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Flyers vs. Capitals: Them’s Fightin’ Words

Sunday, December 21, 2008

“What goes around, comes around – and it will.”  – Bruce Boudreau, Washington Capitals head coach

That was Coach Boudreau’s response to a question about John Stevens’ decision to place some of the Flyers’ skilled players on the ice during the final minutes of Saturday’s 7-1 matinee victory.82454936JM022_WASHINGTON_CA

Interesting words, particularly since Boudreau is well-known for instituting a extremely offensive system in Washington. His ruling philosophy is that the best defense is a high-octane defense. His teams, whether in the AHL or the NHL, bring energy and determination every night. They take risks to create scoring chances. They usually allow a couple goals per game – something that would give Lou Lamiorello multiple heart attacks and strokes simultaneously if he ran this squad.

And as the saying goes: Live by the sword, die by the sword.

Why should the Philadelphia Flyers take the foot off the gas at any point during the game? Why, in a league where teams are so evenly match, would any coach allow his players to lay back for a series of shifts? Particularly against a Washington club that can swing momentum in an instant if they get the slightest opportunity.

Just over a year ago, the Flyers defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 8-2 at the Wachovia Center, thanks in part to hat tricks from both RJ Umberger and Joffrey Lupul. (Here are the recaps from NHL.com, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and the Flyers’ website, all included in the hopes of being unbiased.) Michel Therrien complained that Stevens put the top power play unit out during the last 10 minutes of the game, to which Mike Knuble responded that the NHL isn’t little league baseball. This is a professional sport; teams play to win.

Did the Flyers try to embarrass the Capitals? No. They replaced Andreas Nodl (who was reassigned to the Phantoms) with Josh Gratton, a player hardly known for his scoring prowess. Consummate defensive defenseman Lasse Kukkonen filled in for the scratched Glen Metropolit. These are not moves that suggest Paul Holmgren was stacking his team with skill in preparation for this meeting with the Caps.

John Stevens, coach of the Philadelphia FlyersMoreover, the Flyers routinely carry three scoring lines – a team trait that I know for a fact Bruce Boudreau, the Capitals, and their fans are very familiar with. Was Stevens supposed to play only the fourth line for the last five minutes of the game? And didn’t Stevens keep Simon Gagne, arguably the Flyers’ best defensive forward given that he’s tied with Evgeni Malkin for second in the league in plus/minus, on the bench for the last half of the third period?

Bruce Boudreau was trying to fire up his guys for their next meeting with the Flyers, slated for January 6th at the Verizon Center. I can appreciate that. But please don’t act like what John Stevens did was some violation of the hockey code or some sleazy, cheap roster management. Stevens made good smart coaching decisions.

Ironically, I suspect Boudreau would have made the same from his side of the bench, with or without the dramatic threats.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. John permalink
    Sunday, December 21, 2008 10:19 am

    Ah, the classic ‘running up the score’ claim. I hate to quote New England fans, and all but: “If you don’t want the other team to score… Stop them!” 🙂

  2. Sunday, December 21, 2008 2:41 pm

    So true.

  3. John permalink
    Sunday, December 21, 2008 5:11 pm

    Anyway, the Avs go for a /second straight/ win right now! I get to follow the Avalanche and Broncos at the same time. I think this is what nirvana feels like… 🙂

  4. John permalink
    Sunday, December 21, 2008 5:14 pm

    And in case you’re wondering, yeah, it was Raycroft in net on Thursday against the Bolts {2-1 SO}.

  5. Sunday, December 21, 2008 7:06 pm

    Well, I think Boudreau was referring to the last few minutes of the game – not the entire game, so those substitutions before the game even started are irrelevant.

    Maybe he was trying to fire up the Caps, but let’s be honest. This is not a guy complaining about the Flyers scoring 7 goals, but trying to increase that lead in the dying minutes with their top offensive threats out there for no reason. Benching Gagne tells me nothing; Gagne may normally be a threat but he wasn’t one in that game, even with a goal.

    And just so there’s no confusion, Boudreau routinely puts out third and fourth line guys on late power play shifts and regular shifts when a game is readily in hand – sure, there’s no rule against scoring as much as you possibly can, and if it were a two or three goal lead I’d understand. But there’s something called gamesmanship here; the Caps weren’t coming back from a 6 goal lead in the final 3 minutes of the game.

    Anyways…enough being an obnoxious Caps troll, I’ll go back to my cave now 😉 Looking forward to a rematch in a few weeks!!

  6. John permalink
    Sunday, December 21, 2008 7:40 pm

    From joy to agony so quickly.. Denver lost yet again and Budaj chalked up another ‘L’ to boot. I knew it was too good to be true!

    And while I don’t necessarily disagree with what was said in the above post, I have to agree with FF here.. “Why should the Philadelphia Flyers take the foot off the gas at any point during the game? Why, in a league where teams are so evenly match(ed), would any coach allow his players to lay back for a series of shifts?”
    No way /any/ coach in /any/ pro sport should encourage taking it easy because his team is in control. Whether it be something like the Broncos who had the AFC West all but locked up three weeks ago, but are now facing the very real possibility of missing the postseason, or {I know NFL references aren’t really encouraged on this blog, 😉 however, this was the first example I could think of} a game like the Broncs-Bolts game early in the season where Denver had the game, but let up and allowed San Diego back into the game. Luckily we won that contest, but the point remains: If you don’t close things out, more often than not, bad things happen. Players should be giving 100% the ENTIRE game, not just until they feel comfortable with their lead.

  7. Sunday, December 21, 2008 10:44 pm

    CapsChick – You’re welcome to troll around here any time. I enjoy a little friendly disagreement – it’s healthy and good for the ego. 🙂

  8. Sunday, December 21, 2008 10:50 pm

    John – we should just get you a direct line to Granato. If he would only listen to your goaltending advice, the Avalanche would be undefeated!

    And contrary to popular belief, I am not anti-NFL. I fully support any sport which gives the less-fortunate opportunities for advancement. Where else could a guy who’s stupid enough to shoot himself in the leg find work that pays more than a 5-figure salary?

  9. John permalink
    Sunday, December 21, 2008 11:06 pm

    Some Plax hating? I prefer AJ Smith as my target instead. 🙂

    Wrong! Raycroft has one loss, against the Blue Jackets at the end of October. If I recall correctly, that was the game I watched on NHL’s GameCenter.. But still, you can’t argue with the facts. Both goalies now have the same 2.79 GAA, but Raycroft has won 71.4% of his starts. Budaj? Try 39.3%.
    On Andrew’s current pace, in theory, he could win 46 games if he started 65 of our contests. And while I know that can’t actually happen, I’m willing to see how long he can keep up his pace while starting!

  10. Monday, December 22, 2008 12:02 am

    You may target anyone you wish here with one exception: TO. Even though he’s gone, people in Philly still spend countless hours complainig about him. He’s the only football conversation I will not tolerate.

    So AJ Smith is safe 🙂

    Have you tried watching Budaj on GameCenter? If watching Raycroft makes him lose, then watching Budaj might make him win. Just a thought . . .

  11. John permalink
    Monday, December 22, 2008 3:41 pm

    Don’t worry, I don’t usually get involved in TO discussions. However, I’m perfectly willing to rip the idiot who fired a coach who went 14-3, but lost to the Pats.. Then the genius hires Norv Turner {?!} to coach his squad and all of a sudden the wheels start coming loose. Sure, Norv got them one round farther in the Playoffs, but guess what; the Bolts still lost to the Patriots! So what did they gain by firing Schottenheimer exactly? Uh, AJ was happier with his new coach.
    Of course, then you have an even brighter move: Smith let Lorenzo Neal, a Top 3 Fullback, go. And now the Ravens have him and, huge surprise, they have had great rushing success. San Diego on the other hand has struggled all year running, even with Tomlinson in the backfield.

    Anyway, enough about that. I’ve tried watching Budaj, but it just doesn’t work. Even superstitions can’t overcome his problems. 🙂

  12. John permalink
    Tuesday, December 23, 2008 4:06 pm

    *Fingers crossed* Word has it that Raycroft will get the start tonight against Phoenix due to Budaj’s recent struggles. Could it be that Granato is coming around?

  13. Tuesday, December 23, 2008 4:35 pm

    Quite possible that all the holiday egg nog worked a little magic on Granato.

    How do you think the Avs matchup against the Coyotes?

  14. John permalink
    Tuesday, December 23, 2008 4:43 pm

    I knew I loved eggnog for a reason. 🙂

    No clue really! I haven’t gotten to see the Coyotes at all this year.. But based on past games, not well. Raycroft’s never beaten them, and they’ve won the past few against us.. But they’re terrible on the road this season, so maybe that will help us. And besides, I don’t like to put too much stock into past games. Well, outside of very recent ‘past games’ that is.

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