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Greenberg: How the Defense won Game 4

Flyers columnist looks at how the Flyers successfully compensated for the loss of Grossmann midway through Game 4 and how to repeat that success in Game 5

Saturday, 04.26.2014 / 1:11 PM ET / News
By Jay Greenberg  - philadelphiaflyers.com
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Greenberg: How the Defense won Game 4

Nick Grossmann, taken into the boards by Derick Brassard, went down in a heap and the Flyers seemingly were in a heap of trouble.

They had only spent, oh, 20 of the first 25 minutes of the game in their own end, were giving the puck away faster than the media has been handing out advice about the power play.

The strength of the Flyer D – that coming into the season the naysayers were grading a D -- is a third pair that Andrew MacDonald has made as good as the first pair. Now the Flyers were down to two-and-a-half pairs, supposedly no way to win a playoff game in this age of big, fast and fresh forwards coming over the boards every 40 seconds.

“They used to play just four defensemen,” smiled Craig Berube. “Tough to do now, though.

“Five? We can do that. (Braydon) Coburn, MacDonald can eat minutes, Luke Schenn, too.”

Actually, the final 32-plus minutes of the Flyers’ 2-1 victory in Game 4 had to go down in the smallest bites, the only way to get the food past the hearts in your throats.

In the end the Flyers held on to even the series for more reasons than just an excellent Steve Mason, namely Coburn, Schenn, MacDonald, Mark Streit and Kimmo Timonen.

Coburn played a McDonagh-esque 25:27, Timonen 23:26, MacDonald 20:46, Streit 19:58 and Schenn 18:04, all without hardly breaking a sweat.

Holy Mike Keenan!

Back in the day, Mark Howe, Brad McCrimmon, Brad Marsh, Doug Crossman and Kjell Samuelsson couldn’t have done it any better, under more duress.

“I feel good,” said Streit. Hey, you are only tired when you get outshot 38-25 and lose, or when you don’t suddenly feel that you are the team with the hot goalie, or when you don’t believe that the Flyers forwards have much more left in the tank than they showed in Game 4. They played better in Game 3 and lost by three goals, so go figure.

Assuming one contest will be like the last is a tired exercise this time of year. But Game 5 starts 38 hours after the conclusion of Game 4 and the series ends with three games in four days.

So either Hal Gill or Erik Gustafsson are on for some minutes, but first let’s take a New York minute to appreciate how the Rangers never got themselves in position for that one shot Mason had no chance to handle.

Fatigue makes cowards of us all. Conditioning saved the day.

“We had two games between games, so we were well rested,” said Coburn.

“[Playing five] can get hard if I have a couple of long shifts in our own end back-to- back. It gets you in the game, though.”

In the eighties, a sixth guy was one guy too many for Howe to get in the flow, Alas, nobody on this defense skates like No. 2, but these guys compete. For guys who aren’t supposed to be any good, they look pretty good.

There wasn’t one pre-series matchup piece that didn’t give Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal and Anton Stralman a big edge. But the Flyers exploited the Rangers’ third pair – John Moore and Kevin Klein -- on Matt Read’s goal off the backboards, and then refused to wear down.

“Our defense, I thought battled hard, did what they had to do,” said Berube. I felt like they were physical down low.

“Most of the Rangers chances were rush chances.”

Flyer breakout passes repeatedly went off recipient’s sticks, turning the puck over at center. Berube’s team was backpedalling most of the night.

But the Rangers didn’t get extended cycles because the Flyer defense that much of the league believes isn’t good enough most certainly proved it was to gut out Game 4.

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
C. Giroux 78 22 45 -8 67
W. Simmonds 81 32 28 -7 60
B. Schenn 80 26 33 3 59
J. Voracek 73 11 44 -5 55
S. Gostisbehere 64 17 29 8 46
S. Couturier 63 11 28 8 39
M. Raffl 82 13 18 9 31
M. Read 79 11 15 -5 26
M. Streit 62 6 17 -1 23
S. Laughton 71 7 14 -2 21
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
S. Mason 23 19 10 .918 2.51
M. Neuvirth 18 8 4 .924 2.27
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