Martin Biron's sweet season
Watching Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Martin Biron embrace the moment is one of the best stories of these NHL playoffs. He embodies the axiom about the value of the journey over the destination. And while the Stanley Cup dream is the ultimate, Biron's career-long anticipation of his first postseason action in the NHL makes him a prime example of the wait giving weight -- as in richness -- to the moment.
There he was in Montreal on Saturday night, in his home province of Quebec, turning in a 34-save, tour de force performance against the Canadiens, the team of his childhood. His play allowed the Flyers to win, 4-2, and even the series as they head back to Philly for Games 3 and 4, on Monday and Wednesday. It was Biron's second sensational performance in a critical game in the span of a week, counting his clutch Game 7 effort in overtime on the road in Washington that allowed him and his Flyers teammates to advance to the second round.
As is often the case, the Flyers' play seems emboldened by their goaltender's recent run. Not that they had collective doubts about their playoff possibilities, but Biron has led them from "happy to have gotten into the playoff mix" to "hey, let's mix it up while we're here and make some noise." That shift has to do with confidence -- the kind of spring momentum often described as "a team going on a run." In the Flyers' case, that growing sense of well-being stems from Biron's play and personality.
In Biron's case, his solid play is necessary for the team to succeed, but the way he's going about his business has had a positive effect as well. Known throughout his career -- one that saw him wait 378 regular season games until this year before he got his first playoff start -- as a guy who never stops talking, even postseason participation hasn't silenced Biron. He remains affable and approachable and one of the guys who stirs it up in the locker room. Along with teammate and good friend Daniel Briere, Biron seems to be having the type of fun associated with kids at a youth hockey tournament -- even allowing himself the occasional all-knowing smile under his mask after a larcenous left hand glove save.
And while I doubt that Biron is playing any knee-hockey at the team's hotel -- certainly not at home where he recently became a father for the third time -- his joie de vivre is part of the Flyers' life source right now. His approach is refreshing amidst the dour lockdown strategies many teams impose on their players at this time of year -- as if a smile and the occasional wink and nod are signs of compromised focus. In Biron's case, it is just him being him after a career of watching the postseason.
And do not mistake these outward signs as vulnerability. Before Game 2 in Montreal, Biron said, "We have to play our best game and I think we will." He didn't say it boastfully, just matter-of-factly. It was believable in the context of the morning skate, but more pertinently, it was reality come game time. The win brought the Flyers one victory closer to prevailing in the series and put them 5/16 of the way to securing the Stanley Cup. In other words, one Saturday night in Montreal was a win, yes, and a night to remember, certainly, but just another step along the long, winding playoff road.
For Martin Biron, it was a sweet moment in the journey that he has waited a lifetime to experience. Why would he stop talking and smiling now?