Flyers lose home ice in 1-0 loss to Miller and Sabres

By David Strehle
NHL H
ot Stove NHL / Philadelphia Flyers Correspondent

Ryan Miller stopped all 35 shots he faced and Buffalo got all the offense they would need on a Patrick Kaleta goal early in the third period, as the Sabres took home ice advantage away from the Philadelphia Flyers with a 1-0 victory.

Kaleta got separation from defenseman Danny Syvret to knock Marc-Andre Gragnani’s point shot past Sergei Bobrovsky, who left a big rebound out front.

It was the 22-year-old Russian rookie’s only mistake of the night, as he was otherwise flawless in making 24 saves on 25 shots.

Everything happened really quickly,” said Bobrovsky of the goal.  ”The defenseman (Gragnani) shot it at me and the rebound went right to the other player.  It happened so quick I couldn’t react in time.”

It was a point shot that came, and the guy was driving the net,” Syvret said after the game.  ”The rebound was kicked out, out of my reach.  I tried to lift his stick, but he pretty much had a gaping net.”

The result does not bode well for Philadelphia, as the winner of game one the last eight times these two teams have met in the postseason went on to win the series.

It was another blown chance for a Flyers team that dominated the number of quality scoring chances, but somehow could not find the back of the net.

James van Riemsdyk beat Miller in the first but the shot squirted through the goaltender and hit the near post.

We have to do a better job next game of getting those second chance opportunities,” van Riemsdyk said after the game.

Second chance opportunities would be good, as well as some traffic in front of Miller so that he cannot see the shots.

Danny Briere concurred.  “You have to give Ryan Miller a lot of credit,” he said.  ”He was good tonight.  We just have to do a better job around him and try to get to the rebounds.  I thought that maybe we let him see too many shots but it wasn’t a bad effort.”

In addition to Miller’s excellent play, the Philly shooters found a way to either put a shot just wide or had a puck deflected with an open net.  The frantic scrambles that come up empty have become commonplace in games where the Flyers out-chance their opponents.

Another thorn in the side of the Orange-and-Black was the power play which went 0-5, including a two-man advantage for 38 seconds in the second period.

Realizing the importance of the opportunity, head coach Peter Laviolette even took his timeout when Shaone Morrisonn took a slashing minor with Steve Montador already off to give the Flyers the two man edge.

Kimmo Timonen had the best chance during the two-man power play with a slapshot, but Miller turned that aside.

I thought we did well, we created energy, we moved the puck around, and we took some good shots,” Briere said about the play of the man advantage unit.  ”But, we have nothing to show for it, so it’s disappointing.”

The coach was encouraged by what he saw with the power play.  “There were lots of things that happened that were good,” Laviolette said.  ”There were lots of shots and attacks.  However, like the rest of the game, we didn’t find the back of the net.”

Philadelphia played much better than they have in recent weeks, as they regained the spirited play that had been lacking for some time.

For the past two months, many wondered where the Flyers team was that had breezed through the first 55 games of the National Hockey League schedule.

The passion and desperation that go hand-in-hand when the club is winning had been non-existent for over the last quarter of the games, and Philadelphia’s results suffered significantly.

It’s frustrating obviously,” said captain Mike Richards.  ”A loss is not easy and you kind of wonder where you went wrong and what you could have done.  But we created a lot, we didn’t give up much, and we were pretty tight defensively.”

The bottom line is they once again came up short in the end, and their once vaunted offense was shut down once more.

Obviously (Ryan) Miller was pretty good tonight,” said Timonen.  ”You never want to lose a game, but if you want to take anything out of it I thought we played pretty well.”

Then the 36-year-old defenseman added what will become a huge storyline in this series.  ”But, somehow we obviously have to score goals.”

Laviolette was asked about his top blue liner, Chris Pronger, who missed the contest as he continues to recover from surgery on his broken right hand.  “If Chris Pronger was available he could be a difference maker,” the coach said.  ”I think that speaks for itself.  But he’s not so there is not sense in worrying about things we don’t have right now.”

Philadelphia has to be encouraged by the play of Bobrovsky, who had many critics coming out of the woodwork prior to the commencement of game one.

I thought he played pretty well,” Timonen assessed.  ”The saves he had to make, he made them.”

I think Bob answered a lot of critics, we never questioned him,” said defenseman Sean O’Donnell.  ”As a team we didn’t play well the second half and Bob was part of that.  But we knew we were revved up to come in here game one and he gave us every chance to win tonight.”

The team has a lot of confidence in their young netminder, and all they can ask of him is that he give them an opportunity to win.  And he certainly did that tonight.

Something worrisome remains with the club’s play on home ice.  Including the last seven games of the regular season, the Flyers are just 1-3-4 in their last eight games at the Wells Fargo Center – and that is unacceptable.

Saturday’s game two becomes a must-win for Philadelphia, as they do not want to head to Buffalo on Monday down two games to none.

_____________________________________________

Taking a Flyer:  Timonen, van Riemsdyk, and Richards each tied with a game-high six shots on goal for the Flyers…the line of Scott Hartnell-Briere-Ville Leino was excellent all night, but was on the ice for the Buffalo goal.  The line kept the puck deep in the Sabres’ zone for nearly every shift on the ice, and combined for five shots on goal…This was Miller’s second career shutout, both coming against Philadelphia.

_____________________________________________

If you have any comments or questions, you can email the author at dstrehle@nhlhotstove.com.  You can also follow him on Twitter – @David_Strehle