By Joseph Santoliquito
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Danny Briere kept telling himself to block it out. The NHL veteran thought he had the game-winning goal in overtime of Game 1 of the Flyers’ Eastern Conference semifinal game against the New Jersey Devils, only to have the score overturned when it showed Briere kicked the puck into the net.
Okay, Briere thought, I’ll get another chance. He did. A few minutes later, he fired home the game-winning goal for a 4-3 Flyers’ overtime victory on Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center. It was Briere’s fourth career overtime playoff-winning goal.
The teams return to the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday for Game 2 of the best-of-seven series with Philadelphia holding a 1-0 lead.
The Flyers’ playoff games, however, seem to take a familiar theme: Play lousy in the first period and yield the first goal, then gradually build momentum and take over.
That template was followed down to the letter in Game 1 against the Devils. After surrendering the first goal, and a tenuous first 10 minutes, the Flyers built steam, with Briere’s sudden-death goal the exclamation point.
It looked as if Briere had won the game with a goal with 17:47 left into overtime. But the referees saw—and it was blatant to see—that Briere had kicked the puck into the net.
“I was fortunate to get another break,” Briere said. “So far it’s been fun. I was saying earlier I grew up watching playoff hockey and when I was a kid I dreamed about playing in those big games. It’s why you try to make the best of it and try to enjoy it as much as possible. So it’s not really pressure.”
As for the first-period doldrums that continue to plague the Flyers, Briere, like his teammates, continue to be baffled.
“It’s not a surprise with the way we played in the first period,” Briere said. “You guys have been asking us all week if it was going to be a problem. It was a problem early on. There’s so much intensity in playoff hockey and sitting back for a week and not being in the mood, I guess, kind of set us back a little bit. Jersey had come off a huge win and they were in that same mind frame and they came out swinging.”
The Devils had a great chance to score themselves a few minutes after Briere kicked the puck, when there was a mad scramble in front of the Flyers’ net. But the Devils couldn’t get a stick on the loose puck and it slid harmlessly wide of the net.
Devils’ goalie Martin Brodeur, a week away from turning 40, was his usual splendid self. All Max Talbot could do was mouth his frustration in the first period at Brodeur’s brilliance. The Flyers’ forward had the whole side of an open net, or so he thought. Then the old man’s glove snatched away what appeared to be a shot headed to the net twine.
Brodeur has forged a Hall of Fame career making saves like that in the NHL playoffs, and he proved he isn’t too past his prime to make the occasional sensational save as he did the Talbot shot inside the first five minutes of the second period.
Brodeur was instrumental in keeping New Jersey in the game with more big saves, most notably in the third period on a hard-rushing James van Riemsdyk. A sprawling Brodeur made the save on his blocker, then had his mask jarred loose. When the referees whistled a stoppage, the legend playfully stuck out his tongue as if to say, “Whew, I lucked out there.”
The Flyers answered a first-period Zach Parise goal with a pair of second-period goals from Briere and van Riemsdyk. Though it was a rare Brodeur blunder that led to van Riemsdyk’s goal. Brodeur blindly threw out an errant pass from behind the net that was intercepted by a converging Erik Gustafsson, whose shot bounced off Brodeur right back to van Riemsdyk, who drove home the rebound for the 2-1 go-ahead goal.
After Travis Zajac tied the game almost midway into the second period at 2-2, Claude Giroux looked as if he might have had the game-winner with slightly over four minutes into the third period.
But New Jersey’s Petr Sykora answered with the tying goal on a shot that slid between Flyers’ goalie Ilya Bryzgalov’s pads and over the goal line. The Flyers dominated the third period, outshooting New Jersey 15-4. Over the second and third periods, the Flyers outshot the Devils by a combined 23-7.
Bryzgalov was uneven at best. He made some nice saves early on when the Flyers didn’t have their legs and were struggling. But when Sykora came bearing down on him in the third period, Bryzgalov didn’t help himself by putting his stick out and not protecting the space between his pads. It’s an opening Sykora targeted and nailed for the tying 3-3 goal that shoved the game into overtime.
CBS Sports Blog: Giants’ Best Acquisition Not Beltran, But KeppingerBy Michelle Dingley
Remember the backlash when Carlos Beltran was selected to the All-Star team? People thought his best days were behind him and he didn’t deserve the honor.
Remember when, a week or two later, Beltran was suddenly the most desired player as the trade deadline approached? Playoff contenders, such as the Phillies, Braves and Giants, wanted him to improve their offensive production.
Remember when the Giants acquired Beltran? He was supposed to save our struggling offense, take some of the pressure off the Panda and Huff, and make the whole lineup better.
Remind me, how’s all that working out?
Oh yeah, I remember. When Beltran joined the Giants on July 28, the team was in first place with a record of 61-44. That’s 17 games over .500. Entering the game on August 30, the Giants have fallen to 71-64 (7 games over .500), and they are 5 games behind the first-place Diamondbacks. In their last 30 games, the Giants have gone 10-20. Our offense, which had been bad all year, has recently been atrocious, terrible, and pathetic.
We can’t blame all our offensive failures on Carlos Beltran. Nonetheless, the supposed savior has done little to nothing for the team. It doesn’t help that he missed over two weeks with a wrist injury, though that’s par for the course for the Orange and Black this season. Still, Brian Sabean traded Zack Wheeler, our top pitching prospect, for this guy who’s supposed to provide some power and occasionally pop one out of the park. Here is what Beltran has done this year with the bat.
With Mets (98 games): .289, .391 OBP, 66 RBI, 15 hr, 61 K, 60 BB, .340 RISP
With Giants (18 games): .286, .306 OBP, 4 RBI, 1 hr, 16 K, 2 BB, .176 RISP
Most striking is the home run total. It looks like a huge drop-off, but if he hit the longball at the same rate as he did with New York, Beltran would only have 3. His walks are way down, which is a problem, as we definitely need baserunners any way we can get them. His average hasn’t dropped off that dramatically. If you have watched every Giants game Beltran has played in, that might surprise you. How is the rally killer hitting in the .280s? The discrepancy between his apparent lack of production versus his actual batting average lies in the quality and usefulness of those hits. Beltran has two triples with San Francisco, both with the bases empty. His one big fly was a solo shot. With the Mets, Beltran hit .268 with the bases empty, and .340 with runners in scoring position. With the Giants, he’s hitting .314 with no runners on, and a paltry .176 with RISP. Even though Beltran is collecting hits, he has been almost completely useless at the plate. Beltran has grounded into 6 double plays with the Giants. In almost 5 ½ times more games with the Mets, he had grounded into just 9 double plays.
We acquired Orlando Cabrera on July 31, just before the trade deadline. The former Indian was not exactly obtained for his bat, and that’s a good thing, because he has also helped very little offensively. Here are his stats for the season.
With Indians (91 games): .244, .277 OBP, 38 RBI, 4 hr, 40 K, 13 BB, 6 E, .985 fielding %
With Giants (26 games): .227, .245 OBP, 11 RBI, 0 hr, 12 K, 3 BB, 4 E, .966 fielding %
Just take a glance at those numbers, and it’s obvious that Cabrera is also subject to what I’ve heard described as “Giantsitis” – the inability to hit once donning the orange and black uniform. Still, Cabrera was not expected to be a power hitter, just a right-handed shortstop. He was acquired when Miguel Tejada was on the DL and our only shortstops were Brandon Crawford and Mike Fontenot, both lefties who weren’t swinging the bat very well. Cabrera was thought of as a slight defensive upgrade over Tejada. A former Gold Glove-winning shortstop, he was playing almost exclusively at second base for the Indians. As demonstrated above, his fielding is not quite where we would like it. It’s not just the 4 errors in 26 games; it’s the plays that weren’t ruled errors but that a more sure-handed shortstop – Crawford, for example – probably would have made. On August 28, for instance, there was a ball hit sharply that Cabrera missed, dribbling into center field for a hit. The tying run scored later that inning, and the Giants fell in extra innings. Cabrera has also not put down good tags on throws both from the outfield and from the catcher, allowing runners to safely reach second base. The way we have been hitting, we cannot afford to give away extra outs. If Cabrera isn’t contributing with the bat and is not quite as advertised with the glove, we need someone else to play short. It’s getting to the point where I’m starting to miss Tejada. Luckily, Crawford should be back on Friday.
One bright spot in the lineup is the addition of Jeff Keppinger. Debuting with the Giants on July 20, Keppinger has done a nice job filling in for Freddy Sanchez, who is out for the season. Since he is now a Giant, Keppinger spent the requisite time injured. He hurt his wrist in a collision at first base on August 15, but he was back in the starting lineup on the 20th. He is hardly a power hitter, but he can consistently put the bat on the ball, which is more than most Giants can say.
With Astros (43 games): .307, .320 OBP, 20 RBI, 4 HR, 7 K, 4 BB, 3 E, .982 fielding %
With Giants (34 games): .273, .304 OBP, 6 RBI, 1 HR, 10 K, 4 BB, 2 E, .986 fielding %
Like the other acquisitions, his production has dropped off a bit upon joining the Giants. Unlike the other two men, he has actually been helpful at the plate. Keppinger is one of the hardest guys in the majors to strike out, though he doesn’t walk much. He can sacrifice a runner over, and you can count on him in a hit-and-run. He has won at least three games for us nearly single-handedly, which is three more than Beltran. On August 13, Keppinger hit a solo homer in the first, and the Giants never looked back. He also made a great play in the 5th to prevent the Marlins from scoring. If he hadn’t snagged the ball, it would have been a 2-1 game with a runner on second. Instead, the Giants won with a final of 3-0. On August 26, against his former team, Keppinger hit a two-run double, plating the only runs the Giants got for the night. They beat Houston 2-1. The next day, he got the game-winning hit against the Astros, scoring DeRosa from second in the bottom of the 10th. In addition to his consistency at the plate, Keppinger is more than capable at second base. The nail-biting that ensues when a ball is hit at Cabrera does not occur when Keppinger fields a ball. The way the Giants have been playing, both offensively and defensively, Keppinger might be the best player on our team right now.
It seems that, once again, the Giants’ best acquisition is the player most people hadn’t heard of. Carlos Beltran has not been the power bat that we needed. Orlando Cabrera has not been a big improvement over our other shortstop options. The “incremental” improvement of Jeff Keppinger at second base was the best trade we have made this year.