Chris Osgood playing great. I do not remember them making the type of saves Marty has been making.

"Ever since the playoffs started, [Biron] has taken it to another level. It has been an absolute treat to watch. I do not know if it is the new baby or what, but he has been extremely hot."

Biron's wife gave birth to a girl during the opening round, against Washington.

"He's made some big saves, but not every time does he see the puck," Canadiens captain Saku Koivu said. "But he's getting the bounces right now. Like I said after Game 3, we're being tested right now, and right now we can't feel sorry for ourselves and try to make excuses for every situation."

The Canadiens appear to be frustrated by their lack of success against Biron. Montreal has not led for a single minute of the series in regulation time. And the Habs have outplayed the Flyers for the most part.

Still, they can't seem to get to Biron.

"You have to throw pucks on the net, have guys in front, look for tips, and make it hard on them, because he's making the first saves and we have to do what we can to get the second and third opportunities," Montreal defenseman Josh Gorges said.