The Flyers-Bruins rivalry has really picked up steam since the 2010 playoffs, and while the animosity hasn’t reached the levels of the 1970s, every game this season has been a fast-paced nailbiter. Tonight was no different, with the Flyers taking a 7-5 loss at TD Garden in as exciting a game as there has been all season.
There were a several line-up changes tonight, the most surprising of which was the introduction of defenseman Matt Walker in place of Oskars Bartulis. I neither saw nor heard anything prior to the game stating that Walker had been re-activated, so to see him on the bench was a bit of a shock. Walker, who has spent the entire season thus far on IR with surgeries to both sides of his hips, was paired with Matt Carle while Andrej Meszaros re-joined Sean O’Donnell.
Dan Carcillo also sat tonight in favor of Nikolay Zherdev, who was expected to provide more firepower (and didn’t disappoint).
The way that the game started, it appeared the Bruins would be putting the Flyers on their heels. Scott Hartnell and the LBH line put these thoughts to rest with a highlight reel goal from the side of the net. It was the Flyers’ first legitimate scoring opportunity and set the tone for the rest of the game.
Both Hartnell and Braydon Coburn were called with hooking penalties within a minute of each other that gave the Bruins an opportunity to get on the board. Mike Richards made some key saves during a mad scramble in front of the net, but a slapper from Bruins captain Zdeno Chara tied the game.
The Bruins captured the lead 45 seconds into the second period. Mark Recchi fired a shot from the blue-line that was re-directed by Patrice Bergeron. The Flyers returned the favor late in the second period, as Nikolay Zherdev blocked a shot, jumped ahead and collected a pass from Andreas Nodl at the Bruins’ blue-line. Racing in on goal, Zherdev potted his 14th goal of the season.
I hope that the organization elects not to trade him, as he does nothing but score goals. His defensive shortcomings have really hedged over the course of the season and he adds much needed depth if the Flyers are to make another deep run for the Stanley Cup.
Jeff Carter took the lead with 35 seconds left in the second, but Mark Recchi and Michael Ryder swung the momentum back the other way in the third with fluky goals that goaltender Brian Boucher should have stopped.
If this game couldn’t get any more back-and-forth, Danny Briere collected a rebound from Coburn to tie the game. At this point, the Flyers were winning, tied, trailing, tied, winning, tied, trailing, and tied again.
The Flyers grabbed the lead for the third time as Mike Richards carried the puck into the offensive zone, held up, and passed it to O’Donnell. Kicking the puck to his skate, O’Donnell roofed it over Thomas for his first goal in the orange and black. The Bruins then tied it with a goal from Brad Marchand on a play that should have been whistled dead seconds earlier when the puck hit the safety netting.
The Bruins took the lead for the final time with 1:14 remaining, when Steve Kampfer beat Boosh thanks to a turnover from Matt Carle and poor defensive positioning from Ville Leino. Not even an infamous Peter Laviolette time-out could save the Flyers, who gave up an empty net goal in the waning seconds of the game.
After a game like this, it’s difficult to pick out any particular reason for the loss. If anything, it was a combination of poorly executed plays from Matt Carle, Brian Boucher, and Danny Briere (his blatant cross-check to Marc Savard came at the worst time), as well as the addition of Walker in the worst choice for his first game back.
Walker looked particularly slow, especially during the second period when he was beaten by Shawn Thornton (of all people) and then just dropped his stick as he realized he had no chance of doing his job. I understand that he’s coming back from two serious surgeries, but the Flyers are first in the Eastern Conference. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?
Walker makes Matt Carle look like Chris Pronger. Heck, he makes Jody Shelley look like Usain Bolt.
The Flyers will be right back at it tomorrow night in Atlanta.