Philadelphia Flyers vs. Montreal Canadiens 11/15/2008
First intermission. Flyers 0 – Canadiens 0
- I loved the how the Philadelphia Flyers started this game. They brough energy, passion, and good defense from the very first faceoff to the final horn. The first line with Simon Gagne, Mike Richards and Mike Knuble worked incredibly hard, setting the tone for every other member of the team. Glen Metropolit defended his Jared Ross after the awful headshot from Tomas Plekanec. Even fourth liners like Ross and Josh Gratton were putting pucks on net. Great period.
- Speaking of Josh Gratton, talk about a man who wants a job in the NHL! He’s a classic grinder and fighter. Yet he is out there blocking shots, creating offense, and topping it all off by taking on top heavyweight George Laraque. That’s how to win points with a coach.
On a final note for this first intermission: While Colin Campbell is handing out suspensions, he ought to take a long, hard look at Alexei Kovalev. The hit Kovalev delivered on Simon Gagne in the corner was as dirty as they come. The puck clearly had moved on. Gagne didn’t turn into the hit, and he didn’t put his head down. He didn’t even expect the hit because he didn’t have the puck! Kovalev, without making any effort to stop, threw his elbow directly into Gagne’s head; the last time I checked, the NHL rule book classifies that as an illegal play.
What makes this play even worse is that it’s not the first time Kovalev has pulled such a stunt. Just one month ago, I watched him drill rookie defenseman Luca Sbisa head first into the dasher boards at the Wachovia Center. That play wasn’t penalized, nor did Colin Campbell suspend Kovalev. Had a Flyer made an identical play at the other end of the ice, we all know what type of penalties and suspension would have been doled out. The crests and names on the sweater should not be the determining factor in these situations! Head shots are all too serious a problem for that type of bias.
I know that the referees missed the call. I also know that last year, several hockey analysts dilligently studied tape, frame by frame, to prove that Chris Pronger was guilt of stepping on Ryan Kesler. They brought this to the attention of the NHL and the fans, and Pronger received the suspension he justly deserved. Note that Pronger plays for an American team and Kesler for a Canadian club. I can only hope that those same analysts show equal passion and effort when a Canadian team dishes out such behavior against at American team.
Second intermission. Flyers 2 – Canadiens 0.
- Scottie Upshall opened the scoring with a well-deserved goal. Ever since John Stevens put him in the press box late last season, Upshall has been one of the hardest working forwards in the Orange and Black. He moves his feet. He throws hits. He makes those desperate, diving reaches in the offensive zone to keep the puck in play. Because he works so hard, it makes every goal he scores that much more enjoyable.
- I absolutely love the effort from the fourth line. Two of the Flyers’ scoring chances in the second period belong to combination of Arron Asham, Josh Gratton and Jared Ross. I guarantee you no one predicted that before this game started. True, as Steve Coates pointed out on the Flyers’ broadcast, they occasionally get too excited, and all three end up behind the Habs’ goal line. But you have to be fan of the passion and energy they’re bringing to this game.
- I’m babbling on about the Flyers’ offense here, but I’m not unaware of the defensive end. It may look a little sloppy and worrisome when the Canadiens take off with odd man rushes and tic-tac-toe passing. However, the Flyers are maneuvering so well within their own zone, deflecting passes with their sticks and forcing the Habs out to the boards. Even when the Canadiens do manage to wiggle through traffic towards the paint, Marty Biron has the whole net protected. I just want more of the same for the next 20 minutes!
Postgame. Flyers 2 – Canadiens 1.
The Canadiens have one of the most potent third period presses of any team in the National Hockey League. The Flyers have extreme difficulty holding onto a lead. What does all that mean? This win is a major confidence booster for the Philadelphia Flyers. The entire team produced a strong, consistent 60-minute effort, and they earned two points in a very tough building.
Marty Biron gained additional momentum tonight. He’s been improving steadily since the game opener, and he’s beginning to make his case to remain in Philadelphia as the number one goaltender at the end of the season. Like most butterfly goalies, he allows the puck to come to him. Biron adds the ability to “make saves”—that is, to direct the puck into corners or deflect it towards his own forwards rather than simply covering and taking the face-off. Should he perfect that combination of skills, Biron could prove an impenatrable foe to would-be scorers across the league.
The final key to the Flyers victory tonight: discipline. It would have been easy for such a young team to overreact to the questionable hits from Kovalev and Plekanec. Instead, the Flyers extracted revenge where it counts—on the scoreboard. Such focus is the hallmark of a great team, so I applaud the boys for their work on St. Catherine Street tonight.
Five out of six points on a road trip, a victory over some good teams, and a game against Atlanta tomorrow night. It’s been a good week of hockey so far. Here’s to many more just like it.