Flyers vs. Avalanche 12/16/2008
First intermission. Avalanche 1 – Flyers 2.
It was another special teams-dominated period for the Philadelphia Flyers. They gave up one power play goal to the Avalanche. Then the Flyers scored on the power play and again shorthanded to regain the lead.
As goes puck possession, so goes the Flyers. When they had the puck during the first period, they put strong pressure on the Avalanche in the offensive zone and moved the puck east-west to create scoring chances. However, any time the Avalanche were able to gain puck control, the Flyers struggled to keep pace defensively. Hence all the penalties. The Flyers need to tighten up the defense and be more successful in puck battles if they want to win the game.
Paul Stastny capitalized on a great opportunity off the faceoff during the power play to take the first goal of the game. Had he and his teammates taken advantage of the many other breakdowns by the Flyers, this could easily be a 4-0 game right now. So for the Avalanche, the game plan should be to continue crashing the Flyers net and start finishing those chances.
Second intermission. Avalanche 2 – Flyers 4.
The Flyers managed to come out on top in a period defined by weird bounces and fisticuffs.
If the Flyers lose this game, we won’t have to look far for the turning point. With 45 seconds of a 5-on-3, the Flyers seemed content to pass around the perimeter and wait for the perfect shot. As I’m sure John will share with anyone willing to discuss, Budaj isn’t exactly a master at stopping the puck. So starting shooting the puck! Stop waiting for the highlight reel goal and shoot! That’s how Mike Richards bounced one off the top of the net and scored.
If the Avalanche lose this game, it will be a little more complicated to explain. They did bring some pressure to Niittymaki, and David Jones had an excellent deflection late in the period to cut the deficit. But the Avalanche aren’t doing the little things, like winning puck battles along the boards, playing disciplined hockey, and protecting their goaltender. Those elements were a major factor in last night’s game against Detroit, and none of them have showed up at the Wachovia Center. Especially the discipline element – the Flyers are the number one ranked power play at home.
Should be an exciting third period – expect a few more “glove tosses” before this one wraps up.
Postgame. Avalanche 2 – Flyers 5.
The Flyers are a hot team right now, and that was reflected in the on-ice activity tonight. All the bounces went Philadelphia’s way—and what a bounce it was for Mike Richards.
That being said, if games were played in numbers, the Avalanche would be the ones walking out of the Wachovia with the victory. Check out the numbers:
Faceoff wins – 64%
Shots – 31
Blocked shots – 16
Giveaways – 6
Faceoff wins – 36%
Shots – 24
Blocked shots – 14
Giveaways – 20
As much as I know John would like to, I’m not sure we can place all the blame on Budaj. Watching the highlights this morning, none of the Flyers goals were really caused by goaltender error. Let’s take a quick look at those goals:
1) Mike Knuble: Mike Richards had the puck down along the goal line. He had a passing lane out to Kimmo Timonen – the normal Flyer power play option is to go to the point – but instead chose to pass to Knuble. Knuble got the deflection goal. Not only are deflections nearly impossible for a goaltender to read accurately, the play was hard to judge as well
2) Jeff Carter: Simon Gagne made a fantastic backhand pass to Carter, who rocketed one past Budaj. From the goalie’s perspective, you have two dynamic players equally capable of scoring on you who have managed to get past the defense and spread out. That means Budaj had to choose one, because he couldn’t move post-to-post fast enough. And Carter’s wrist shot is good enough to get past even a Brodeur or Luongo.
3) Mike Richards: It’s a flukey goal. They happen to everyone, even the Flyers. Take a deep breath and let it pass. That’s all you can do.
4) Joffrey Lupul: If Budaj could see past Scott Hartnell’s butt, I’d be very surprised. Hard to stop a puck if you can’t see it, especially when Lupul launches it with such a hard shot.
5) Simon Gagne: This was probably the most stoppable goal of the night. Gagne deflected Timonen’s point shot at the very last moment – practically on Budaj’s pad when it changed direction.
Between the numbers and the Flyer goals, I would suggest that the Avalanche doesn’t want to play in front of Budaj. And short of making Raycroft the new number one, I’m not sure how you solve that problem. Maybe John has some ideas . . . 🙂