There’s nothing more excruciating in sports than waiting for a 0-0 tie to be broken in a playoff hockey game. The longer the game goes on, the more important that first goal becomes, particularly if you’re the road squad. That’s how I know that last night, Patrick Kaleta scored the biggest goal of his career.
Yes, the Sabres took home-ice advantage last night, in front of throngs of lackadaisical Philly fans who at times couldn’t look less interested in watching their defending Eastern Conference champions. Although to be fair, their team didn’t give them much to cheer for. Scratch that, the Sabres didn’t allow the Flyers to give them anything to cheer for.
Last night was a team victory in every sense. Players hustled for every second of every shift. They sacrificed their bodies to block shots and held back on risky passes or mediocre shot opportunities to keep the momentum and control of the game throughout. Ryan Miller gets credit for the shutout, and loads of it, but I’m sure he’d be the first to tell you that his defense stepped up in a big way and made sure that only a handful of those 35 shots he needed to stop were good opportunities.
So this will be my first complaint-less post. I’m sure Lindy will do his job of poking holes in their victory, a necessary exercise to keep heads from getting too big off one win. No one should need reminding that this Flyers team came back from being down 0-3 just a year ago, so nothing is a given, certainly not after one win.
(And speaking of Lindy, there should be ZERO discussion from here on out on whether or not he has control of the locker room. That was gritty, Lindy Ruff-hockey we saw last night, executed to perfection.)
But the best thing that can be pulled from this game is that I’m not sure the Flyers can play much better than they did last night. They got more than their share of odd-man breaks and WAY more than their share of power play chances, but they walked away with the prettiest goose egg I’ve seen in the score column in quite some time. But give credit to Sergei Bobrovsky. He wasn’t challenged very much, but it’s hard to fault a guy for only giving up one goal on a tough rebound. So if you’re the Flyers, you can’t feel so good about getting exactly what you needed from your defense, only to be left stumped on offense.
That said, I plan on being a nervous wreck for another 60 minutes tomorrow night. And I have a feeling you do too.