Sunday, April 25, 2004

Esche makes the save, makes the save, makes the save.....

Game two in the Philadelphia/Toronto playoff series was a rather entertaining affair, with both teams counting numerous chances to score, but in the end limiting output to three goals.

Goaltending once again was the dominating factor in the playoffs, as both Robert Esche and Ed Belfour played outstanding hockey in the nets. 26 saves were credited to Esche in the Flyers 2-1 victory on Sunday night, and every one of them seemed a hard earned save. He especially earned his paycheque in the second period as the Leafs turned on the pressure and outshot the Flyers 11-1, frustrated at every turn by the wall put up by Esche.

Fortunately for Esche, a motivational address by Ken Hitchcock must have taken root as the Flyers came out in the third period as if on a mission. Controlling the bulk of the play they peppered Leaf goaltender Ed Beflour with 15 of his 24 total shots, only one getting by Belfour a power play marker by Alexei Zhamnov who scored the winner at 8:25 of the final period.

Belfour did his best to keep the Leafs within one as the period wound down, but Esche refused to give up the tying goal, making save after save. The third period progressed at a rapid pace, with end to end rushes, and full tilt offense for the entire twenty minutes.

All three periods featured some heavy hits, with both teams playing the puck in the corners and lining up on the blue lines to deliver some crushing checks. Even the goal scoring seemed to be hard fought, Tie Domi continued his remarkable pace in the playoffs, taking the body, going to the corners and crashing the net, scoring the Leafs only goal in the second period. His goal followed one by Donald Brashear who scored in the first period by heading to the net, the Leafs arguing he was a little too close to the net, but to no avail.

Game three goes Wednesday night and with the Flyer’s holding a 2 game to none lead in the best of seven series, they can look to history for some confidence. The Flyers have never lost a best of seven series when they hold a 2-0 lead, going 16 and 0 when they won the first two games. The Leafs don’t need to study the history books, their priority should be the game films, they need to find out what they’re doing wrong and fix it quickly. While Esche has had a good series, many of the shots taken on him have been clear vision shots from a distance. For the Leafs to re-write Flyer history they have to get some people in front of the net and move the puck closer for a better opportunity.

Class resumes Wednesday night, Professor Quinn is hoping his students get the message.

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