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(4) Philadelphia Flyers (0-0) at (1) Ottawa Senators (0-0), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Presidents' Trophy-winning Ottawa Senators begin the
second leg of their Stanley Cup journey tonight when they host the
Philadelphia Flyers in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series at
The meeting is a rematch of last spring's opening round, when the Senators
eliminated a dysfunctional Flyers club in five games and limited them to an
NHL record-low two goals.
After finishing with the league's best record in the regular season, Ottawa
received a scare in the series opener against the NY Islanders last round,
but dusted itself off and won four straight by simply outclassing the eighth-
seeded Isles. Had the Senators not come out overanxious and overaggressive in
Game 1, we may have seen a sweep.
Ottawa, which has been off for eight days, outscored New York by a combined
13-4 margin in the final four games while moving on to the conference semis
for the second straight season.
Perhaps the most amazing aspect of the series victory is that it came to
fruition without a single goal off the stick of Daniel Alfredsson. The team
captain handed out three assists in the five games instead.
Marian Hossa, who finished fourth in the league in goal-scoring during the
regular campaign, tied with former Flyer Todd White for the team lead with
three in the first round and scored two crucial tallies to tie the series in
Game 2. Radek Bonk, who has had his share of playoff demons, tallied twice in
At the other end, Patrick Lalime posted a 1.30 goals-against average, .949
save percentage and one shutout against the overmatched Islanders. After
allowing three goals in Game 1, he halted 98 of the next 102 shots he faced to
close things out.
Defensively, anchor Wade Redden and the mammoth Zdeno Chara were effective at
both ends of the ice. Redden was a plus-3 and chipped in three assists while
logging over 26:00 of ice time on average, while Chara also dished out a trio
of helpers while posting a plus-2.
Philadelphia, meanwhile, advanced to the second round for the first time in
three years with its grueling seven-game classic win against the Toronto Maple
Leafs. After squandering a chance to clinch in Game 6 up in Canada, the Flyers
came back with a 6-1 rout in the seventh match less than 24 hours later on
their home ice.
All told, Philly and Toronto -- who played in three multiple overtime games at
Air Canada Centre -- skated for 532 minutes of action, which is the equivalent
of nearly nine regulation games.
Philadelphia showed what a difference a new year, new coach and half a roster
can make by scoring 24 goals in the first round. Mark Recchi paved the way
with a league-leading six markers, including the triple-overtime winner
in Game 4 and a pair in Game 7 versus the Leafs.
Jeremy Roenick, despite getting knocked silly twice in the set, and Simon
Gagne added three scores apiece, while Sami Kapanen and defenseman Eric
Weinrich each netter a pair.
And to prove the Flyers' newly-found scoring depth, they managed a series win
without much from John LeClair and Tony Amonte, who are being counted on to
score. LeClair was goal-less after the second game, and Amonte, despite
contributing in other areas, was completely shut out.
One similarity to last postseason for the Flyers was the solid play of
goaltender Roman Cechmanek, who has been much maligned despite putting up
stellar numbers for three straight years. The Czech native, although he did
allow a few "soft" goals during the course of the Leafs series, was
spectacular in the overtimes and more than held his own against Ed Belfour.
The play in front of Cechmanek was also stellar, as Flyer defenders limited
Toronto to an average of 27 shots per-game, which is a low number considering
the number of extra time played. The Philadelphia defense corps was, however,
struck by injury in Game 5, as workhorse Eric Desjardins suffered a broken
bone in his foot and is slated to miss at least two weeks.
This Flyers team is very different than the one that bowed out disgracefully
to the Sens last year, as nine players who faced Toronto were not with the
club in 2002. Philadelphia now has the speed to keep up with the swift
Senators, whereas last year it did not.
Philly and Ottawa went 1-1-2 against each other this season, and the Senators
are 2-1-3 in the last six meetings. The Flyers are 0-1-2 in their last three
trips to Corel Centre.
Game 2 will be played Sunday night in Ottawa.
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