The Philadelphia Flyers earned a split of the first two games of their playoff series against the New York Rangers, ending a nine-game losing streak at Madison Square Garden. One of the biggest reasons for their success was the play of backup goalie Ray Emery.
Emery was a huge reason for the Flyers' 4-2 comeback win in Game 2. The veteran netminder made 31 saves. The key was the second period when the Rangers took 17 shots on goal, and Emery stopped them all. Meanwhile, the Flyers scored twice in the middle stanza to take the lead for good. Then, Emery shut the door again in the third period as the Flyers held on for the victory.
Flyers analyst and former player Rick Tocchet raved about Emery during the team's postgame show on Sunday, as recounted by CSNPhilly.com:
"They're down 2-0 in Game 2, what does Ray Emery do? He comes in and locks it down. I gotta give him so much credit. For this guy to come in those kind of situations and be the leader of the team and the first star of the game, he won the Flyers the game."
With the experienced Emery playing so well, starting goalie Steve Mason feels no rush to get back into the lineup. In fact, Mason will not play in Game 3 Tuesday night in Philadelphia but hopes to be available for Game 4.
“Right now, the way Razor’s [Emery] playing, there’s no hurry,” Mason told CSNPhilly.com's Sarah Baicker. “He’s the reason we won yesterday, so I think even if I was ready there’s no reason to take him out right now.”
One advantage that Emery has over Mason is playoff experience. Mason has played in only four postseason games in his NHL career and has yet to earn a victory. Emery helped lead the Ottawa Senators to the Stanley Cup Final in 2007 and served as the backup for the Chicago Blackhawks last season when they won the Stanley Cup. Emery has won 21 playoff games over the course of his career, including Game 2 this past Sunday.
Having an experienced goalie playing well behind them has boosted the team's confidence. "The whole year, every time Ray's been in he's been great for us," Vinny Lecavalier explained to Sam Carchidi of The Philadelphia Inquirer. "We have a lot of confidence in him."
Emery's strong play has led some members of the media and fans to question whether or not Emery should continue to start even after Mason is healthy enough to play. Head coach Craig Berube wouldn't allow any speculation. "When Steve's ready, Steve's ready. Until then, there's nothing really to talk about," Berube told Carchidi.
For now, Emery is happy to be contributing to an important postseason victory. "It's the best time of the year," Emery told Carchidi. "It's been a while since I got to play in a playoff series."
If he keeps playing as well as he has, Emery may get the chance to lead his team to more playoff success.