In hindsight, the writing was on the wall the moment news of their big free agent acquisitions hit the wires.
Hatcher and Rathje were a combined minus-4 for the Flyers Tuesday. They certainly weren't the only reasons Philadelphia departed these NHL playoffs after an embarrassing 7-1 defeat in Game 6, but they stand tall as shining examples of a blueprint gone wrong.
The Flyers got too big, too slow, too old. And they were exposed by a quick and skilled Buffalo team built for this new NHL.
THIRD STAR OF THE DAY
Cristobal Huet stopped two Carolina breakaways Tuesday and made a huge pad stop on Chad Larose to preserve a tie in the final moments of regulation. He was superb in Game 6, stopping 27 of 29 shots to improve his series save percentage to .929. That Cory Stillman's slap shot deflected off Craig Rivet's stick and made a beeline to the top corner of the Montreal net was just an unfortunate break. The Canadiens would never have seen overtime without Huet.
SECOND STAR OF THE DAY
Montreal threw everything it could at 22-year-old rookie goalie Cam Ward. Once again, Ward held his own. After taking over for Martin Gerber, who was yanked in Game 2, Ward allowed just five goals in four starts while posting a .940 series save percentage. His post-to-post stop on Mike Ribeiro Tuesday was a thing of beauty.
FIRST STAR OF THE DAY
Buffalo center Chris Drury assisted on two first-period goals Tuesday when the game mattered, then added a hard-working though slightly irrelevant goal late in the second period. By the time he scored his second goal of the night shorthanded in the third period, the Sabres were already making travel plans to Ottawa. Drury combined with linemates Derek Roy and Mike Grier to record 11 points and a plus-12 rating.
Peter Forsberg's line was a combined minus-11 for Philadelphia Tuesday. Forsberg himself was responsible for a turnover that led directly to a goal, but for the most part Tuesday's 7-1 Sabres win once again exposed the Flyers' lack of speed on defense. They gambled in the offseason by adding hulking blueliners Mike Rathje and Derian Hatcher. Clearly a failed battle plan and one that must be revised and addressed with personnel changes over the offseason.
An untimely line change and a turnover conspired to end Montreal's season Tuesday. The Canadiens spent the better part of the first minute of overtime pinned in their own zone. When they finally did gain possession, Michael Ryder failed to dump the puck deep into Carolina's zone. The Hurricanes jumped on the puck and quickly took advantage of a Montreal line change (and the removal of the center red line) to spring Cory Stillman for the winning shot. Montreal defenseman Craig Rivet scrambled off the bench in an attempt to join the play, but he succeeded only in providing the deflection that beat Huet.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR WEDNESDAY
Game 7: Anaheim Mighty Ducks at Calgary Flames: Most NHL players will tell you Game 7s are a coin toss, home ice advantage or not. Flip a coin to decide Wednesday's Ducks-Flames Game 7 and it might just stand on its edge. This series has been that close. Joffrey Lupul hit a crossbar for Anaheim in overtime of Game 1. Calgary would win moments later. Kristian Huselius did the same in the waning seconds of regulation of Game 6, narrowly missing a goal. Scott Neidermayer put the Ducks up for good a short time later.
This series has featured five one-goal games. Both teams play a similar style, and while Calgary may have entered the series with a reputation as the more physical team, Anaheim has displayed plenty of grit. This has all the makings of a low-scoring, dramatic Game 7.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT Watch
Throw Marty Gerber's numbers out the door and the goalies in the Montreal-Carolina series combined to stop 93 percent of the shots they faced. Tuesday's game was another goalie exhibition, with both netminders making several game-saving stops.
- the Flyers
- Mike Rathje