PHILADELPHIA – Brian Boucher wants a shot at playing in the Stanley Cup final he missed last season. He’s been so strong in the net, he’s making the Philadelphia Flyers believe they can play again in June.
First, though, a reward for its fast start: Philadelphia is sending its coach to the all-star game.
Boucher stopped 34 shots while James van Riemsdyk and Danny Briere each scored to lead the Flyers to a 2-1 win over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette earned a spot as co-coach of one of the teams at the Jan. 30 all-star game. Joel Quenneville, coach of the defending Stanley Cup-champion Chicago Blackhawks, will coach one team. Laviolette and Vancouver’s Alain Vigneault will share duties with the other team.
“It’ll be fun. I’ve never been to one before,” Laviolette said.
The Flyers have 26 wins and 57 points through 41 games and are determined to win the Stanley Cup that eluded them in the final last season.
“We’ve just carried over what we did last year in the playoffs,” Boucher said. “Our goal this year was to put ourselves in better position come spring time. We’ve done a good job thus far, but there’s still a lot of work to do.”
Boucher, who started last year’s post-season run as the No. 1 goalie before he was hurt, stopped 34 shots. He won his 10th game of the season and has combined with rookie Sergei Bobrovsky, the surprise opening night starter, to give the Flyers some needed consistency in net.
Boucher sprained the MCL in his left knee in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinal, allowing Michael Leighton to lead the Flyers all the way to a Game 6 loss in the final. Leighton is in the minors now while Boucher is rolling along.
“I’ve tried not to let the other stuff be a factor,” Boucher said.
The NHL-worst Devils lost a day after trading captain Jamie Langenbrunner to Dallas. New Jersey lost its 11th straight road game, one away from tying the team record set in 1983.
Martin Brodeur was benched for the third straight game but replaced an ineffective Johan Hedberg in the first period. Hedberg allowed two quick goals and was yanked.
Boucher’s lone goal allowed wasn’t totally his fault. Devils defenceman Andy Greene’s shot deflected off Flyers defenceman Ville Leino’s skate and soared over Boucher’s right shoulder to make it 2-1 midway through the second.
He stopped and smothered Dainius Zubrus’s hard-charging breakaway with 15 seconds left to settle some nerves.
Boucher was perfect after the second—nearly as flawless as Brodeur in his return.
Brodeur, the NHL’s career wins leader, has only five this season and was demoted to Hedberg’s backup for the last two games. His spot on the bench for the third straight game didn’t last long.
On a 4-on-4 shift, Van Riemsdyk beat Hedberg from the left circle for his 10th goal of the season and a 1-0 lead. Briere, making a strong case to be named to the all-star team with 21 goals, scored a power-play goal with 5:19 left in the first to make it 2-0 and send Hedberg to the bench.
Briere won’t stump for an all-star bid, but he has one fan who might have the political clout to make it happen.
“You’re the guy!,” American vice-president Joe Biden told Briere when they met in the locker room.
Biden’s wife, Jill, is a diehard Flyers fan and keeps a Briere bobblehead doll on her nightstand. The last face Jill Biden sees at night belongs to a pint-sized, bobbling Briere.
Briere laughed as he said Joe Biden gave him good-natured ribbing for stealing his wife’s attention each day.
Briere helped make it a long day for the Devils.
Hedberg allowed two goals on 10 shots. Brodeur settled the situation, stopping all eight shots in the second period. But it was too late already for the punchless Devils.
Brodeur made 19 saves.
“I know it’s only been a week, but it seemed like a long time for me,” he said. “It’s been good taking a step back, to work on my game, not focus on the atmosphere of losing every day and getting it out of my head.”
The lost season made them eager to deal Langenbrunner, who played on the Devils’ Stanley Cup-winning team in 2003.
More changes are likely ahead for the Devils, who haven’t won a road game since Nov. 3 in Chicago.
“I’m as shocked as anybody,” Brodeur said. “When you look at what we brought to the lineup on paper, nobody expected it. Now, it’s hit home it’s going be a battle for us the rest of the season.”
The Flyers played their first home game since Dec. 20 in front of a quiet crowd that made it through another snowstorm to get to the Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers couldn’t get too cozy at home—they start a four-game road trip Tuesday.
NOTES: The Flyers hit 26 wins at the midpoint of the season for the seventh time in team history. They last did it in 2005-06. … The Devils lost 12 straight road games Oct. 19-Dec. 1, 1983.