Flyers vs. ‘Canes 12/11/2008
Pregame. Buckle up, everybody! It’s time for the final installment of the Flyers-Hurricanes Holiday Tourney 2008, the last time these two teams will meet during the regular season. Two of the three games have gone into overtime, and two of the three games have been won by the Flyers.
Carolina’s defense is decimated at the moment: no Kaberle, no Babchuk, and no Wallin. The Flyers are still without Briere and Carle.
With Cam Ward out, Michael Leighton will be found between the pipes for Carolina. Antero Niittymaki, who is undefeated against the Southeast Division this year, will represent the Flyers in net.
First intermission. Hurricanes 1 – Flyers 0.
The Flyers should start reading my blog. Five days ago, I pointed out that Eric Staal was a player on the verge of breaking out who would be dangerous the instant he managed to score a goal. Staal scored that goal one night later, and he’s showing tonight why he was the MVP at last year’s All-Star game. He beat Carter in a sheer test of strength in that early faceoff that led to the opening goal. He’s beating the Flyers defenseman to the puck in their own zone, which frees space for his linemates to shoot the puck. And he’s crashing the net in a big way. A scary player, indeed.
Back to the Orange and Black for a moment. These guys need to start bringing a sense of urgency at the beginning of the game instead of waiting for a whole period to slip by before they realize what’s going on around them. This is the second game in a row where we’ve seen the Flyers too casual in their own end, leading to an opposition goal to start the game. A better opponent would have registered at least one more goal in that first period.
And to anyone out there who’s itching to start bashing the Flyers as a dirty club again, Scott Hartnell’s hit on Rod Brind’Amour was more than legal. Hartnell came in at a slow speed and put his shoulder directly into Brind’Amour’s chest. He didn’t raise his elbow up, nor did he aim for the head. So please spare me the Broad Street Bullies rhetoric.
Middle of second period.
If you want a lesson in how NOT to officiate an NHL game, turn on the Flyers-Canes game. From bad positioning in the corners to blown calls on the various fights, this thing is fast becoming a powder keg. One of these days, a player is going to get severely hurt because of such officiating.
Second intermission. Hurricanes 5 – Flyers 1.
The Flyers dug themselves a gigantic hole early in the game, and right now they’re just pulling that dirt in on top of themselves. Shoddy defense, lazy rushes, and a lack of desire for the puck equals big scoring deficits. Carolina’s riding a huge wave of confidence, and it will be a tall order for the Flyers to climb back in this one.
On a side note, I would be extremely interested to hear the referees’ rationale for the calls in this game regarding the rough stuff. It’s not the reason the Flyers are losing this game, by any means. But intellectually, I’m curious as to whether team reputations are playing a role here.
End of game. Hurricanes 5 – Flyers 6.
Wow . . . Wow . . . Wow. If I hadn’t seen it with my very own eyes, I’m not certain I would believe it. Overcoming a four-goal deficit is not easy under normal circumstances when there are two periods to recover, let alone a single 20 minute block of hockey. Especially when a team shoots itself in the foot the entire way with penalties and poor defensive coverage, as the Flyers did.
John Stevens drew an impressive amount of heart and determination out of his squad this evening. Scott Hartnell cracked his scoring slum—and how better to do that than with a hat trick? Scottie Upshall was rewarded for the constant pressure and energy he dishes out at the opposition. And what about those clutch plays from Simon Gagne: the game-tying goal and the first tally of the shootout? That’s all before we get to Antero Niittymaki, who discovered his mojo at the perfect moment to halt the last-minute Carolina chances as well as stand tall against Tuomo Ruutu and Brind’Amour.
And let’s give a little credit to the fans at the Wachovia Center. I was ready to bail on this team midway through the second period. So often, I’ve seen the fans down at the Wach do the very same thing, heading for their cars to beat the traffic over the bridge into Jersey or out to the crowded lanes of I-95 and the Blue Route. But not only did those crazies remain in the bowls, they chanted, cheered, and willed their team to a victory. Games like this are the ones that transform a cold stadium into a true barn.