Lotsa games I haven’t written about. Sorry, but it’s been a long week so you’ll just have to DEAL with it. Anyways, the Flyers played 5 games since I last wrote about them so here’s a snapshot of the major developments: 3 wins, 2 losses. Ray Emery back in goal (and he got better and better as the week wore on), the team’s power play continues to click (they’re 3rd in the league), they’ve stepped up their physical play (a bunch of fights this week but no real stupid penalties), and Darroll Powe has replaced Claude Giroux on the top line with Giroux back to centering James van Riemsdyk and Arron Asham on the 3rd line (seems to be working as Giroux & JVR have had great weeks). As far as the games themselves:
- MAPLE LEAFS 4, FLYERS 0 – Well the streak had to end sometime. The Flyers 4 game winning streak came crashing to a halt at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight. In all fairness the Flyers really didn’t come to play in this one. The Leafs jumped all over our boys from the first minute and actually had a goal taken off the board because the player in question pushed it over the goal line with his hand. But all that did was slow down the inevitable. Though the score was still tied at 0 after the first period, the Leafs were definitely the better team on this night. They were rewarded for their perseverance halfway through the 2nd period when Tyler Bozak made a sweet move to get around Ole-Kristian Tollefson and then roofed the puck past goalie Michael Leighton. The Flyers defense would fail Leighton 3 more times before things were all said and done. Though Leighton takes the loss none of the goals were his fault and he should not be blamed. That being said I expect Ray Emery (now that he’s healthy again) to return to the net tomorrow afternoon against the Washington Capitals. The last time the Flyers played Washington was Coach Peter Laviolette’s first game in charge of his new team and the final score that night was 8-2. The Flyers owe the Caps one…
- CAPITALS 5, FLYERS 3 – The Flyers welcomed back goalie Ray Emery with a very poor defensive outing and as a result dropped their second straight game in regulation 5-3 to Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. Though the Flyers scored first again (for the 11th time in 13 games), they simply couldn’t hold a lead in this one. Jeff Carter scored on a beautiful wrist shot to put the Flyers up 1-0 but the Caps quickly answered to tie the score. Super rookie James van Riemsdyk also scored on a nifty wristshot later in the period, but the Caps managed to answer that one too, tying the score shortly before the end of the first period. The second period was tightly played and while the Caps took the lead the score was only 3-2 headed into the third period. In need of a spark to overcome a very determined Capitals squad playing in front of some very rowdy fans, the Flyers came out flat and basically fell apart. 5 minutes into the 3rd period Matt Carle had an AWFUL giveaway just outside his own blueline and Brooks Laich skated in alone on Emery and roofed a shorthanded goal past him bringing the score to 4-2. To add insult to injury, with about 5 minutes left in the game, Braydon Coburn grabbed Ovechkin on a mini-breakaway and the referee awarded Ovechkin a penalty shot. Up until that point Ovechkin had actually been 0 for 5 for his career on penalty shots. Any guesses as to the result? Yup. 5-2. Though the Flyers added a Danny Briere power play goal with about 30 seconds left in the game, it was of no real consequence. The Flyers have now lost 2 games in a row and have a very important week ahead. They can’t afford to keep breaking down defensively in their own end or they’re going to continue losing games. Emery’s back and that’s good but you can still tell he’s rusty and the Flyers need their defense to pick him up while he works himself back into game shape.
- FLYERS 5, BLUE JACKETS 3 – Now that’s more like it!! The Flyers, needing a win after dropping 2 straight, came out ready to attack in this one. Less than a minute into the game, Jeff Carter picked caused a turnover deep in the Columbus end, skated in on goalie Mathieu Garon and roofed a beautiful backhand shot past him to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead (another game where the Flyers drew first blood – 12 times in 14 games now). They would go up 2-0 thanks to Arron Asham (off an INCREDIBLE pass from Claude Giroux) but then they took their foot off the gas pedal and thanks to former Flyer RJ Umberger found themselves tied at 2 with about 10 min left in the 2nd. Happily though, their funk didn’t last very long and they rebounded with 2 more goals to take a 4-2 lead into the 3rd period. One of those goals was absolutely breathtaking. Jeff Carter scored off the faceoff. Literally. The ref dropped the puck and as soon as it hit the ice Carter shot it on net and it squeaked by Garon. It’s the kinda move you try in a video game but NEVER see in real life. Carter said after the game that while he does practice that shot the couple times he’s tried it in a game it’s never worked. It happened so quick and was such a bang bang play that the crowd didn’t even realize what had happened for a few seconds. Anyways, the Flyers actually increased their lead to 5-2 about halfway through the 3rd period on a beautiful wrist shot by Daniel Carcillo. Happily, the Flyers defense held on in this one and though they conceded a late goal, pulled out the victory 5-3. While it was by no means a perfect game (too many turnovers and Emery looks like he’s still working out the kinks) the victory put an end to the 2 game skid and sets the Flyers up nicely because they’re set to play their next 5 games at home. Win at least 4 of them and the Flyers will be in a great position heading towards the Olympic break.
- FLYERS 2, RANGERS 0 – NOW THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKIN’ ABOUT BOYS!!! A hell of an impressive win for the Flyers tonight. Last month the Flyers shut the Rangers out 6-0 at MSG in what Rangers coach John Tortorella considered possibly the worst game of the season. So the Flyers knew going into this one that the Rangers were gonna come out amped up and ready to play. But the Flyers were ready for it. The first period was very physical but had a lot of back and forth action to it, with a real playoff-like atmosphere. It was a lot of fun to watch. With a little less than 5 minutes to go in the period James van Riemsdyk took a loooooong outlet pass from Chris Pronger, skated in on Ranger goalie Henrik Lundqvist and after having his initial shot stopped, smacked the rebound into the net for a 1-0 Flyers lead. It was a great pass by Pronger (even if it may have missed its intended target) but an even better play by the rookie forward. His grit & determination got him the goal. The 2nd period was where things really ratcheted up a notch because there were 3 fights in the period. First, Dan Carcillo pummeled Marion Gaborik. Now I realize Carcillo’s a fighter and Gaborik’s a scorer, but Gaborik dropped his gloves first!! After the game the Rangers (including Tortorella) were pissed at Carcillo but I don’t know what they expected him to do. If they were that pissed about it, there were 4 other Rangers on the ice who could’ve jumped in and gone after Carcillo instead. The second fight saw Scott Hartnell DESTROY Sean Avery. Avery is widely hated by the Philly fans and Hartnell crushing him DEFINITELY made the fans’ night. Also, Avery was acting up all night so seeing him get his ass beat was fun. The 3rd fight was a draw between Carcillo and Avery (which you knew was coming). The Flyers headed into the 3rd period up 2-0 thanks to a Mike Richards power play goal with about 3 seconds left on the clock (courtesy of a Marc Staal deflection). The 3rd period was a tight period that saw only 1 more fight (Arron Asham and Aaron Voros fought to a draw) and a lot of back & forth action. The Rangers actually pulled their goalie with about 2 minutes left in the period but the Flyers defense stood tall and prevented any damage. Ray Emery pitched his first shutout since coming back from injury and the Flyers defense deserves a lot of credit for that because he wasn’t tested all that much. A special shout out to captain Mike Richards – he was everywhere in this game. He laid a bunch of hits, got to loose pucks, played the power play, the penalty kill, and even scored a goal. Best game I’ve seen him play in a while and a good way to shut the Philly media up. Overall, a GREAT win by the Flyers against a hated division rival and a team they’re looking up at in the standings (the Flyers have actually shut them out twice in a row now, outscoring them 8-0 in the process). The next game between these two (Sunday March 14th) will be a doozy!!
- FLYERS 4, HURRICANES 2 - The Flyers keep on rolling. They capped off a long week with a pretty thorough dismantling of the Carolina Hurricanes. The Flyers haven’t lost to the ‘Canes in a long time and they weren’t about to start today. Much of the credit for today’s victory goes to goalie Ray Emery who was ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC all game and really stood on his head in the 3rd period to preserve what was a 3-2 cushion at the time. Defensively the Flyers probably played their worst game all week but it came on a day when Emery was playing his best. So things worked out nicely. Dan Carcillo got the first goal of the game when he stole the puck from a ‘Canes defenseman, skated in on Manny Legace, made a nifty little move and beat him top shelf. Eric Staal tied things up on a power play with a minute left in the period. But unlike previous games where that kinda thing might’ve adversely affected the Flyers, they came out in the 2nd period and really took the game to Carolina. Goals from Chris Pronger (on the power play) and Jeff Carter 1:45 apart increased the lead to 3-1 heading into the 3rd period. Though Carolina would get to within 3-2 very early in the period, the Flyers, led by Emery’s stellar play, held on throughout the period and Jeff Carter added an empty net goal VERY late in the period to lock things down. The win wasn’t the prettiest of the week, but it still counts for 2 points in the standings. By far the best part was seeing Ray Emery make great saves – he seems to be rounding back into form at the perfect time.
NEXT UP: THE PITTSBURGH PENGUINS - That’s right. Good old Cindy Crosby and his Penguins come to town tomorrow afternoon for the 4th game of the season series. Curiously, this will be the 2nd time this season that the Flyers have to play the Pens when they played a game the day before. In both instances the Pens were off the day before playing the Flyers. While some might call this a scheduling quirk, I call it BULLSH*T!!! It’s totally not fair that the Pens keep having the day off before playing the Flyers while the Flyers are playing a game. Some people might even think that the NHL is trying to help the Penguins (who, me? just because I think commissioner Gary Bettman sucks? Ok. Well maybe you have a point). Regardless, the Flyers bucked tradition last time out and really took it to the Penguins from the opening whistle, eventually winning the game 7-4. Games against Cindy and his team are always tight and competitive and I expect tomorrow to be no different. The fact that it’s the NHL game of the week on NBC tomorrow afternoon (before the NFL conference championship games) makes it that much more important. The Wachovia Center is bound to be loud & crazy and here’s hoping the Flyers kick the Pens’ ass just like they did the last time. The only question: who starts in goal? Ray Emery – who’s been great all week but is only just returning from injury or Michael Leighton – who beat the Pens the last time out but who hasn’t played in a little while? We’ll know in a few hours….