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Past playoff success has Biron relishing present postseason

by Mike G. Morreale

Let's set the record straight: Philadelphia Flyers goalie Martin Biron has been there and done that when it comes to the playoffs.

Yet, there's a sense that the goaltending issue in the City of Brotherly Love will never be put to rest, isn't there?

At last check, however, the Flyers veteran goalie is no different now than he was last season when he played a tremendous role in leading the Flyers to the Eastern Conference Final.

Still, the doomsday prophets are just waiting to loudly spread their warning that weakness in goal will ultimately derail Philadelphia's hopes of Stanley Cup glory

"That's a question with every team in the NHL, really," Biron told "There might be just one or two teams that will never have any question marks in net but, in the end, it doesn't matter. You hear all the time about a team only going as far as the goalie will take them and, while that's sometimes true, we believe, here in Philly, that the team will only go as far in the playoffs by the way we play as a team. If that means I'm going to play well on some nights, great. And, if not, the guys will pick me up. It's the way we've been doing it all along."

Honestly, it's time for a reality check here.

The Flyers have received solid play in net this season from both Biron and backup Antero Niittymaki. The team is No. 15 in the League with a 2.84 goals-against average and is ranked No.10 with an 82.8 penalty-killing efficiency. Biron is at the forefront of that success with a 28-17-5 mark, 2.76 GAA and .915 save percentage.

After finishing the 2007-08 campaign with a 30-20-9 record with a 2.59 GAA and .918 save percentage, the 31-year-old Biron excelled in his first Stanley Cup Playoffs as a starter -- finishing 9-8 with a 2.97 GAA and .904 save percentage. He was particularly solid in a seven-game series victory against the Washington Capitals in the opening round and a five-game triumph against the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

"I do think I was able to take it to another level last season in the playoffs, but I think that down the stretch, and at the end of the season, I was already getting to that level," Biron said. "Then, playing such an emotional and intense series against Washington in the first round really helped me get mentally and physically prepared."

Biron appeared in 18 of the final 20 games of the 2007-08 season and finished 10-4-4. During the final 20 games this season, Biron made 14 appearances and finished 9-4-0 (Just add to Biron's appearance total and win/loss total over final three games for flyers beginning april 9).

An unrestricted free agent come July, Biron is in the final season of a $3.5 million contact. After an inconsistent first half, he's steadied himself and played solidly before a few sluggish performances more recently.

Yet, he answered the call again on April 7 in a victory against a desperate Florida Panthers club that needed a win to keep its playoff hopes off life support.

Biron made 29 saves in the one-goal victory and appeared to be in playoff form -- particularly in the final minute when he turned away a pair of shots to assure the victory.

"Marty looked like himself again (against Florida) and I think that was real important for his confidence and important for our team," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "Those are the things you need to see out of your best players this time in the season."

Biron was a spectator come playoff time during his seven seasons in Buffalo -- backing up Dominik Hasek and Ryan Miller -- but he received a crash course in playoff hockey last spring during his first run through the postseason.

"As a backup, I was able to study a little bit of what was going on, but I think the intensity and the emotion you display on the ice is what you need to control," Biron said. "That's one thing I really didn't anticipate at first, but that emotion, right from the beginning, is what you need to deal with."

This year, the Flyers clinched a playoff berth three games earlier than in 2007-08 and Biron feels last year's playoff run will only benefit the team this time.

"We learned a lot last year and there were a lot of young guys experiencing their first postseason or, for some, their second; but after the year we had two seasons ago when we finished last in the League, it was so disappointing and we wanted to make amends," Biron said. "I think a lot of guys, myself included, learned a lot last year going to the conference finals and we want to take it one step further this year."

Plus, the long run in the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs has prepared Biron for all the hardships of the postseason. In fact, he says he has embraced the thought of going into hostile cities now, eager to silence opposing fans and walk away with a precious victory.

"I like playing on the road sometimes because it's such a hostile environment and that gets you motivated even more," he said. "But playing at home in front of your fans is definitely something good. I feel comfortable in any building and that's a good thing in the playoffs."

Contact Mike Morreale at
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