Monday, May 10, 2010

We've got a series: Flyers crush Bruins in Game 5

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
We should have learned by now that we can't ever count out the Flyers. Somehow, despite barely squeaking into the playoffs, despite amassing a heap of injured players and despite them being in a 0-3 hole, the Flyers are persevering. In Game 5 against the Bruins, the Flyers played some of their best hockey of the season, blowing out Boston in a 4-0 win to narrow the Bruins series lead to 3-2.

The Flyers got big-time contributions from three forwards in the game: Simon Gagne, Ville Leino and Scott Hartnell. Continuing his solid play since returning in Game 4, Gagne had a pair of goals in the game, one on the power play and the other an unassisted breakaway goal. Leino (goal, assist) and Hartnell (goal) were also around the net all game long as both finished with a plus/minus of 2. I'm assuming the Flyers have been very happy with what Leino has done with the opportunity he has been given due to injuries.

While the scoreboard shows that the Flyers were the much better team on Monday night, they did have to pay the price for the win. Two more possibly major injuries happened, including one to starting goaltender Brian Boucher and another to one of their most reliable playoff contributors, Claude Giroux. It was frankly remarkable that the Flyers never missed a beat after these two key players went down.

After a collision at the net, Boucher had to leave the game early in the second period and was replaced by Michael Leighton, who was fresh off an injury of his own. Initial reports on Boucher are that he seriously injured his knee and I would expect that he has an MRI tomorrow where we get a clear picture of how long he will be out. In his place, Leighton took over and looked sharp, finishing what was the first combined shutout in Flyers playoff history. While Leighton was as steady as you could ask for, he is a playoff rookie and it's difficult to have too much confidence in him should Boucher be out for any period of time.

Giroux came up his injury after Steve Begin boarded him late in the second period. It is also not known as to whether Giroux will miss any time but he wasn't on the Flyers bench in the third period. With the game a blowout, let's hope the Flyers were just letting Giroux rest up.

Suddenly, with Game 6 coming back in Philadelphia, the Flyers are right back in this series. The way they have played some of their best hockey with their backs against the wall there is no reason to think they can't pull off the comeback. This team has proven again and again, no matter how many players shuttle in and out of the lineup and no matter how tired their legs are, they will give maximum effort. While I hope Boucher and Giroux find their way back to the ice, it's good to know that Leighton is waiting in the wings and guys like Gagne and Leino are picking up the slack offensively.

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves and start making plans for the Eastern Conference Finals, however, it's important to remember the Flyers are still only halfway through their comeback attempt. Anyone who has watched the Flyers this season knows that, in any game, for any reason, the Flyers can just not have it and get blown out of the building. Still, it's exciting to know that with a few more bounces and a little more luck, the Flyers could pull off one of the biggest comebacks in playoff history. Game 6 Wednesday night in Philly will be huge.

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