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Series at a Glance

Flyers can hear the pitter-patter of small skates again

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Posted: Wednesday April 12, 2000 07:52 PM

By Jamie MacDonald,

And for such a splendid finish to your regular season, Capt. Desjardins and Co., we give you this ... a first-round meeting with the lowest-qualifying team in the entire playoff lot. We serve to you the Buffalo Sabres.

"Thanks, for nothing."

The Flyers, Team Turmoil of this turbulent 1999-2000 season, have lost their last two first-round playoff series since being swept in the Stanley Cup finals by the Red Wings in 1997. Last season they bowed out to the Maple Leafs in six games. The previous year, Philadelphia lost in five games to -- you guessed it -- the Sabres.

Overall, though, the Flyers have overcome much of the adversity that has haunted them all season long. A young defenseman died in a boating accident during the summer. Coach Roger Neilson was diagnosed with cancer. Their captain, and the franchise incarnate, was stripped of his captaincy and may not play for the team again.

But one thing held steady down the stretch -- the Flyers. On the ice, the team still finished as the best team in the Eastern Conference.
Season Series Recap

Philadelphia 5, Buffalo 2

PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 17 -- Entering the game winless in six games, the worst start in club history, the Flyers took advantage of two third-period goals -- Eric Lindros and Valeri Zelepukin scored 21 seconds apart -- to win a battle of then-winless teams. The Sabres, outshot 34-15 in the game, were off to their worst start (0-4-3) since 1990. Dwayne Roloson took the loss for Buffalo.

Philadelphia 4, Buffalo 2

BUFFALO, Dec. 2 -- Buffalo handed six power plays to the Flyers in the first two periods and fell behind 3-1 before mounting a comeback in the third. John LeClair scored his 12th of the season with an empty-netter to seal it for the Philadelphia, which outshot the Sabres 32-20. Eric Lindros also scored his 12th of the season while rookie Simon Gagne scored his sixth and Jody Hull scored his fourth. All but the empty-netter were scored on Martin Biron.

Buffalo 3, Philadelphia 1

BUFFALO, Dec. 14 -- For the first time in seven games, the Sabres scored more than two to beat Philadelphia. Maxim Afinogenov tied the rookie lead with his eighth goal. It was the first game played after Flyers coach Roger Neilson announced he would begin chemotherapy for bone marrow cancer. Philadelphia was also playing without Eric Lindros. The goaltenders of record were Martin Biron and Brian Boucher, playing in their 18th and seventh games of the season, respectively.

Philadelphia 3, Buffalo 2

PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 12 -- In the closest game these teams played this season -- thanks in large part to Martin Biron -- John LeClair scored on a wraparound 2:28 into overtime to complete the Flyers' comeback from a two-goal deficit. The Sabres were outshot 18-4 in the third period but Biron, as Brian Boucher said, "was making (Dominik) Hasek-like saves" to keep Buffalo alive. LeClair's goal was his team-leading 29th.

Storylines We're Following

Captain, my (former) captain

The artist formerly known as the captain has been relegated to Tenille- status. But Eric Lindros may return during this series and his impact could be huge. Let's not forget that Lindros is a force in the NHL and, soap operas be damned, he could still take over a series like almost no one in the NHL can. No one, that is, except for a guy like Dominik Hasek.

Goaltending matchup

The biggest question mark for the Flyers over the last few seasons -- spanning a couple of playoff collapses -- has been goaltending. Soft goals and untimely goals seem to follow Philadelphia around the playoffs. This playoff season, they'll be going to war with a rookie. Dominik Hasek will go a long way to defining this series, but Brian Boucher may have a greater impact on the playoff picture.

Man of the Hour

Dominik Hasek ended the season with a win and a loss, but won six of seven before that to get the Sabres into the playoffs and claim the final player of the week award. With him on his game, the Sabres may be the best team in the Eastern Conference.

Man on the Spot

Keith Primeau came to the aid of Mark Recchi when he was tangled up with New York's Rich Pilon on Sunday, but Recchi -- and John LeClair and Simon Gagne -- will also need some help on the score sheet in this series.

Brian Boucher first rookie since 1951 with sub-2.00 GAA after at least 25 games
Simon Gagne Two goals, four assists in games vs. Buffalo
Buffalo vs. Philly Only win came against a shocked Flyers team
Citing those previous efforts A brand new team and possibly scary team with Hasek, Doug Gilmour and Chris Gratton
Refundable Prediction

If he recovers from a bug that kept him from the lineup over the last two games, Doug Gilmour will be the best player on the ice in the series.

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