'J-V-R' chant marks van Riemsdyk's breakout

James van Riemsdyk celebrates the first of his two first-period goals in Game 2.
James van Riemsdyk celebrates the first of his two first-period goals in Game 2. (YONG KIM / Staff photographer)
Posted: May 03, 2011

THE CHANTING began in the third period - not the "U-S-A . . . U-S-A" of the pregame, not as fervent, not as anticipated. This was different, three different letters. This was about a person, about a performance, about the present and the future.

And it came out of nowhere.

"J-V-R . . . J-V-R . . . J-V-R . . ."

"It's a pretty cool feeling," James van Riemsdyk said, and he allowed himself the quickest and tiniest of smiles. "But it would have been better to come in a winning game - that's the tough part."

It is that. The Flyers have now officially dug themselves into another hole. They again will be given an opportunity to test the resolve for which they have become so famous. They threw an incredible punch at the Boston Bruins last night, but they still find themselves buried in their second-round playoff series, 0-2.

Despite a dominating, two-goal performance by van Riemsdyk - the Flyers' burgeoning young star who made foray after foray at the Bruins' goal and took a turn on three different lines in the third period - the Bruins held on through the end of regulation and then won the game in overtime, 3-2.

The winner was scored by David Krejci at 14 minutes of overtime. It was a goal, a slap shot from between the circles, that beat Brian Boucher cleanly and immediately ricocheted out of the goal. The referees did not see it but, after the next stoppage, a video replay confirmed the obvious.

And now, again, the Flyers must dig. And now, JVR will be counted among those to lead them. He had eight shots on goal last night, and several other big scoring chances besides.

"I had a lot of good chances," he said. "I'm probably not going to be able to sleep well tonight, thinking about some of those. It's tough. But we're going to get back at it in Game 3 and be ready to go."

The first period began as if in a Flyers dream. After "U-S-A . . . U-S-A . . . U-S-A" and after "God Bless America," the home team played as if shot out of a cannon and scored after only 29 seconds, when van Riemsdyk converted on a two-on-one pass from Claude Giroux.

Nine minutes later, it was van Riemsdyk again, on a power play, getting the second rebound of an original shot by Kimmo Timonen. It was JVR's seventh goal of the playoffs, and only begins to tell the story of just how good he has been. Several times last night, he made the kinds of plays that joined speed and strength in a beastly combination. He has been an undisputed force.

But the Bruins had tied the game by the end of the first period. The early advantage was evaporated.

"That's the playoffs," van Riemsdyk said. "You can never expect a team to just roll over when they're down two goals. You have to play a full 60. We gave them a couple of chances and they buried them. That's the way it goes sometimes."

For JVR, the chanting would come later, in the third period. It is something you almost never hear at a hockey game, but it was deserved - because van Riemsdyk was everywhere. He played a manly 9 minutes, 33 seconds in the third as Flyers coach Peter Laviolette kept sending him out there with almost every line. But he and they could not get the game-winner despite ending up with 54 shots on goal.

And in the end, the Flyers are in another hole.

At one point, van Riemsdyk would say, "We try not to worry about that. We're just worrying about one game at a time. That's all it takes."

Later, though, he would acknowledge the similarity to last season, when the Flyers played well but fell behind the Bruins by three games to none before their historic resurrection.

As he said, "We've been known to respond. Our backs are against the wall here. This next one is pretty close to a must-win game, obviously. We're going to really have to come out flying and kind of lay it all out there . . .

"This isn't an ideal place for us to be in," he said. "But we're going to battle. Obviously, we can kind of draw from experience, being in the hole. But at the same time, it's a new team. It's a new year."

It is JVR's breakout playoff year. Just as it was Claude Giroux's last year, it is JVR's now. But why?

"It's the experience and confidence that comes from being in the playoffs before and being able to learn from the guys in the room that are such great playoff performers," he said. "A lot of good things seem to be happening. But everyone here has to keep bearing down a little more."

In the meantime, though, there was the chanting. Even in defeat, it will be something James van Riemsdyk never forgets.

Send email to hofmanr@phillynews.com,

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