Observations from the Press Box
I walked into the building alongside Ian Laperriere, who was in great spirits and talking to anyone who crossed his path. Lappy was sporting a t-shirt that just said ’Bruce Lee’ which seems perfect for him.
Before the game, several different versions of the "History Will be Made" commercials played in honor of the Flyers comeback over Boston. Then, as Journey’s "Don’t Stop Believin" blared, plenty of inspirational quotes from both the Flyers and Bruins about not quitting were shown on the screen.
Then in somewhat old school fashion, the board showed Michael Leighton leading the boys out of the tunnel and onto the ice as the theme from Rocky played. The Flyers skated out to a thunderous ovation and had the ice to themselves for the crowd to salute them for a good 20 seconds before Montreal appeared.
After Lauren Hart’s rendition of "O Canada," the crowd was so loud, she must have had feedback in her ears because she grimaced and put her hands up like she was in pain. Of course, that didn’t stop her from joining Kate Smith and belting out another amazing rendition of "God Bless America."
I’ve never heard the building as loud during an anthem and it was hard to not get choked up. I’m getting chills just writing about it.
Spotted in the jam-packed press box were the usual cast of Philly media, even Howard Eskin. Not sure why that dude was there since he only talks about the Eagles and himself. Brian Boucher was there and seemed to be walking around fine, although Boosh looked like he wanted to cry since he wasn’t on the ice.
Flyers execs Bob Clarke, Bill Barber and Dave Brown were there as always, as well as a ton of Montreal scratches, including Andrei Markov who will likely miss the series with a knee injury suffered against Pittsburgh.
Also spotted were Habs GM Pierre Gauthier, Kevin Allen from USA Today, EJ Hradek from ESPN, scouts from both the Sharks and Blackhawks, and former goalie Glenn Healy from CBC. Plenty of other characters as well, and I’m sure the list will be even longer as the series progresses.
Maybe it was the quick turnaround, but I counted less than 100 Montreal fans in the building. Canadiens’ fans travel very well, so it was good to see very little red in the stands.
It definitely wasn’t Habs fans chanting "Ole, Ole Ole" as Flyers supporters mocked Montreal in full throat throughout the game. That was great. I can do without the "USA, USA" chants though while a bunch of Canadian-born players are out there.
On the way to the game, I saw former Montreal GM and current advisor Bob Gainey standing in front of the Ritz-Carlton almost enjoying that nobody noticed him.
CBC in the House
The crew from CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada were live at the game which meant Don Cherry and his outrageous jacket were in the house for Coach’s Corner , as well as host Ron Maclean speaking with Bob Clarke after the second period.
From my perch in the press box, I was sitting next to legendary announcer Bob Cole while he did play-by-play for CBC alongside color analyst and former Flyer defenseman Garry Galley. Pretty cool.
During the second period, the Flyers played a clip from Chris Pronger’s introductory press conference last summer in which he talked about being like Jack Bauer. Then the big board cut to a shot of Kiefer Sutherland taking in the game from a suite and the crowd went nuts.
Briere is putting on a playoff performance that Flyers fans haven’t seen since R.J. Umberger against the Canadiens in 2008 or Keith Primeau in 2004.
Briere had a goal and an assist in Game one, giving him a five-game point streak (4-4-8) and a goal in eight of his last 10 games.
The center had only two goals in the 17 previous games before his streak.
What can you say about Gagne? The Flyers are 5-0 since he returned, and in Game one the veteran winger chipped in a goal and tied Dan Carcillo with a team-high four shots.
His goal gave him a point in five straight games (5-1-6) during which he’s mustered 21 shots on goal.
Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak has been the talk of the playoffs, but Sunday night the Flyers bombarded his crease and sent him to the showers after four goals on 14 shots in less than 30 minutes of action.
I think he literally went to the showers since number 41 never returned to the bench after being pulled.
It’s worth noting that this is the third time Halak has been yanked during these playoffs, and the previous two times he came back with stellar performances the next time out. He allowed one goal a game in wins over both Washington and Pittsburgh.
Game one Notes
- Braydon Coburn’s goal ended a 59-game drought for the defenseman. His last goal came on December 21 in a home loss to Florida in what may have been the low point of the season. The fans were angry and turning on the orange and black that night, some even wearing bags on their heads….seems like a long time ago.
- Coburn was the third-straight defenseman to score the opening goal in a series for the Flyers this spring, joing Chris Pronger against Jersey and Ryan Parent against Boston—and we know how those matchups turned out.
- After the opening goal, Montreal carried most of the play in the first period, outshooting the Flyers 13-4 after Coburn’s tally.
- The Flyers poured it on with three goals in the second period, and have now outscored their opponents 21-6 this spring in the middle stanza, the only period in which they have a positive differential during the playoffs.
- Midway through the third period, Pronger attempted a shot from the point and his stick exploded, flying backwards and high through the air backwards towards the neutral zone. It seemed like it was going to hit the scoreboard. Montreal’s Travis Moen attempted to track down the loose puck near the red line and Pronger punished his former Anaheim teammate with a nasty hit near the benches.
- Pronger was later hit in the face by Andrei Kostitsyn’s stick in front of the Flyers’ net and went to the dressing room for about the final eight minutes of the game but the defenseman seemed unfazed by it afterwards.
- Montreal’s top two scorers, Mike Cammalleri and Brian Gionta, were held to only one shot apiece
- Rookie defenseman P.K. Subban turned 21 last week but had a game-high 25:04 of ice time. Of course, he was also minus-three.
- Since falling behind 3-0 in Game one, the Flyers have now scored 10 unanswered goals and have won five in a row for the first time since a six-game playoff streak in 1995.
- Philadelphia improved to only 4-9 all-time at home against Montreal in the playoffs, but 3-0 at the Wachovia Center.
- The Flyers have lost four-straight Game two's since beating Montreal in the 2008 Playoffs.
- This is the first series in which the Flyers have home ice advantage since the 2004 Eastern semis against Toronto, breaking a string of eight straight started on the road.
- This was the most decisive Flyers playoff win since May 1, 1980—a 7-0 beatdown vs. Minnesota.
- The Flyers website reported Monday that former Eagle Vince Papale was watching practice in Voorhees.
- Walking out of the arena, I was behind a kid who couldn’t have been older than four who looked up at his dad and said “I don’t think the Flyers are done making history.” Wow, awesome.
In case you feel like showing some Brotherly Love, Jack Todd of the Montreal Gazette wrote a whiny, woe is me article Monday in which he rips the Flyers for their style of play. Give me a break. Feel free to let him know how you feel about it.