Brian Boucher leads Flyers to victory; Western Conference knotted at two apiece

As frustrating as Craig Anderson has been for the San Jose Sharks during this series, there's another goaltender out there creating his fair share of headaches as well.

And chances are, you still have a special place in your heart reserved for him.

Capping off a 4-1 series victory last night, Brian Boucher and the Philadelphia Flyers staged an upset over the second seeded New Jersey Devils to become the first team to advance to the 2010 Stanley Cup Conference semifinals. And while goal-scoring and tenacious team defense all played a big role in the victory, no one wearing the orange and white on Broadstreet made more of an impact than Boucher.

True to their reputation, the Flyers had no issues heading to the penalty box during the quick five game series, averaging 17.2 penalty minutes and taking 36 minors in the process. And yet they escaped with a 87.5 PK% thanks to some stalwart play between the pipes.

It was his first playoff game start in nearly a decade. He was below adequate during the regular season, posting a .900 SV% and raising the timeless question of whether Philadelphia has the goaltending to advance in the postseason.

Turns out, they did.

It was probably fitting that on a night when HP Pavilion debuted the orange crush playoff t-shirts, a former-Shark was crushing it in orange on the opposite coast. A .940 SV% throughout the series, all from a man who knows a thing or two about stringing together excellent five game streaks.

Good on you Boosh. I'll always remember the day you were signed by San Jose, and while I understand why you left, there's always a part of me that will follow that goofy faux Russian accent wherever it goes.

On to the second round, Comrade Boucher. Flyers in three.

  • As the Grim Reaper comes out to play on Saturday night in Colorado, another positive the Sharks can take into the game (as if they needed another) will be that every other Western Conference playoff series is knotted at two, and therefore, will go at least six games. If the good guys get the girl and wrap it up at the Pepsi Center, the Sharks will be the first team to advance to the second round in the West.
  • That being said, expect a battle Saturday night. Although Craig Anderson gave up four goals on Thursday, the last time he got blasted in HP Pavilion led to a 51 save performance resulting in an Avalanche win. Those chickens shouldn't even be let out of the coop for counting just yet.
  • Evgeni Nabokov has been stellar this postseason, and it looks as if the fears I had about him being overworked haven't manifested themselves at this point. He's currently sitting at a .913 SV%, and those numbers contain a helluva lot of noise-- a goal off Blake's skate, one off Vlasic's throat, and another from the stick of Dan Boyle/Ryan O'Reilly in overtime of game three. Toss in two terrible mistakes by Douglas Murray that led to goals in game two and you have a real nice postseason thus far from the Russian netminder.
  • Every time Sidney Crosby allegedly whines to the referees, fourteen people channel their inner "Crysby" and complain about it. Five goals, eight assists, thirteen points for The Kid. Best player in the NHL right now in my opinion, and one who's staking a claim to be one of the best ever in the history of the game.
  • On my Mother Theresa days I can understand the vitriol that gets expelled Crosby's way when it comes to media coverage, or at least attempt to understand it. At the end of the yoga session however, I always tend to look at it this way-- if the San Jose Sharks had a player who, all by the age of twenty two, provided a marketable face for the NHL after a nasty labor stoppage, came out in his rookie year and scored 102 points on a non-playoff team, won the Art Ross, the Hart, the Lester B., the Rocket Richard, was the youngest Captain to win a Stanley Cup, and scored the Gold medal game winning goal in overtime, wouldn't you be thrilled with the amount of coverage he was getting?
  • The refs have been atrocious this postseason, and I'm absolutely floored that the majority of discussion between the two fanbases hasn't been some expansive, in-depth argument about which team is getting the upper hand in officiating. The only thing more ridiculous, in this hypothetical situation, would be if all involved grudgingly admitted the outcome of games have not been affected.
  • Vancouver-Los Angeles has been an excellent series thus far, and one I've been able to catch the majority of in the West. The Kings power play has been humming along at a ridiculous 56.2%, but you have to figure the Nucks can eventually kill a penalty somewhere down the line. I think Vancouver eventually pulls it out in seven, but I'll be damned if I'm not rooting for the young Kings to stage an upset. A win tonight is all but essential to keep those hopes alive.
  • Predictions you can bank on-- LA is the class of the Pacific two years down the road. They're already a year ahead of schedule just by making the playoffs, not to mention two playoff wins ahead of schedule by keeping this series close. Hard to think of what Drew Doughty will look like in 2012. Dude could play in a cape and leopard leotards right now and probably be a top-five defenseman. In two seasons? I don't even want to know.
  • Haven't seen much of either CHI-NSH or DET-PHX, but I'm excited to watch the Yotes' take on the Wings tonight. Matt Lombardi is a freaking player, and Shane Doan is rumored to be getting back on the ice. Ilya Bryzgalov, your 2010 Hart Trophy winner, has had a solid postseason. Get it done, Pacific.
  • Speaking of defenseman, and I hate to bring this up, but who doesn't love Chris Pronger? I burned some bridges earlier this year already so might as well burn them again-- I love It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, I love cheesesteaks, and I love the Flyers. Claude Giroux has always been a favorite of mine and is having one helluva postseason, Simon Gagne may be injured but is always healthy in my heart, Mike Richards, Braydon Coburn, Ryan Parent, Ian Laperriere, Jeff Carter, Scott Hartnell (actually that guy sucks), Ray Emery, Ville Leino, Chris Pronger... just a sweet team. Gritty, physical, hated across the league. Hard not to root for the villain.
  • Hate to see Ryan Miller and the Sabres drop a thriller in overtime the other night to dig themselves into a 3-1 hole. Honestly can't believe Boston has managed to score goals considering their woeful output this season as well as the fact Marc Savard hasn't played, but what are you going to do. Maybe Buffalo blows it up and Craig Rivet gets traded back to San Jose. Just kidding. Lindy Ruff and Darcy Regeir will probably be buried underneath center ice at HSBC before that happens.
  • Biggest game of your life Saturday night. Pop a cold one on this glorious Friday, kick back, and watch some non-heart attack inducing playoff action. Nothing better than this time of year, and nothing better than the first round in terms of mass league-wide action.
  • Playoff hockey is heroin and mama I don't ever wanna get clean.

Go Sharks.