For the 38th time in franchise history, the Philadelphia Flyers punch their playoff tickets on Saturday afternoon with a win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, 3-1 final. The Flyers will draw the President Trophy winning Washington Capitals in the first round and boy is it expected to be a dog fight. To date, the Flyers and Capitals have split the season series two games apiece. Now the two, old time rivals will get together for a 7 game set sometime this coming week.The Flyers received goals from Wayne Simmonds (31st, 32nd) and Pierre Eduard Bellemare (7th) in the playoff clinching victory. The Penguins opted to sit both Sidney Crosby and Kristopher Letang, but that made no difference to the Flyers as they desperately needed 2 points this weekend to qualify for the playoffs. For Philadelphia, they never seemed to waver or let the pressure of the game get to them in this one, despite the fact that they got off to a less than stellar start to the game. Without the wherewithal of Giroux, the precise passing of Voracek and the scoring touch from Wayne Simmonds late in the first period, the outcome could have been much different. All that is moot now, however, as the Flyers buckled down after that and will return to the playoffs.
Winning goaltender Steve Mason was once again a pillar of strength in goal as he turned away 18 of 19 shots fired his way. Timely goaltending has been what has buoyed Philly lately and today was no different. Mason’s first period, sprawling glove save denied the Penguins a potential 2-0 lead early and gave Philadelphia just enough time to find their footing in the game. The Flyers flocked to Mason after the final buzzer as this dash to the playoffs would have not happened without him.
Over the final month of the season, sometimes the only reason the Flyers had a fighting chance was because of their goaltender as the games weren’t always easy heading around the final bend. This Flyers team deserves to be in the playoffs for many reasons, but perhaps no one, individual deserved it more than the Flyers starting goaltender.
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The Flyers’ fourth line of Vandevelde, Bellemare and White were truly unsung heroes this afternoon as they went out and respected the opposition and chose to outwork them. This fourth line has been effective all year long and despite at times being used as more than a fourth line, have truly stepped in waning games of the season. The NHL playoffs are sports’ ultimate iron man competition and without players who can effectively grind out games, one’s stay in the tournament can be a short one. Expect the Flyers’ pugnacious fourth line to play a pivotal role in the upcoming first round series against the Capitals.