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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 WSH 50 37 9 4 163 112 78
2 FLA 52 31 15 6 143 115 68
3 NYR 52 29 18 5 148 134 63
4 TBL 51 29 18 4 137 118 62
5 BOS 52 28 18 6 151 137 62
6 DET 52 26 18 8 130 131 60
7 PIT 51 26 18 7 132 130 59
8 NJD 53 26 20 7 119 120 59
9 NYI 50 26 18 6 135 126 58
10 CAR 53 24 21 8 129 141 56
11 PHI 50 23 18 9 119 130 55
12 MTL 53 25 24 4 142 142 54
13 OTT 53 24 23 6 148 165 54
14 BUF 53 21 26 6 120 139 48
15 TOR 51 19 23 9 117 140 47
16 CBJ 54 21 28 5 135 168 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
C. Giroux 50 16 28 -4 44
J. Voracek 50 8 34 1 42
W. Simmonds 50 18 16 -4 34
B. Schenn 48 14 15 -1 29
S. Gostisbehere 32 9 17 4 26
S. Couturier 40 9 15 9 24
M. Read 49 9 9 -5 18
S. Laughton 50 4 10 -6 14
M. Raffl 50 6 6 2 12
M. Del Zotto 48 3 9 -9 12
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
S. Mason 12 12 7 .916 2.68
M. Neuvirth 11 6 2 .933 2.14
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