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Winter Classic 2012: Goaltending the Difference

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 02:  Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers makes a save on a penalty shot by Danny Briere #48 of the Philadelphia Flyers late in the third period during the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park on January 2, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
Steve ThompsonAnalyst IIIJanuary 2, 2012

The outdoor 2012 NHL Winter Classic in Philadelphia may have held an old, unpleasant potent for the hosts: The opponents have good goaltending and the Flyers don't.

When the game was on the line and the big save had to be made, New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist came through in the clutch, while Flyers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky gave up two easy goals.

The Flyers had a 2-0 lead and all the momentum when Bobrovsky gave up a stoppable goal to Mike Rupp less than a minute after their own second goal.

Rupp later scored another easy goal under Bobrovsky's arm. 

The Flyers were mostly back on their heels for the rest of the game until the final minute when Bobrovsky was pulled for an extra attacker.

In contrast, Lundqvist made 33 saves, many of them difficult, including a penalty shot by Daniel Briere in the last minute.  

When Philly was leading 2-0, Lundqvist prevented the goal that might have put the game out of reach for the Rangers.

The other major difference was that the Flyers lost star forward Jaromir Jagr early in the second period; after his departure, they never mounted much of an attack until the final minute of the game.

But the main reason for the Flyers' defeat was that their goaltending couldn't preserve a 2-0 lead.

Goaltending wasn't supposed to be a problem for the Flyers this year when they signed Ilya Bryzgalov from the Phoenix Coyotes, but he was in a slump according to Flyers coach Peter Laviolette, who chose to leave him on the bench for what was probably the Flyers' most important game of the year so far.  

That's not a good sign for Philadelphia.

For the Rangers, the win put them at the top of the Eastern Conference, and more importantly, gave them a four-point breathing space ahead of their nearest pursuer in the Atlantic Division.

They have won all three games against Philadelphia this season.

The goaltending crisis couldn't come at a worse time for Philadelphia.

For a while they were comfortably atop the Eastern Conference themselves, but for now they don't have to worry so much about the Rangers surging past them as to who is coming up behind them.

New Jersey, Winnipeg and Ottawa are all making moves forward.  Toronto is in the mix, and if Washington can ever get its act together, they would be a threat too.

Suddenly, making the playoffs is no longer an automatic given, especially with Chris Pronger and now Jagr injured.

With the loss of key forwards and defencemen in Philadelphia, goaltending is going to be even more important.

At the Winter Classic, it wasn't there for the Flyers.

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