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Briere dangerous in clutch situations

by John McGourty /
BOSTON -- Danny Briere is a big-game player and has been for years, so it was no surprise it was Briere going end-to-end late in the third period Saturday to score the tying goal that sent his Philadelphia Flyers into overtime against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden in their Eastern Conference Semifinal series.

The Flyers eventually lost, 5-4, and trail the best-of-seven series, 1-0. Game 2 is Monday at TD Garden (7 p.m., Versus, TSN, RDS).

Briere has more responsibility in these playoffs than during the regular season because the Flyers' leading goal scorer, Jeff Carter, is out for the season with a broken foot, scoring winger Simon Gagne is injured and checking forward and penalty killer Ian Laperriere is recovering from a brain injury suffered when he blocked a shot with his forehead.

Briere has scored 230 goals and added 296 assists for 526 points in 666 regular-season games over 11 seasons with the Phoenix Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres and Flyers. He has 26 goals and 38 assists for 64 points in 69 Stanley Cup Playoff games. He finished third on the Flyers this season with 26 goals and fourth with 53 points in 75 games. In six playoff games this year, he is tied for second on the Flyers with three goals and seven points.

During his 11 regular seasons, Briere has averaged 0.79 points-per-game, but in the playoffs he has been even better, averaging 0.93 ppg. There haven't been many players in NHL history 17 percent more productive in the playoffs than in the regular season.

That's why reporters were asking Sunday what it is in his makeup that makes him better in the playoffs.

"Honestly, I have no clue," Briere said. "I don't know if there is something to that effect. I can't explain it. I wish I had a better answer for you. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

"Maybe confidence over time, knowing that I get in the playoffs and things have been working out," Briere added. "I get into the playoffs and I have the confidence that it's happened in the past and I know I perform. … It would be interesting to know why it works for some people and not others, but I guess confidence is probably an aspect of it.

"With those guys out of the lineup, you get more responsibility and ice time. Somebody has to step up. I know that guys like myself, (Mike Richards) and Claude (Giroux) are relied upon. I gained a lot of confidence from that play and the power-play goal that (Richards) scored before. Hopefully, it's going to carry over to the next few games."

Briere said it wasn't a sense he's a star that helped him score the tying goal -- more a case of trying to atone for earlier mistakes. And he hesitated when asked if it was one of his career highlight goals.

"I had made a couple of mistakes earlier in the game," Briere said. "I knew I had to get it back somehow, so I had that mindset that I had to find a way to tie it up. As I was coming down, I saw (Bruins defenseman Dennis) Wideman kind of cheating to the outside. He probably thought I was going to go around to the boards. I saw him leaning that way so I took the puck to the inside and carried it in. I think (Bruins defenseman Matt) Hunwick got a piece of it and it bounced off my skate. I had it in my mind that I knew where I was going on that play.

"It would have meant a lot more if we had found a way to win in overtime." 

Briere played wing for much of the season but has returned to his natural position, center, in Carter's absence. Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette was asked if a center has better chances to make the play Briere made on the tying goal, splitting the defense and bursting in on the goalie. He was also asked if playing wing curtailed Briere's creativity.

"I think Danny played his best hockey at the end of the year," Laviolette said. "While there wasn't a highlight-reel goal where it comes from out of our end, through the neutral zone and then through the defensemen, that one-on-one effort, there has been a lot of great play by Danny Briere recently.

"Whether he's at winger or center, he's had the green light in the defensive zone to pick up the puck and take it end-to-end if he can. There's no guideline of what position you have to be in in order to that. He can do that in D-zone coverage in any position. I thought it was a good individual effort, but I don't think it was an isolated incident for Danny. I think he's been fairly consistent with his game, down the stretch, through the first round of the playoffs and in last night's game."

Laviolette was then asked what is in Briere's makeup that makes him rise to such challenges.

"I think he has a special set of skills offensively, where he's capable of making those kind of plays," Laviolette said. "Everybody fills roles on a team. Sometimes, the guys who do the workman-like roles -- Blair Betts, Ian Laperriere, and Boston has theirs as well -- don't get that kind of credit because it's not that end-to-end rush. They're valued on the inside, but they don't get talked about much on the outside.

"When you see an effort like he had last night to tie the game up, that becomes a focal point and gets talked about. He's a gifted player, and those players have the opportunity to make a difference and he did."
Briere, one of the most thoughtful and accessible players, struggled to explain why he's a clutch player until he was told that it appears he embraces leadership, and the more he is needed, the more he delivers.

"That's why I play the game," Briere said. "That's why I love the game. When we get into the playoffs, when we get into critical games -- I was having this same discussion a few weeks ago with my kids -- you have to embrace that challenge. This is why you play the game: Because you want to be in those moments. You can't look at it where you're afraid to face those challenges. You have to welcome them and embrace them."

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