2011 NHL Playoffs: 5 Reasons for Optimism in Philadelphia After Flyers' Loss

Matthew FairburnCorrespondent IApril 15, 2011

2011 NHL Playoffs: 5 Reasons for Optimism in Philadelphia After Flyers' Loss

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    The Philadelphia Flyers have heard it all season long. They've heard analysts drool over how talented they are, make excuses for their stretches of mediocre play and all but place them back in the Stanley Cup Finals. 

    Well, on Thursday evening, Philadelphia got a reality check in a 1-0 shutout at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres on home ice. Of course, the loss is not the end of the world, but Flyers fans have to be concerned, right?

    Yes and no.

    On one hand, Ryan Miller was scary good in net for the Sabres. He played with the fire of a champion and seemed to want to make saves more than the Philly forwards wanted to score. In addition, the Flyers allowed themselves to be outworked by the Paul Gaustad line, which led to the lone tally.

    However, there were certainly bright spots for the men in orange. Claude Giroux and Ville Leino seem to have picked up where they left off in the 2010 postseason and Sergei Bobrovsky held down the fort in his first-career playoff start.

    It's not panic time in Philadelphia just yet, folks. Take a look at the bright side...

5. They've Done It Before

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    If nothing else, the Flyers can feed off of the fact that they have come back from much worse. Boston Bruins fans need no reminder.

    Philadelphia is at its best when their backs are against the wall and their hand is forced.

    The Flyers coasted through the latter part of the season, thinking they would be able to flip the switch come playoff time. They were wrong. The coasting and complacency has to go, and Peter Laviolette knows that better than anyone.

    Mike Richards and his crew are a battle tested and resilient bunch, and they won't go down without a fight. 

4. Claude Giroux

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    Claude Giroux took the reigns on offense for the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night, and it's only a matter of time before the goals start coming.

    Giroux has tons of talent and game-breaking ability that can make a difference in a close playoff series. Not to mention he has the playoff experience to rise to the occasion and make a difference for this team.

    If 2010 was Giroux's coming out party, 2011 is his chance to cement himself as a superstar.

    Game 1 was Giroux's chance to feel out the Buffalo defense, and he should come out firing on all cylinders on Saturday night.

3. Chris Pronger's Return

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    While Chris Pronger has not officially been reinstated to the Flyers lineup, it's only a matter of time before the All-Star blueliner makes his return to the ice.

    Chris Pronger is the most crucial piece to a deep Flyers playoff run. Thursday's only goal was scored as a result of Pronger's replacement, Danny Syvret, not having the instincts or strength to keep Patrick Kaleta away from prime real estate in front of the Philadelphia net.

    Whether it's Saturday night or a couple of weeks from now, Philly fans better hope Pronger makes a return to the lineup as quickly as possible. The Flyers won't raise the cup without him.

2. Ville Leino

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    The best player on the ice for Philadelphia on Thursday was forward Ville Leino. The Finnish winger was in on every forecheck, disrupting the breakout and making something out of nothing. Leino also made a handful of impressive moves to the net and set up a series of scoring opportunities.

    Peter Laviolette has to be encouraged with what Leino is bringing to the table. He was instrumental in the playoff run a year ago and seems to be ready to play as big of a role in the 2011 NHL playoffs.

    Ryan Miller is not going to be easy to beat, but with Leino and company continuing to put pressure on the Buffalo defense, it's only a matter of time before they put one by the former Spartan. 

    Mark it down: Ville Leino will be a part of the first Flyers goal of the series.

1. Sergei Bobrovsky

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    All season long, and for the past 30 years, goaltending has been the No. 1 question mark for the Philadelphia Flyers.

    Those questions can be put to rest.

    Sergei Bobrovsky deserves a ton of credit for his performance in his first-career playoff game. He was far from spectacular, but he made a number of solid stops and settled in nicely as the game went along.

    Of course, the goal was not encouraging and rebound control was an issue throughout the night, but allowing just one goal in his first-career playoff start without the services of his top defenseman is an encouraging effort from the young Russian.

    There is no reason why Sergei Bobrovsky cannot do for the Flyers what Antti Niemi did for the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010.