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Postgame: Rangers @ Flyers 3/21/2008

Saturday, March 22, 2008

In case you missed last night’s game, here are the highlights.

I wrote yesterday about miracle moments, the little plays that propel a team into magnificent games.  And Mike Richards did not disappoint me.  His moves were perfection personified – blocking a shot, pressuring the puck through the defender, breaking away, and an amazing shot high gloveside on a 6’6″ goaltender.  Throughout the game, Richards dominated whenever he was on the ice, creating numerous offensive chances for the Flyers and drawing 3 penalties against the Rangers.

The team followed Richards’ lead.  They left the gate with intensity, spending much of the first shift in the offensive zone and sustaining that pressure with consistent coverage at the blueline.  With the exception of Riley Cote’s reckless penalty for dropping the gloves a little too soon, the Flyers maintained excellent discipline, using their speed and strength to force the Rangers into desperation plays.

In a postgame interview on WIP sports radio, Danny Briere expressed that the team executed their best – but boring – hockey in the first two periods.  I strongly disagree with the boring part of that comment.  Good hockey is fun to watch, regardless of the score.  While Richards had the lone goal in the game until halfway through the third, the combination of the Flyers smooth defense – blocking shots with sticks and bodies – with a fleet-footed offense made for a highly entertaining game.  The crowd, which brought raucous energy into the building and exploded with each Flyer goal, showed appreciation for every good shift, regardless of the score. 

Briere also mentioned how much fun it was to play in front of an impassioned crowd.  Should the Flyers demonstrate the same level of consistency, determination, and pressure every night, it will be easy for the Flyers faithful to loudly voice their appreciation. 

The Flyers confidence is not without holes.  Marek Malik’s goal, which probably could have been stopped by Biron, seemed to raise the panic level, slightly knocking the Flyers off the game that had won the first two periods.  On the shift that Jagr scored, I counted four Flyers simultaneously laying on the ice to block shots.  I love the desperation and sacrifice, but the breakdown in intelligent thought late in the game does not bode well.  Hopefully killing off a late overtime penalty and winning in the shootout is enough to boost the team’s confidence, ending the slump.

One quick point – For those who are not familiar with the system, the Flyers choose their 3 stars by allowing one member of the press box to select all three.  The press rotate so that everyone gets a chance.  Last night, Keith Jones of VS and the Flyers broadcast team selected Danny Briere (2 goals), Christian Backman (3 assists) and Jeff Carter (shoot out goal, -1).  How did Carter leap over Richards into the stars of the night?  Mike Richards was by far the primary reason the Flyers won this game.  Scoring the first goal and the first shootout goal, drawing penalties, blocking shots, and creating offensive chances – he did it all. 

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