On Sunday, Danny Briere did it again. He put the game-winning goal past Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils at 4:36 of overtime to give the Philadelphia Flyers a 1-0 series lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal.
The OT winner was Briere's second goal of the game. He also opened the scoring for the Flyers on a breakaway at 8:07 of the second period, tying the game at 1. Additionally, Briere had another goal called back earlier in overtime when it was determined that he'd used a "distinct kicking motion" to propel the puck past Brodeur.
It takes a big-game scorer to get two in one overtime!
The two goals in Game 1 give Briere a total of seven so far in the 2011-12 playoffs, tying him with teammate Claude Giroux for the league lead. The OT winner is his first game-winning goal of these playoffs and the 13th in his NHL career. That ties him for 13th place on the all-time list, alongside such names as Doug Gilmour and Joe Nieuwendyk.
Briere now has 106 points in 104 playoff games, for an average of 1.02 points per game. That puts him just behind greats like Phil Esposito and Guy Lafleur in terms of postseason production. What's more amazing is the degree to which Briere is able to up his game—his regular-season average is just .791 points per game.
Briere's playoff reputation started to develop after the lockout, during the 2005-06 season with the Buffalo Sabres. Buffalo had failed to make the playoffs in the three seasons before the lockout, but the rejuvenated squad reached Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final before being ousted by the eventual champion Carolina Hurricanes. Briere led the team with 19 points in 18 games, including two game-winning goals.
The following season, Briere was voted in as a starter in the All-Star Game and won the MVP award with a game-high five points (one goal, four assists). The Sabres advanced to the conference final again in 2007, this time falling to the Ottawa Senators. Briere logged 15 points in 16 games, including one game-winner.
It was widely assumed that the Philadelphia Flyers overpaid when they signed Briere to an eight-year, $52 million free-agent contract in the summer of 2007. If you look only at his regular-season stats, that would probably be true. This past year, the 34-year-old Briere put up just 16 goals and 49 points in 70 games.
But everything changes when you look at the playoff picture.
During Briere's five seasons with the Flyers, they've made the playoffs every year and done pretty well. They've only suffered one first-round exit—in 2009 when they lost in six games to the eventual champion Pittsburgh Penguins—and they've come close to winning it all.
Briere's best performance to date was in 2010, when the Flyers lost to Chicago in six games in the Stanley Cup final. His 30 points in 23 games led the NHL in playoff scoring and included four game-winners for his squad. It also set a new playoff scoring record for the Flyers, breaking Brian Propp's old mark of 28 points.
After that crazy first-round series between the Flyers and Penguins this year, Briere's rate of production has been even higher so far—currently 1.42 points per game.
If he can continue to score at that rate, he'll move deep into the ranks of the all-time greats and the Flyers will have one powerful weapon at their disposal as they continue into the postseason.