Rich Hofmann: Briere is a playoff giant

Danny Briere celebrates his game-winning overtime goal.
Danny Briere celebrates his game-winning overtime goal. (YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: May 01, 2012

IT IS A wonderful list to which Danny Briere's name is currently appended - short, selective, instructive. In the whole entire history of the National Hockey League and its custodianship of a certain dented silver bowl, there are 19 men who have played in at least 100 Stanley Cup playoff games and recorded more points than games played.

Nineteen. Thirteen already have been enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame, including a Mr. Gordie Howe, who just happened to be a witness on Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center. Three more of the 19 are certain to be Hall of Famers, including an active participant in Sunday's events - Flyers forward Jaromir Jagr.

It is a modern-heavy list because there are more playoff rounds now than there were back in the day. More than half of the list played the heart of its career during the go-go 1980s, when every playoff series was Flyers-Penguins 2012. But it remains, almost entirely, a collection of real and true hockey royalty - great players who stayed great, even in the cauldron of spring.

Wayne Gretzky. Mario Lemieux. Mark Messier. Mike Bossy. Jari Kurri. Peter Forsberg. John Beliveau. Joe Sakic. Bobby Hull. Jaromir Jagr. Ken Linseman. Phil Esposito. Guy Lafleur. Denis Savard. Doug Gilmour. Kevin Stevens. Gordie Howe. Paul Coffey.

And Danny Briere.

"I think some people rise to big occasions," said Flyers coach Peter Laviolette, who has had the great good fortune of being asked a variation of this same question more than once during his tenure here. "I'm not saying it because he scored a goal today, he's done it his whole career. When you've had that many points in that many games it speaks to the player, not a game.

"I think through the course of history in sports, there are people that answer the bell. When things are on the line, there are certain people that answer the bell."

And somewhere, Dodgers first baseman Steve Garvey is silently, privately applauding in his glove after Reggie Jackson rounds first base after the third home run he hit on one October night at Yankee Stadium.

Briere scored in the second period Sunday against the New Jersey Devils. Then Briere twice scored the game-winner in overtime, once by illegally kicking the puck in (they properly caught him on replay) and once by threading a shot from the blue line through a screen set up by teammate James van Riemsdyk. It was a day in full.

Briere now has seven goals in the 2012 playoffs, tied for the team lead with Claude Giroux. He has 49 goals and 106 points in 104 career playoff games. He has 13 career game-winning goals in the playoffs, nine as a Flyer, and three overtime game-winners.

It is an absurd cache of clutchness crammed into a body that is very generously listed at 5-10 and 179 pounds, but it is as undeniable as the calendar that says it is April now and soon to be May. This is supposed to be the time when the pressure of the prize gets to people.

"I don't know," Briere said. "Is it pressure or is it, I don't know, it's fun. I was saying earlier, I grew up watching playoff hockey and when I was a kid, I always dreamed that one day I'd have the chance to play in those big games. When I have the opportunity like I have this year and like I've had the past few years in the playoffs, you try to make the best of it and try to enjoy it as much as possible.

"It's not really pressure," he said. "It's actually a fun time, exciting time."

There is little original to say on this topic, seeing as how it has been a recurring storyline around here for several years. There is little to do, really, but wonder. Especially this year, when Briere suffered a concussion and then played through a prolonged funk in January and February, when he scored only one goal during one 29-game stretch, and that was into an empty net.

How does he do it? How has he done it this year?

"Yeah, it was a tough and trying time," he said. "Looking back, I remember having a severe concussion early in my career when I was 21 years old and it took me almost a year to bounce back from that. I don't know if that had anything to do [with it], but after the concussion this year I went into a lull for almost 2 months.

"If it's the case or not - [or] was I just bad? I don't know exactly. When the playoffs started, for me, it was a chance for a new season."

And here we are. It really has been an amazing career - and that is true even if Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur was too concerned about what he felt was interference by van Riemsdyk on the overtime goal to applaud silently into his catching glove.

It is Danny Briere. It is the playoffs. As philosopher king Ilya Bryzgalov said, "He can score the goals."


Send email to

hofmanr@phillynews.com

or read his blog, The Idle Rich, at

www.philly.com/TheIdleRich.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|