– The 2007-08 NHL season started in early October, but for the Philadelphia Flyers
' Daniel Briere
, things really began Feb. 25.
That was the night Briere's shootout goal in Buffalo ended the Flyers' 10-game losing streak, and came hours after the club acquired forward Vaclav Prospal
from the Tampa Bay Lightning
Since Prospal was installed on Briere's wing, the Flyers have been flying, with Briere leading the way. In 16 regular-season games following the trade, Briere had nine goals, 17 points and a plus-2 rating, but that was just a prelude to what has been a phenomenal start to the playoffs.
In Game 1 of the Flyers' first-round playoff series against the Capitals, Briere scored twice – once off an assist from Prospal – and set up Prospal for a goal. In Game 3, Prospal set up Briere for two more goals, with both drawing assists on linemate Scott Hartnell
Things are going so well that even mistakes are working the Flyers' way. Braydon Coburn
had the puck behind the Flyers' net late in the first period in Game 3 when Briere kicked it away from him on a breakout. Coburn quickly got the puck back and threw a long pass to Prospal, who slipped the puck to Briere for the first goal of the night.
Briere wasn't exactly struggling in his first season with the Flyers, but it certainly hadn't been an easy campaign. In 65 games prior to the Prospal trade, Briere had 22 goals and 55 points, but was an embarrassing minus-22.
The expectations were for much more.
"You have to look at Danny, coming out of Buffalo, he grew up with that team and had a lot of success," said Flyers coach John Stevens
. "He left town there on a little bit of unpleasant terms (and) comes to town here after the year we had last year, and there's huge expectations on his shoulders. And then he's playing with different linemates; he played with (Jochen) Hecht there for two or three years, so there was a whole process he had to go through."
With the Flyers, it was expected Briere would play with two-time 40-goal scorer Simon Gagne
. That never happened, though, as Gagne has missed most of the season due to a concussion. The process of working different line combinations left Briere with a sour feeling.
"When you're getting bounced around, and the team is not doing well, you feel like you're letting your teammates down," Briere told the (Camden) Courier-Post
Now he's picking them up, thanks to some instant chemistry he's found with Prospal, who came over from Tampa Bay for defenseman Alexandre Picard and a draft pick.
"He's just a little guy but he's very strong on the puck and a very smart hockey player," Prospal said. "He finds the holes and he makes things happen. It's great to play with a player like that."
Prospal contributed four goals, 10 assists and a plus-7 rating in 18 games after the trade, and has been just the thing Briere needed to get his season pointed in the right direction.
Briere said he had a feeling their pairing would work in their first practice together. He said Prospal skated along the wall and dropped a no-look pass for him, like he knew Briere would be in the right spot at the right time.
"I got really excited," Briere told reporters. "I said, 'Wow, there could be something there.' "
What's been there has been success for the Flyers and a 2-1 series lead heading into Game 4 Thursday night at the Wachovia Center.
"Now I feel like I'm able to do the job I was brought in here for," said Briere.
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org.