'Different' Flyers beat Stanley Cup champs

Philadelphia Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov makes a save against the Boston Bruins during the first...

Philadelphia Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov makes a save against the Boston Bruins during the first period of their NHL hockey game in Boston, Massachusetts October 6, 2011. (REUTERS/Adam Hunger)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:53 PM ET

BOSTON - So, for one night anyway, “different” was good.

“I don’t know if we got better or worse,” said Philadephia Flyers GM Paul Holmgren of his summer of culture change, “but we got different.”

The different Flyers spoiled the Boston Bruins Stanley Cup banner night with a 2-1 win Thursday at TD Garden and a couple of things became evident.

First, if the stunning decision to trade away captain Mike Richards and star forward Jeff Carter in a pair of blockbuster deals during the summer was to make room for a guy like Claude Giroux to grow into a bonafide front-line player -- he was looking like one already, really -- then that was a good move.

Second, 39-year-old Jaromir Jagr, signed as a free agent in the summer by the Flyers, got more than a passing grade in his first NHL game after three years in the Kontinental Hockey League. He set up Giroux for a spectacular opening goal and was a factor during his 16 minutes of ice time, though he said he found the NHL game much faster than he remembered.

“The difference, if I compare it to two three years ago here to right now is I think there is less structure,” said Jagr, whose assist on Giroux’s goal was the 1,600th point of his NHL career. “There is no more neutral zone trap. Everybody is skating, the defence is pinching all the time. Nobody is really stopping. They just keep skating and skating. I think that’s the biggest difference. I have to get used to it.”

The Flyers sat around their dressing room for 30 minutes while the Bruins re-lived their Stanley Cup march last spring culminating with former Bruins greats like Bobby Orr and Derek Sanderson helping the current players hoist the banner.

Boston’s Brad Marchand made it look like it would be a dream night when he gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead 9:42 into the game with a nice move on new Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, but the Jagr-Giroux combination got them going with 50 seconds to go in the period on the power-play. Giroux took a pass from Jagr off a set breakout and made a great move to beat a couple of Bruins, kicking the puck up to his stick and then beating Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas.

“ ‘G’ made a great play. I told him not even Mario Lemieux could make that play,” laughed Jagr. “I was just kidding.”

Then Jakub Voracek, who joined the Flyers from the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Carter trade, jumped on a loose puck to make it 2-1 with three seconds left in the period.

After that Bryzgalov was strong, especially after the Flyers took three penalties.

“I think we have to approach this as a lesson,” said Thomas, “that every game is going to be hard. Yeah, we won the Stanley Cup, but that doesn't mean it's just going to happen now.”

The summer of changes for the Flyers came after they struggled last season and were swept in four games by the Bruins in the second round. Holmgren’s moves elevated the status of Giroux and James Van Riemsdyk -- Jagr’s linemates last night -- and brought in an infusion of youth. The Flyers dressed eight players aged 24 and younger Thursday night.

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette used 18-year-old rookie Sean Couturier, acquired with a first-round pick as part of the Carter-to-Columbus deal, to kill the final minute of the game with Thomas on the bench for the extra attacker and the Bruins pressing.

A reward for the kid?

“No,” said Laviolette. “That’s his job. He’s our best defensive player.”

It also doesn’t hurt that they have a healthy Chris Pronger on the blue line. The new captain led the Flyers in ice time and sticks to opponents’ mid-sections.

“A lot of people probably, not that they weren’t giving us any chances, but they were wondering how we were going to play because we got so many young guys, so many new faces and we didn’t have much time to play together. Three weeks is not much,” said Jagr.

“We proved today we can play with anybody.”

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


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