Round 2 of the Philadelphia Flyers’ run toward the Stanley Cup began the same way their Round 1 did – with a come-from-behind win in overtime in Game 1.
Just like in Game 1 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Danny Briere scored 2 goals, although his second goal against the New Jersey Devils on Sunday was the biggest of them all – an overtime winner that put the Flyers up 1-0 in the series. His slapshot from the point was actually the second time he beat Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur in overtime, although the first one was via an illegal kick of the puck that the refs eventually overturned.
It’s the Briere we’ve all come to love, the guy who, no matter how he performed in the regular season, is at the top of his game in the playoffs. His 2 goals on Sunday give him 7 for the playoffs, tied with teammate Claude Giroux for the most in the playoffs thus far. His 10 total points rank second to Giroux, who now has 15 after scoring on the power play in Game 1.
To say Sunday’s win was big is a huge understatement. Losing Game 1 would have flipped the home-ice advantage to the Devils’ favor, validating their advancement to the second round, giving them the confidence that they can compete with the Flyers, and putting all the pressure on Philly’s backs heading into Game 2.
But Briere’s clutch goal, only 4 minutes and 36 seconds into overtime, changed that course completely.
Now, the Flyers still hold home-ice advantage.
Now, the Devils have to question whether they can consistently compete with the Flyers after dominating Philly in the first period, and not being able to hold onto a 1-0 lead.
Now, while the Flyers still need to win Game 2, the pressure is heavily on the Devils to not drop the first two games of the series – thanks in large part to Briere.
The Philadelphia Phillies will end a four-game series with the Chicago Cubs at Citizens Bank Park tonight. The game will mark the end to the first month of the season, a month that the team would assuredly like to forget.
Even if the Phillies win tonight, they will finish April with a losing record. It’s the first time since 2007 that the team will finish April with a losing record, and the first time since June 2009 that they will finish ANY month under .500.
There’s really no secret as to why this is happening. Without Ryan Howard and Chase Utley in the lineup, the offense just plain stinks. They scored 1 run on 2 hits in Sunday’s game, one of which was a bloop single by Jimmy Rollins to lead off the game in the first inning.
Performances like that just won’t get it done. Someone is going to have to step it up until Howard and Utley come back, whether it be Rollins (who has a .222 batting average), Hunter Pence (.253), Shane Victorino (.230) or someone, anyone, else.
If there is any good news about the Phillies’ first month of the season, it’s that, despite playing so poorly on offense, they’re only 4 games out of first place in the division, and there are still 140 games left to play.
After finishing the Cubs’ series tonight (with Vance Worley vs. Chris Volstad), the Phillies will travel to Atlanta (14-8) for three games starting Tuesday then head to Washington (14-8) for three games starting Friday.
The projected starting pitchers for the Braves’ series are Cole Hamels vs. Brandon Beachy on Tuesday, Roy Halladay vs. Tommy Hanson on Wednesday, and Joe Blanton vs. Randall Delgado on Thursday.
On the NBA
To no one’s surprise, the Philadelphia 76ers got blown out in Game 1 of their opening round series against the Chicago Bulls, losing 103-91. Elton Brand led the way with 19 points for the Sixers, who can blame the loss on the first half, when they were outscored 53-42.
The one bright spot for the Sixers going forward is that they won’t have to defend Bulls’ star Derrick Rose anymore; he suffered a torn ACL late in the game and is done for the playoffs. But while that might be a death sentence for Chicago’s NBA title run, will it turn the tides of this series in Philly’s favor? My guess would be no.
Even without Rose, the Bulls outmatch the Sixers on the court. Maybe Philly will win more games because of Rose’s injury, but it still seems unlikely that they could advance past the first round.
Game 2 will be held on Tuesday at 8 pm this week. The Sixers will then return home for Game 3 on Friday (8 pm) and Game 4 on Sunday (1 pm).