BOSTON -- Philadelphia Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren was adamant when discussing his goaltending situation with the media following a series-ending Game 4 loss to the Boston Bruins here at TD Garden in the Eastern Conference semifinal round on Friday.
Despite the fact his team had just been outscored 20-7 in four games against the Bruins and his head coach, Peter Laviolette, had made seven in-game goalie changes in 11 playoff games, the fifth-season GM pointed to a shoddy defensive effort all-around.
Holmgren also commended the Bruins for their extraordinarily solid play throughout. Boston avenged last year's seven-game collapse with a rather efficient four-game sweep of the Flyers this time around -- scoring identical 5-1 victories on home ice in Games 3 and 4 to seal the deal.
Rookie goalie Sergei Bobrovsky earned the final start of the season for the Flyers -- his third this postseason, but first since Game 2 of the opening round -- and finished with 22 saves. The fact Bobrovsky actually finished the game was a feat in itself since it's only happened four times for the Flyers in the playoffs.
"I don't think we can fault our goaltending at any point in this series," Holmgren said. "I know it looks bad when you're taking guys out all the time. But goaltending, as I've said before, is a function of your team. Was (Bobrovsky) great (in Game 4), no, but he's a young kid and under intense circumstances. But we didn't lose the game because of our goalie. We lost the game because their team outplayed our team."
While the absence of injured defenseman Chris Pronger was a huge void along the blue line, Holmgren refused to use that as an excuse.
"Injuries happen on a team from time to time, and we just thought our guys, our defense as a group, didn't raise their game enough to be able to beat Boston in this series," he said. "Would we like to have Chris … yeah. But the thing is the other guys, five of which had playoff experience, didn't play as well as a group as they needed to play."
"You know, we just mentioned that in there (the locker room)," he said. "You just notice the impact that a guy like (Zdeno) Chara has on the other side, and when you don't have your big guy in there. (Pronger) plays the same style and the same way, you certainly miss him. But I have never been one to really use injuries as an excuse. We had good players in the lineup and opportunities to win some games and we didn't."
Both Holmgren and Laviolette also felt the two losses on home ice to begin the series were tough. Not only did it put the Flyers behind the eight-ball, but it provided the Bruins just the momentum they needed headed back to Boston in front of their fans.
"I don't think we were ready to play in the first game (a 7-3 loss), mentally or physically," Holmgren said. "The game we needed to win was the second game. It was a good game, probably our best by far (in a 3-2 overtime loss). Then we had to come up here -- the Bruins are a good team right now. They're playing very well."
"Looking back on the series, you have an opportunity in Game 1," Laviolette said. "You're in your building and we don't play the way we can. In Game 2, we played hard, did the things we wanted to do and lost in overtime. It was a tough bounce and a tough break. But that happens in the playoffs … I really look at Game 2 as an opportunity that was lost for us to get into the series. In Game 1, it was a blown opportunity as well."
Holmgren admitted his managerial team will now get to work, review the tapes and begin preliminary discussions for what should be a very interesting offseason in the City of Brotherly Love.
"I don't think it was matter of us not working out there," Holmgren said. "They were the better team and they were better for the better part of the four games and it showed.
"We'll sit back and we'll spend a lot evaluating in our meetings with staff and coaches and players and just see what went wrong. My initial reaction is … we got beat by a better team in this series and they deserve to be moving on."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale