Peter Laviolette says forget the way the Flyers limped to the finish line. Forget the defensive blunders and shaky goaltending down the stretch, most recently yanking Sergei Bobrovsky for Brian Boucher three goals and 12:05 into last Saturday’s season finale.
Nope. None of that matters now that the playoffs are here.
“As far as the body of work goes, it’s still really positive,” said Laviolette, after his team celebrated its first Atlantic Division crown in seven years. “You play the 82 games for the sole purpose to compete for the Stanley Cup and we are able to do that on our ice.”
Competing is one thing. Winning, of course, is entirely different. For starters they’ll take on a Sabres team with arguably the top goalie in the league, Ryan Miller. Plus, they’ll have to deal with speedsters Thomas Vanek (32 goals) Drew Stafford (31) and Jason Pominville (22), along with the NHL’s ninth-ranked power play.
But this series will be more about the bigger, deeper, more playoff-tested Flyers than the Sabres. Specifically, whether the team that came so close to breaking that 35-year Stanley Cup drought, can snap out of its 14-11-9 post-All Star break funk.
With defensive anchor Chris Pronger expected back, the Flyers are confident they can put the 82-game, regular-season grind behind them and focus on hockey’s Holy Grail.
“It’s a new season,” said Danny Briere. “You’re starting from scratch and it doesn’t matter anymore what happened before.”
They can only hope with that new season, the old Flyers finally emerge.