|Biron playing his best as Flyers head to playoffs|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 07 April 2008 10:12|
The Flyers goalie has played in 378 games with Buffalo and Philadelphia, twice won 30 games and matched his career high this season with five shutouts. He even posted shutouts against playoff teams New Jersey and Pittsburgh in his last two regular-season starts, the second time this year Biron had back-to-back blankings.
But he's never been to the playoffs.
The only 0 Biron wants erased from his stat sheet is the one next to his career playoff game total - he's been shut out of even a single second of playing postseason hockey. Biron will finally earn that chance Friday when the sixth-seeded Flyers open their playoff series at No. 3 seed Washington.
``I've watched a lot of playoff hockey and I've been here for big games so I know how important they are,'' Biron said. ``I know I'm ready to handle everything that comes with the playoffs.''
Biron showed his mettle over the weekend with perhaps his two best games of the year for the Flyers, who had a playoff berth at stake against the Devils and then seeding on the line against the Penguins. Biron stopped 42 shots in two games and takes a shutout streak of 121 minutes, 34 seconds into the postseason.
``If there is one player on the team that can be your biggest player, it's your goalie,'' Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen said. ``It's true. It's hard to say that, but if you look at all the good teams, they all have good goalies. The way Marty has been playing the last two games, that's what we need.''
Biron, who won five of his last seven starts, will have that shutout streak at risk almost immediately against 65-goal scorer Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. Ovechkin had a league-high 65 goals - the most since Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux scored 69 in 1996 - and won the scoring title with 112 points.
``There's other guys on that team that definitely have been assets and can play the game well with Ovechkin,'' Biron said. ``They get great passes and get great energy from him, and what they accomplished at the end of the season was tremendous.''
The Capitals have won seven in a row and 11 of 12 to reach the postseason. The Flyers were more erratic, leading the Atlantic Division around the All-Star break and challenging for the top seed in the East before a dramatic free fall - capped by a 10-game losing streak - briefly knocked them out of the playoff standings.
Philadelphia won seven of its final nine games to return to the playoffs a year after it was the worst team in the NHL.
``We've been in playoff mode for a while,'' Biron said. ``I don't know much more competitive things can be. We've had to win every night to keep up with everybody else and that's been real competitive.''
Biron lost six straight starts from Feb. 6-21 and coach John Stevens was troubled by his No. 1 goalie's inconsistency. Stevens challenged Biron and backup Antero Niittymaki at the end of March to step up their games and said, ``We need our goalie to be our best player from this point on.''
Biron, acquired from Buffalo at last year's trade deadline and quickly signed to a two-year, $7 million contract, proved in the final week he could deliver when the games mattered most. Stevens called Biron's effort against the Sidney Crosby-less Penguins on Sunday his best game of the season.
``We probably played our two best games defensively that we've played all year,'' said Flyers forward Scottie Upshall. ``Martin Biron is playing great for us, which is a big key to doing well this time of the year.''
Biron was on the Sabres roster when Buffalo beat the Flyers in a playoff series two years ago. He loved how rowdy and wild the atmosphere can get in Philadelphia for a big-time game, and wants to hear those ``Marty! Marty! Marty!'' chants echo in the final minutes of a playoff win.
``I can't for those guys to come into our building and feel the energy here because it's going to be crazy,'' he said.