Flashes of last year’s postseason were on the minds of many Flyers fans. Not for the way that run uneventfully ended (a semifinals loss to Boston), but by the way James van Riemsdyk has been playing.
The 22-year-old has shown an aggressiveness you might not expect from a kid that missed 39 games while dealing with a myriad of ailments, including a concussion.
“I think the lay-off helped him,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “Everybody expects James to come back and play like that.”
In the first period last night, that was on display once again. Van Riemsdyk was attacking pucks and racing down the ice with reckless abandon. Unfortunately, all that jam fizzled after Matt Read’s first-period goal and the Flyers fell 4-1 in an uninspired Game 2 loss.
But credit van Riemsdyk’s effort. He got into it with Martin Brodeur in the first period, when he bumped the Devils netminder and drew a slashing call. A brief fight ensued, perhaps some spill-over from Game 1, after a controversial screen — at least in Brodeur’s eyes — setup the game-winning goal.
“I love playing the big games, when it means a little bit more,” van Riemsdyk said. “I’ve always kind of prided myself on that.”
Van Riemsdyk, who inked a six-year, $25.5 million contract extension in the offseason, skated mostly on a line with Danny Briere and Jake Voracek for a second straight game. While he failed to register a point in Game 2, he certainly made his presence felt.
“I tried to stayed positive throughout all the bumps in the road throughout the year,” van Riemsdyk said. “It’s definitely good to get some confidence back and get going.”
What went wrong in Game 2 …
1. Good Bryz, Bad Bryz.
Ilya Bryzgalov was brilliant early, standing on his head while getting a well-deserved standing ovation. He stopped 12 shots in the second period. However, his offense gave him no support and Bryz fell into same old habits allowing three goals in under 11 minutes late. But don’t blame Bryz. He still stopped 31 shots behind a sluggish defense.
2. Where was the Power Play?
The Flyers’ main source of energy in these playoffs has been their top-ranked power-play unit. But that unit never showed up, going 0-for-5. Scott Hartnell negated one man-advantage early in the third, which made it 4-on-4 hockey and put the Devils on the board.
3. Get shots on net.
Danny Briere, Wayne Simmonds and Sean Couturier all preached about creating traffic and getting pucks on net prior to Game 2. None of that happened. In fact, the Flyers looked bad from midway through the first on. The Orange and Black were outshot for the game (35-20) and endured an almost 19-minute shot-less stretch in the second period. It marked the franchise’s most woeful period since registering just two shots vs. New Jersey in the 2010 playoffs.