PHILADELPHIA -- Game 1 of this Philadelphia-New Jersey playoff series featured the formal return of the Flyers’ top playoff goal scorer of a year ago, James van Riemsdyk.
Yes, the big winger played in the final two games of the team’s first-round series against Pittsburgh, but van Riemsdyk played sparingly and was not a factor as he tried to work his way back from a broken foot sustained on March 1.
“They had a big impact on the game today,” head coach Peter Laviolette said. "I thought getting James back was a real positive last week or 10 days ago in the Pittsburgh series, but he hadn’t had, at that point, a whole lot of competition, even in drills and practice he’d been out quite a bit with his injury. The week [off] really provided an opportunity to push him with his conditioning and his pace and his on-ice play and just in practice.
“I thought, once we got going as a group, he really factored into the game, James did, with his speed and his size. I think everybody remembers what he was able to do last year in the playoffs, and off a good week of practice we wanted to put him in a position where he could try to be successful and I thought he was,” Laviolette said.
Van Riemsdyk, who had seven goals in 11 playoff games last spring and was rewarded with a six-year, $25.5 million contract extension, led all players Sunday with five shots, many of which were quality chances.
“It was nice to get some opportunity there today. Lavy told me he was going to ease me in there from the start of the last series and I was able to take advantage of some of the chances I got,” he said.
OK, so the big question at the end of the day was whether van Riemsdyk, parked in front of New Jersey netminder Martin Brodeur, interfered with the veteran netminder on Danny Briere’s winning goal in overtime.
“I was just right in front of the net. I got hacked a couple times and pushed by Marty there. I don’t know what happened from there,” van Riemsdyk said.
Brodeur, not surprisingly, had a different view of events.
“The referees, they have a hard job, and they see it live. Definitely, van Riemsdyk pushed my stick over when he came across. He didn’t do it on purpose. I think he’s just going to the front of the net, and I’ve got my position there,” Brodeur said.
“But it prevented me from making the save, and it was so quick like that for the referees. Especially after disallowing a kick-in goal, they wouldn’t do it twice in Philly, that’s for sure,” he added.