THE MARK OF ZHERDEV
He went from promising goal scorer to Peter Laviolette's doghouse to being waived, to not being wanted by any team in the league, to coming back to the Flyers with a new attitude to scoring a game-winning goal in the playoffs.
That's what happened Monday when he potted he winning tally in a 4-2 Flyers win over the Buffalo Sabres that gave them a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
Re-inserted into the lineup because of a facial laceration to Andreas Nodl, Zherdev supplied a good bit of jump to his line with Mike Richards and Kris Versteeg, and was rewarded with the first playoff point of his career.
"Yeah it was," Zherdev said when asked if his first playoff goal was special. "First one. Game-winner. The team won. It was good."
O.K., so he's a man of few words. Nevertheless, he made an impression on his teammates and his coach.
"Since (he was waived) the most impressive part for me has been his attitude," coach Peter Laviolette said. "He's committed just like everyone else. He got an opportunity and scored a big goal for us. He had a couple other opportunities too and set up Richards just after that through the crease back door.
"There's always two different roads you can go down at that point - maybe go south, where you never get a player back, or do what you have to do, work hard with the coaches, work hard to stay in shape and improve conditioning. He did that, worked hard and made a difference."
Zherdev gave Richards' line an offensive boost that makes them more dangerous, especially with Richards and Versteeg being two-way players.
"He always seems to find the net whenever he gets back in the lineup," Richards said.
And the captain is right.
Monday marked the sixth time this season Zherdev returned to the lineup after being scratched by Laviolette and in four of the six occasions he posted at least one point, scoring a goal in three of them.
"I'm not worried about that (other stuff)," Zherdev said. "I'm just focused on the playoffs."
And if he does stay focused on the playoffs and provide the offense he provided Monday, he could be a big part of a lengthy Flyers run.
A couple of odd historical notes:
- The Sabres are 0-15 in playoff series that they have trailed 2-1.
- In 30 career playoff starts, Boucher has never been pulled.
- Danny Briere now is 5-4-9 in seven games in Buffalo since joining the Flyers.
- The Flyers are 18-3 all-time when leading 2-1 and are 14-7 all-time in the subsequent Games 4.