Flyers v. Carolina 9/27/2008: Postgame
I waxed nostalgic in my other post, but I did want to offer a few comments on the players for anyone who wasn’t able to attend this afternoon’s game. I know we’re all looking for some insight into guys trying to make the squad, and into the Simon Gagne situation.
Gagne first. Taking a roughing penalty 10 seconds after you leap over the boards for the first time in 8 months says a lot. It says you’re healthy, confident, and serious about playing the game. Gagne may be ready to deliver such a hit, but he also played rather tentatively throughout the afternoon, using his speed and smarts to avoid physical contact in most situations.
There’s no need for panic just yet. It’s only his first game back, and he wisely seemed as though he wanted to pace himself. That said, avoiding checks in the preseason is one thing. In the regular season, it can get you seriously injured.
Luca Sbisa – The 2008 first-round draft pick showed some excellent potential. He’s a smooth skating D with plenty of puck handling ability. He sees the ice rather well, pinpointing passes to Simon Gagne at the far blue line a few times. That’s exactly what the Flyers needed in their system, and it’s nice to know that RJ Umberger was well spent in June.
Sbisa still needs to build better decision-making skills and physical strength if he wants to survive in the NHL. In addition to some rather poor choices with the puck in his own zone, he was outmatched on size in the corners and along the boards.
What I liked best, though, was his response to those situations. Sbisa plays with spunk. If someone shoves him, he shoves back. When Carolina crowded too intensely around Biron, Sbisa made his presence felt. And for all the times he was knocked over, Sbisa always responded by keeping his head up and looking to jump right back into the fray. For a rookie trying to make it with the big boys, that’s the type of heart you love to see.
The Grinders Line of Cote, Asham, and Downie – This group was the most entertaining forward line by far. The three guys mucked it up in the corners, ground it out in front of the net, and wreaked general havoc wherever they went. Any drama or friction that happened usually originated here. And often finished here as well – two fights in the first period for this line. That kind of hockey is always good for the soul, especially after a long summer.
Ossi Vaananen – I can already see this guy being a fan favorite in Philadelphia. He loves to play the body, and he’s especially good standing up at the blue line in the face of an oncoming rush. With Smith signing in Ottawa and Hatcher on the LTIR, the Flyers needed some size and grit on their back end.