Brimming with Confidence
Friday, 04.24.2009 / 2:33 PM / News
By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com
|PENGUINS VS. FLYERS|
(Voorhees, NJ) - The Flyers still trail the Penguins 3-2 in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series. But to listen to folks in the Philadelphia locker room, you would think they were in the driver's seat.
"It's pretty amazing," forward Danny Briere told NHL.com following Friday's media availability. "Even (Thursday), going and getting ready for the game -- it's weird, we're down 3-1 but it doesn't feel that way."
That's because of what the Flyers have been able to do since the middle of Game 2 of this series. Discounting the penalty-filled 4-1 loss in Game 1, the Flyers have had the better of the play. They've outscored the Penguins in the last four games 12-9, and except for three poorly timed penalties late in Game 2, they could be the ones ready to close out this series.
"After Game 1, where we didn't really play well at all, we made some changes and guys really grabbed it and went for it and that really made a difference," said goaltender Martin Biron.
"In our room we feel like we're getting stronger," said forward Mike Knuble. "After that first game and halfway though the second we've been a different team and progressively getting better. The good thing is time didn't run out on us. Sometimes your team gets better but your series runs out. We still feel like we have a ways to go, we still feel like we can get better as a team. Everything that's happening to us is positive. That helps the locker room, helps the momentum, helps you climb back into a series."
It also helps when your goalie delivers a 28-save shutout, like Biron did in Game 5 to keep the series alive and force a Game 6 in Philadelphia Saturday (3 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS). With a sunny, 87-degree day predicted, the always rowdy crowds that pack the Wachovia Center should be in a great mood.
"We expect it to be an absolute madhouse (Saturday)," said Knuble. "I've been here four years and this will be the most exciting game I've played here. All of us are looking forward to it."
The players all talked about being able to draw off the energy of the home crowd.
"They're loud and obnoxious in a good way for us," said Knuble. "When you're the home team it's a great obnoxiousness. The weather is going to be good, people are going to be tailgating and they're going to be in the mood to watch a hockey game."
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The Philadelphia Flyers ran into a brick wall in Game 4. After Game 5, the Pittsburgh Penguins know just how that feels.
After Marc-Andre Fleury stole Game 4 for the Penguins, it was the Flyers' Martin Biron's chance to return the favor. Biron stopped all 28 shots he faced for his second career playoff shutout as the Flyers remained alive in the teams' Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series, now trailing 3-2.
"Part of the message before the game was we needed Marty to be great," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "I thought we had a really good start to the game. At the five-minute mark, we sat back and played a bit too cautious and played too much in our end.
"When Marty plays like he did, he allowed us to regroup between periods. He allowed us to start doing some of the things we had been doing in the series. We really got things corrected. I think Marty deserves a lot of credit for that because he held the fort early, he allowed us to regroup and really gave us a vote of confidence to get back playing."
It was similar to the effort Fleury put up in Game 4, when he stopped 45 of 46 shots as the Penguins took a 3-1 series lead.
Biron has played well in the series, posting a 2.29 goals-against average and .927 save percentage. In fact, his play has eliminated what had been a Philadelphia spring hockey tradition -- debating the value of the starting goaltender. He stopped all 15 shots the Penguins threw at him in the first period, and played his strongest game of the series when Philadelphia needed him the most.
Now the teams return to Philadelphia for Game 6, and the Flyers are feeling more confident all the time. It's a situation similar to last season, when the team knew Biron could and would stop everything thrown at him.
"Marty wants to be counted on," Stevens said. "We counted on him big-time last year in the playoffs. ... We knew he could play the way he did tonight."
Biron didn't have to make too many super saves, and got a bit of help when Evgeni Malkin's second-period goal was waved off after he kicked it into the net, but he inspires his teammates, which is about the best thing that can be said for any goaltender.
"Marty was great," Flyers forward Danny Briere said. "We're going to need that from him -- everybody knows that, he knows that. That first period he was huge. It's never easy when you come into somebody's building when they're trying to close it out. We knew that first period we had to weather the storm. Marty needed to be our best player in the first period and he did that. He kept us in the game, gave us a chance to get our legs under us and let us play how we're capable of."
Biron shrugs off his status as the key to the Flyers' playoff success.
"I said (Wednesday) that if I was asked to step up I would, but we all trust the guy next to us to step up," said Biron. "There are guys that played big roles and that's what we want."
But no one played a bigger role than the goalie, right when it was needed most.