PITTSBURGH - The "Mar-ty, Mar-ty" chants began with about 12 minutes to go. The derisive cheers when Martin Biron made a routine glove save came about 3 minutes later. The night was long and the outcome was decisive, and No. 43 wears the target. It is the playoffs, after all.
But the goaltender is not the overriding issue for the Flyers. In Game 1 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Biron was more unlucky than he was ungood. The 4-1 final score was not a total referendum on the play of the goaltender. Bernie Parent was not winning this game (and no, not because Bernie is 64 years old).
Such was the Penguins' domination of the first 30-odd minutes of the game. Such was the Flyers' inability to sustain anything for way too long. It was a thorough beating for a goodly period of time. It was as if the Flyers forgot what playoff hockey is all about - the intensity, the emotion, all of it.
"It took a while to get our legs going, it looked like," Biron said. "The second period was sluggish on both sides. Having to play catch-up hockey against that team is not an easy thing. We got some bad bounces go against us. Usually when you get a bad bounce like that, it's because
you're not creating the good bounces. I think we've got to go out there hungry to create good bounces, to create good things."
Biron does not get a total pass here. In the National Hockey League in the springtime, goaltenders never do. It is one of the beauties of the sport that one player can so distort the outcome. These are the Stanley Cup playoffs, and each goaltender is handed a lottery ticket on his way onto the ice as he passes through the gate. If he plays well enough, he cashes. Marty didn't cash.
If you run through them, Biron probably would have played the first goal, a Sidney Crosby power play goal, the exact same way - even if he did end up inadvertently knocking the rebound into the net himself.
The second goal, off a three-on-one, was an offspeed pitch from Tyler Kennedy that Biron didn't handle - not a hanging offense, but, well . . .
The third goal was just bizarre - a Mike Knuble attempt to bang the puck safely behind the net that ended up caroming off the back boards, then off the side of the net, to a wide-open Evgeni Malkin.
"A bad dream," Knuble called it.
And the fourth goal deflected off the Flyers' Claude Giroux in front.
Now, four is a big number at this time of year. But a fair reading of the evening can recognize the extenuating circumstances.
"That's unlucky on the power play to start the game," Biron said, beginning his own review. "That's a tough break. Kennedy tries to get it under the crossbar, fans on it. The puck goes off the side of the net to Malkin in front. The point shot tips off of Giroux' stick and into the net.
"You look at that game and you say, those four goals are a situation where a good bounce here and there and it's a totally different game. They worked really hard to get their bounces, don't get me wrong. And that's what we've got to do in Game 2, create our own good luck, create our own good bounces."
Truth be told, Biron did a decent job holding the Flyers in the game at the beginning - because they really didn't show up for a long, long time. Two notable saves were on Jordan Staal, right after the first Penguins goal, and later on Bill Guerin in front, when he did a good job filling the net and took a rocket off the shoulder.
"I thought he was pretty solid," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "I thought we had a couple of missed coverages where they had some slot shots there that he was sharp on.
"I think he thought the pass was going across on the second one, but it's three-on-one there, so I don't think you can put much blame there. The fourth one is a deflection in front and goes in the net. I actually thought he was pretty solid in the net tonight. I thought he made some big saves early to give us a chance to stay in the game and try to regroup."
The Flyers did regroup, sort of - but only sort of. This will be quick and dirty if things don't start to change pretty quickly. And, well, put it this way: If Marty Biron has to be better, the rest of the Flyers have to be a whole lot better. *
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