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Postgame: Flyers @ Islanders 3/29/2008

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Move on over, Chris Drury!  There’s a new captain clutch in the National Hockey League.

Mike Richards showed tonight why he worth every penny of his 12 year deal – 1 goal, 1 assist, plus-2 rating, 11 shots on goal, and 61% in faceoffs.  Big games are the result of little things done well.  Richards won two huge draws in the final minute of regulation, keeping the puck in the Islanders’ defensive end and preventing Ted Nolan from pulling his goaltender in favor of the extra attacker. Then Richards gave his team energy despite four minutes of penalty killing in overtime by actively interrupting passing lanes with his stick.  At one point, Richards even generated some offense in a 2-on-1 with Lasse Kukkonen; he took the shot on Dubielewicz, was tackled to his stomach, and managed to reach out to place the rebound in Dubie’s pads, thereby preventing Kukkonen from being caught up ice while shorthanded.

Flyers of note: 

Danny Briere proved that he doesn’t need Vinny Prospal in order to have a big game.  He scored the first Flyer goal and won the shootout.  Unfortunately, he’s still having defensive issues – a minus-2 for the night.

Joffrey Lupul had a huge night, scoring his first goal since returning from a high ankle sprain.  Also, Lupul demonstrated determination while sprawling behind the Islander net, managing to sweep the puck out to Danny Briere.  No assist awarded, but Lupul deserves major credit.

Jason Smith continues to show why he deserves to wear the “C” on this team.  Plus-one.  3 shots.  4 hits.  Late season into the playoffs are the sweet spot in Smith’s repertoire, and he is delivering.

Flyers on notice:

– I mentioned in my predictions that Stevens’ should consider using Antero Niittymaki in goal given Biron’s issues in back-to-back games.  (The AP release had original slated Biron as the starter.)  While I stand behind that decision, the Finnish netminder was not solid for his team this evening.  On multiple occasion Niittymaki wandered far afield from his crease, either sliding well out of position, playing the puck poorly or coming so far out that he couldn’t recover to stop second opportunities.  This tendency resulted in two of the three Islander tallies.  Had Niittymaki failed to come up big in overtime and shootout, we would probably be discussing Stevens’ bad decision to replace Biron.

Steven Downie finally got back into the lineup because Prospal was out with the flu.  He played a quiet game for the most part.  Until he took an ill-timed penalty late in the third.  A scrum had broken out between Jason Smith and an Islander; Downie decided to be the third-man-in.  Refs almost always penalize the third guy in this situation.  Not the way to keep a spot on the bench at this time of year.

Randy Jones technically has a plus-one rating.  But compared to the other 5 defenseman, Jones put his team in precarious situations throughout the contest with weak passing.  One of his 3 missed shots bounced off the end wall, was taken by the Islanders towards the Flyers net, and resulted in the third Islanders goal. 

Overally, decent effort.  But as Richards told the media, this is not the way you want to win hockey games.  Hopefully this is enough to propel the Flyers into their last 3 games.

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