Calm Boucher steady between the pipes

Flyers goalie Brian Boucher makes a save early in the second period to keep the Sabres scoreless. Boucher made 26 saves.
Flyers goalie Brian Boucher makes a save early in the second period to keep the Sabres scoreless. Boucher made 26 saves. (MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer)
Posted: April 27, 2011

Late in the second period of the Flyers' series-clinching victory Tuesday night, the Sabres finally found what they had been looking for all night - a pathway to the front of Philadelphia's net.

Though he had been primarily a spectator until then, Brian Boucher casually stopped a shot by Drew Stafford. Then, as routinely as if he were shooing away a pesky fly while reclining in his backyard, the prone goalie kicked away Nathan Gerbe's rebound try.

"Yeah, it's tough to get only two shots [to 16 for the Flyers] in the first [period]," he said. "You want to feel the puck a little bit. You don't want too much, but you want to feel it a little bit. But we did a great job. The guys were blocking shots, and we made it hard for them in our zone."

On a night when an orange-flavored Wells Fargo Center crowd of 19,966 shook and shimmied, first with anticipation and eventually with delight, Boucher was cool as ice.

Despite all the chants of "Boosh" he elicited in the 5-2 victory that won the Flyers their first-round NHL playoff series, Boucher was more workmanlike than spectacular. His teammates were so dominant in the decisive first two periods that he barely had to break a sweat, let alone any goalkeeping records.

"That was a great performance," said teammate Claude Giroux.

In the lopsided triumph, the Flyers goaltender didn't have to stand on his head. Instead, all he had to do was keep his, remembering to stay calm and focused as most of the game's pivotal action took place a long way away.

"We had to have a good start, and we did; outshooting them, 16-2, was big," Boucher said.

The 34-year-old Rhode Island native, derided along with fellow Flyers goalies as the Three Stooges by a Buffalo-area newspaper, seriously outplayed Ryan Miller, his more ballyhooed counterpart, in the series.

Playing all or part of six games, Boucher permitted just 10 goals, while Miller, yanked early in the third Tuesday after the Flyers built a 4-0 lead, allowed 20. If not for a dreadful first period in Game 5, which cost him a start in Game 6, Boucher might have been the seven-game series' best player.

All of which was remarkable when you consider how odd this series was for him. He was pulled from one game, went in as a replacement in another, and started the rest.

"It's just nice to win," he said when asked to sum up his feelings about the up-and-down series. "This is why you play hard all season long, to try to get home ice in a situation like this. And I think it was all the advantage in the world tonight."

Even though it was just his second career Game 7, Boucher performed in Game 7 exactly as he had forecast he needed to a day earlier.

"You have to learn to relax and chill out," Boucher said on Monday.

His only other Game 7 experience had come 11 years ago, in a 2-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils, a game best remembered for Scott Stevens' jarring game-opening hit on Eric Lindros. Boucher was just 23 at the time and as raw as Lindros' wound.

"In between then and now, I've gained a lot of experience," he said. "I really believe I'm a better goalie now."

He performed like a wizened veteran against a Buffalo team that appeared to be a step slower and a whole lot less hungry than the winners.

Boucher made 26 saves, few of them with a high degree of difficulty. He had to stop only two shots in a first period that ended with Philadelphia on top, 1-0. He faced 12 in the second, but except for the Stafford-Gerbe flurry, few of them real testers.

Buffalo finally got a couple past him in the third period, when it didn't matter anymore and both Boucher and his teammates were clearly in a prevent defense.

It was his Game 7 good fortune to face a team that on this night resembled its hometown. Like Buffalo, the Sabres were badly scarred, weary, and played out in the series' decisive game.

His performance made the pregame uncertainty surrounding the identity of the Flyers starter in goal seem silly.

"He wants it so bad that he motivated us," Giroux said. "Even in practice he works so hard that you can't help but notice."

In the final 30 seconds, when he ran back onto the ice after departing when a Buffalo penalty was signaled, he received a spontaneous ovation and one last "Boosh!".

"He deserves it," Giroux said. "He was super for us."


Contact staff writer Frank Fitzpatrick

at 215-854-5068 or ffitzpatrick@phillynews.com.

 

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