Flyers vs. Lightning 12/2/2008
There are three questions that should guide your viewing this evening:
1. How will Steve Downie perform in his first NHL game since being traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning? Downie went from Philadelphia to the Lightning’s AHL affiliate, received a suspension, and then was placed on the NHL roster for this evening’s game. A lot of the press are focusing on the “tough guy” element of Downie’s game—Tim Panaccio, Ed Moran, and Sam Cachidi all sought out Riley Cote for comments on potential rough stuff tonight.
I would focus more on Downie’s actual performance tonight. Because of the suspensions, people forget just how talented and tenacious he can be on the ice. It will be interesting to see how he responds to playing since his first trade, especially against his former club.
2. How will Danny Briere perform in his first game after suffering a groin injury? Danny Briere returns to the lineup between rookie Andreas Nodl and sniper Joffrey Lupul. Briere and Lupul showed some chemistry together last season after Simon Gagne was lost to injury. I expect that Nodl is included on this line to give some defensive responsibility—not often you see a rookie forward held up to lend defense alongside a veteran and a solid NHLer. We’ll see whether this line can match the intensity of Knuble-Richards-Gagne and Hartnell-Carter-Upshall.
3. How will the Flyers rebound from their two-game losing streak? The Flyers started out slow with a 6-game losing streak, rebounded slightly with a win-one-lose-one streak, and then hit a strong patch in mid-November. Sounds a lot like last year’s roller coaster, doesn’t it? Scott Hartnell mentioned on Monday Night Live last night that the best teams are consistent. Well, tonight is the Flyers’ chance to show that they know how to produce that consistency.
POSTGAME. Flyers 4 – Lightning 3.
The special teams battle ended in favor of the Flyers in overtime on – what else – a power play goal. Let’s take a look at our three big questions.
1. How will Steve Downie perform in his first NHL game since being traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning? Downie produced a fairly solid effort for Rick Tocchet this evening—a goal, a plus-one rating, two hits, and a scrum early in the game. Come to think of it, Downie and Tocchet seem to have a lot in common in terms of style. His response to playing against his former team was actually rather mature, especially for a player of Downie’s youth and history of immature decision-making. From what I saw tonight, Downie definitely deserves at least one more game in the Lightning uniform.
2. How will Danny Briere perform in his first game after suffering a groin injury? By getting another injury.
Briere left the game midway through the second period. He registered one penalty, a missed shot, a blocked shot, a giveaway, and a 25% faceoff percentage. Oh, and he had one hit. Although I’m not sure how much a hit from a guy of Briere’s size and weight is actually worth. Looks like Glen Metropolit will be back on the third line on Thursday night.
3. How will the Flyers rebound from their two-game losing streak? The Flyers played a decent game this evening when they stayed out of the penalty box. Despite being assessed 32 penalty minutes, the Flyers still managed to stay within six shots of Tampa Bay. Despite losing two forwards and a defenseman—Scottie Upshall to a game misconduct, Briere and Matt Carle to injury—they maintained strong legs through the overtime.
Mike Richards and Jeff Carter continued their dominance with two goals apiece. (By the way, to those who only know Carter for his scoring prowess, the young center also blocked 3 shots this evening.) Joffrey Lupul picked up two assists and six shots. Ossi Vaananen played strong, earning a plus-one rating and delivering 3 hits. Braydon Coburn and Andrew Alberts also played well; each had 3 blocked shots.
To address the Scottie Upshall major penalty for boarding and his game misconduct: The League will certainly review this play tomorrow and probably dish out the obligatory two-game suspension for all Flyers involved in questionable hits.
Granted, I am a Flyers fan and carry a bias as bright orange as the Flyers’ third jerseys. But this was a poor call by the refs. Upshall deserved a penalty for boarding, and possibly even a major. However, the game misconduct was rather ridiculous. Artyukhin was admiring his pass, ceasing to pay attention to his surroudnings. While Upshall should have eased up on the play, he didn’t leave his feet nor did he aim for the head. He pushed Artyukhin from behind – that’s boarding, but not a game misconduct.
Special credit should go to all penalty killers for the Flyers. Despite long stretches of time short-handed in the second period, they hung in there and made it possible to keep the game tied at one. Later in the game, they saved rookie Luca Sbisa from having a very embarrassing penalty late in the game become a costly mistake. This game was won on the backs of the penalty killers; they deserved a standing ovation after killing the 5 minute major.
Now it’s up to the Flyers to convert this game into momentum for Thursday’s matchup against the hated New Jersey Devils.