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Greenberg: How the Defense won Game 4

by Jay Greenberg / Philadelphia Flyers

Nick Grossmann, taken into the boards by Derick Brassard, went down in a heap and the Flyers seemingly were in a heap of trouble.

They had only spent, oh, 20 of the first 25 minutes of the game in their own end, were giving the puck away faster than the media has been handing out advice about the power play.

The strength of the Flyer D – that coming into the season the naysayers were grading a D -- is a third pair that Andrew MacDonald has made as good as the first pair. Now the Flyers were down to two-and-a-half pairs, supposedly no way to win a playoff game in this age of big, fast and fresh forwards coming over the boards every 40 seconds.

“They used to play just four defensemen,” smiled Craig Berube. “Tough to do now, though.

“Five? We can do that. (Braydon) Coburn, MacDonald can eat minutes, Luke Schenn, too.”

Actually, the final 32-plus minutes of the Flyers’ 2-1 victory in Game 4 had to go down in the smallest bites, the only way to get the food past the hearts in your throats.

In the end the Flyers held on to even the series for more reasons than just an excellent Steve Mason, namely Coburn, Schenn, MacDonald, Mark Streit and Kimmo Timonen.

Coburn played a McDonagh-esque 25:27, Timonen 23:26, MacDonald 20:46, Streit 19:58 and Schenn 18:04, all without hardly breaking a sweat.

Holy Mike Keenan!

Back in the day, Mark Howe, Brad McCrimmon, Brad Marsh, Doug Crossman and Kjell Samuelsson couldn’t have done it any better, under more duress.

“I feel good,” said Streit. Hey, you are only tired when you get outshot 38-25 and lose, or when you don’t suddenly feel that you are the team with the hot goalie, or when you don’t believe that the Flyers forwards have much more left in the tank than they showed in Game 4. They played better in Game 3 and lost by three goals, so go figure.

Assuming one contest will be like the last is a tired exercise this time of year. But Game 5 starts 38 hours after the conclusion of Game 4 and the series ends with three games in four days.

So either Hal Gill or Erik Gustafsson are on for some minutes, but first let’s take a New York minute to appreciate how the Rangers never got themselves in position for that one shot Mason had no chance to handle.

Fatigue makes cowards of us all. Conditioning saved the day.

“We had two games between games, so we were well rested,” said Coburn.

“[Playing five] can get hard if I have a couple of long shifts in our own end back-to- back. It gets you in the game, though.”

In the eighties, a sixth guy was one guy too many for Howe to get in the flow, Alas, nobody on this defense skates like No. 2, but these guys compete. For guys who aren’t supposed to be any good, they look pretty good.

There wasn’t one pre-series matchup piece that didn’t give Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal and Anton Stralman a big edge. But the Flyers exploited the Rangers’ third pair – John Moore and Kevin Klein -- on Matt Read’s goal off the backboards, and then refused to wear down.

“Our defense, I thought battled hard, did what they had to do,” said Berube. I felt like they were physical down low.

“Most of the Rangers chances were rush chances.”

Flyer breakout passes repeatedly went off recipient’s sticks, turning the puck over at center. Berube’s team was backpedalling most of the night.

But the Rangers didn’t get extended cycles because the Flyer defense that much of the league believes isn’t good enough most certainly proved it was to gut out Game 4.

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