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Biron no longer the backup plan

by Mike G. Morreale

Martin Biron enters his first postseason as a starter with a career regular-season mark of 170-143-40. Martin Biron highlight video
A new chapter in the career of Flyers goalie Marty Biron will begin Friday (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN), when he steps on the ice as a starter in the opening game of Philadelphia's Eastern Conference quarterfinal-round playoff series with the Washington Capitals.

Game 2 will be the NHL on NBC featured game Sunday at 2 p.m. ET (also on TSN).

While he's very much looking forward to all the excitement leading to the opening faceoff of Game 1 against the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center, Biron remains stoic in his approach.

"I anticipate it to be similar to our home game against New Jersey last Friday when the crowd was going crazy," Biron said. "When you step out for the warm-up you go 100 miles-per-hour for the first two laps before letting your body recover and settle back into a rhythm. We know it's going to be crazy in Washington and it'll be a sea of red. The building will be loud, but for us, we just need to play consistent. Over those first couple of minutes, you just want to feel the puck, get yourself in the right position and frame of mind and just let it go from that point forward."

Biron, who backed up Dominik Hasek and Ryan Miller in Buffalo for seven of his nine NHL seasons there, admits he learned valuable lessons from the bench.

"I know it will be a long series with some highs and lows and there will be a lot of things happening that you probably don't expect," Biron said. "But I know so long as you stay consistent and manage your emotions on and off the ice, you'll be fine. I think that was the most important part of playoff hockey I observed in my years in Buffalo. Sometimes it pays to just sit back and read how others respond to certain situations."

Biron certainly responded well to adverse conditions in the final two games of the regular season with a 22-save, 3-0 shutout of New Jersey and a 20-save 2-0 blanking of Pittsburgh to assure his team the sixth seed in the conference.

"When we had that skid (going 0-8-2 in February), it would have been easy for everyone to fold it there," Biron said. "We went from first in our division to falling right out of playoff contention, but the fact everyone was able to put that behind and step it up shows the character on this team. And the way we played against New Jersey and Pittsburgh with our backs to the wall really proved what the guys were committed to, and that commitment must carry over to the most important part of the season."

The Flyers finished the season 7-1-1 and hope to ride that momentum against a Capitals team that won 14 of its final 18 games. Biron started 18 of Philadelphia's final 20 games, posting a 10-4-4 mark. For the season, Biron was 30-20-9 with a 2.59 goals-against average and .918 save percentage.

"Marty has played a lot down the stretch, and I thought he and our entire team played really good against New Jersey," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "In his victory against Pittsburgh he looked very confident and his balance was good. He also made good decisions with the puck, holding on to it when we were running around a bit. He's been making those big saves and it looks like he's gaining confidence at the right time."

Biron enters his first postseason as a starter with a career regular-season mark of 170-143-40 with a 2.56 goals-against average and 23 shutouts in 378 games.

"I had a chance to play in the American Hockey League playoffs for two seasons (in Rochester) and reached the Calder Cup final (in 1998-99)," Biron said. "I then was called up to the Sabres that same season and got to experience the Stanley Cup Final. I went on some runs with the Sabres and really just took it all in."

Biron knows his role in the playoffs and is prepared to face all challenges head on.

"This is playoff hockey and playoff hockey is not about the last shot of the game," Biron said. "It's about which team stands tall defensively over the long haul and is able to establish that momentum."

That said, how will the Flyers contain NHL scoring leader Alex Ovechkin?

"He plays hard, shoots hard, has good hands and can pass the puck so well, it's not going to be easy," Biron said. "He is the whole package and, on top of that, doesn't shy away from anyone. But we're going to play our game. I think we're a great skating club and we have to use that skating to our advantage. When we are flat-footed and standing still, that's when we're vulnerable. We use our speed in many facets of the game, on forecheck, off transition and while on the attack. When we're borderline over-aggressive is when we're at our best. Alex is a great hockey player, but he can't do it alone and we must remember that."

Flyers defensemen Kimmo Timonen and forward Mike Richards are grateful to have Biron in net this postseason.

"You look at the Caps and they are riding a hot goalie as well," Timonen said. "When you have a hot goalie heading into the playoffs, that's a huge advantage."

"Goaltending is always a big part of the playoffs and Marty has played extremely well for us down the stretch," Richards said. "We have all the confidence in the world that he's our No. 1 goalie and will play well. We like having him back there and we're confident our defense will limit the opponent's opportunities. Hopefully, Marty's confident enough in us that we're going to get back and help him out."

Television analyst Pierre McGuire feels the Flyers-Capitals series could be the most physical of any matchup on the board in the first round.

"I think Stevens brought back a little of what made the Flyers good in the 1970s and that's intimidation," McGuire said. "It's not easy to do now with the way games are being called, but I expect you're going to see players like Braydon Coburn having an impact if the Flyers are going to win. I think you're going to see Steve Downie, Scott Hartnell and Scottie Upshall potentially having an impact, as well.

"The thing that Ovechkin does, like any superstar in the NHL, is he attacks the people that are trying to attack him and is not intimidated. I expect it's going to come down to a goaltending situation, and who's going to be the better goalie and, right now, neither (Biron or Washington's Cristobal Huet) has won a playoff round in their NHL history."

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