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Postgame: Lightning @ Flyers 3/6/2008

Friday, March 7, 2008

Two different versions of the 2007-2008 Flyers exist on the ice.  One features poor defensive coverages, weak collapses around their own net, and an inability to move the puck into the offensive zone.  The other maintains the defensive perimeter, keeping the opposition along the boards and blocking all shots from the blue line; not only can the offense carry the puck into the zone, there is a strong forecheck and excellent puck protection.

Both squads showed up last night, and fortunately the latter prevailed.

A couple points:

– Flyers fans have been tough on Danny Briere this season.  Last night’s contest should win him serious points in Philadelphia.  Despite an extremely painful shoulder injury, Briere suited up for the team, scored a goal, and delived a solid body check in the third period (which the fans at the Wachovia Center applauded).  In a league where the best players need to bring their game every night, Briere demonstrated courage and leadership.

Jeff Carter is exactly the stud anticipated when he was drafted by the Flyers in 2003, ahead of Mike Richards.  His first goal, a backhand over the pads of Lightning netminder Mike Smith, could be described as Mats Sundin-like.  His game-winner reminded me very much of something I saw Peter Forsberg do in game 4 of the 2006 playoffs against Buffalo.  Forsberg carried the puck into the zone, around behind the net, out to the blue line, back down towards the goal line, and then made a perfect pass out to Eric Desjardins at the blue line; Desjardins scored on his slapshot.  Carter skated around the entire offensive zone, looking as though he’d shuffle the puck off to Kimmo Timonen at the half boards, but he turned and took his fabulous shot to bury the puck.

And another Forsberg-like quality for Carter: he single-handedly willed this team to a win. 

Riley Cote may not be the king of heavyweights in the NHL, but he can definitely deliver the goods.  After losing a bout with Andre Roy in the first, Cote came back with a KO in Round 2.  Roy apparently didn’t appreciate the situation he was placed in.  Whether he took issue with Cote challenging him at the end of his shift, the fans in the lower bowl taunting Roy while he was on the bench, or the oft repeated replays of the fight on the arena vision during each TV timeout doesn’t much matter.  And Cote’s response?  He just laughed.

I know many Philly fans lamented the loss of Donald Brashear as team heavyweight, and some questioned shipping Ben Eager off to Chicago for Jim Vandermeer.  But Cote has improved his fighting abilities as well as demonstrated competent hockey skills worthy of fourth line time.  Just check out his recent assist on Jim Dowd’s goal against Ottawa. 

Will he have a roster spot in the playoffs?  That remains to be seen.  But until then, I’ll enjoy his gritty performances in the regular season.

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