With the Phillies taken out by the Rally Squirrel and the Cardinals, and the Eagles getting taken out by, well, almost anyone, the Flyers are suddenly "it" for Philadelphia.
You have to give it to this team. They found an identity and kept to it. The "rough style after the whistle, swing first and ask questions later" style is something they seem to like in their hockey in the ironically nicknamed "City of Brotherly Love".
So, I guess we will see whether the "most hated team in hockey" can lose the title to the long time owner of that title after the break.
Its funny, this distinction of who is hated and who is not. Generally, it has to do with how good a team is. But there are other factors. But eff that stuff, we got a game that is another "possible Finals matchup". But thats the funny thing about opinions on the game. They change every damn game, sometimes every period. Sometimes after a shift or two!
For instance, after this game, I am thinking Cam was right about Aaron Volpatti. I like kid because he plays the game hard, like it was playing minor hockey in the same small town he is from. But he was looking far from an NHLer and more beer leaguer tonight.
This game will be all about distinctions and opinions in the aftermath. I mean, look at all the talking points. Penalties bad and good on both sides. The referees keeping it close, and with 9 goals scored, it will look like an entertaining game. I wasn't. Whether by hook or crook, it was sloppy both ways, by both teams. Both goalies could be faulted on goals. Its all about how you look at things.
In the end, its today's NHL at work. The referees manufactured excitement, and both teams were so uncertain of what was a penalty that a game between two marquee teams lacked flow, and a solid exhibition of what they have to offer.
So, how did it go in the first period? Well, we got to learn that Greg Kimmerly and Mike Hasenfratz, while not totally inexperienced, might not have been the best assignment for this one. ( Kimmerly has been in the league since 93, and has had 9 playoff games ).
The Opening Frame
Not to make it all about the refs, because its the new NHL, and what can you do? It is what Todd said, "it is." But it was telling that an early JVR dive that was not called, when he went down way too easy when Kevin Bieksa was in his general area. Sadly, not a harbinger of things to come. A fast early pace that kept you watching back and forth, in what threatened to turn into "firewagon hockey" , but for the inability of either team to get a shot on net for almost five minutes.
So, the zeebs decided that this is a marquess matchup damn it, we need "shots shots shots...", with a fairly chintzy call on Sami Salo for what I think they called a hook.
Last years pretty meh PP for the home team got the first of many power plays. In honour of the obvious desire of Messrs Kimmerly and Hasenfratz, we'll break this period down into special teams play
1st Philly PP, just 2:39 in. Here's the thing. The Flyers power play got healthy on the Canucks tonight, but it mainly sucks. They sure did that throughout most of it. Again though, its about distinctions and opinions. I knew this game was going to be a referee cluster#$%^ when after a Luongo save, with the whistle long gone, Edler pushed Simmonds out from the crease and the one time King responded with a wild haymaker that should probably be penalized even without connecting. It was brutal. I know the Flyers are supposed to be the Broad Street Bullies, but....I guess you still have to connect to get penalized. He kept going enough afterwards that a more accomplished ref might have used that to show the teams who was going to be the boss. Set some parameters.
So, after Edler whiffed on a nice set up by Daniel, the second PP came along, as Samuelsson took a dummy penalty in the offensive end on Giroux. It was not needed, though again, it was not too much. A hold is a hold in today's NHL, and you will feel shame!
2nd PP, this one at the 5:50 mark. The power play of the home team looked just as inept, until The Stanchion's hillbilly cousin from Philly decided he would get involved. With everyone setting up for the puck along the boards, an innocent Pronger dump in got him an easy point when the puck settled in front of Giroux driving for the back of the net. After wiping the smile off his face, he beat a helpless Luongo ( out of position while expecting the ring around, like every other goalie in the league would be ) up high for the flukiest goal I have seen for a while. A totally inept looking power play was now 1 for 2, when it looked like the Canucks would get out of the penalty troubles early, looking strong early on the PK.
Sadly, ( and there must be a stat for how many times skilled, and even unskilled guys go for the stick lift along the boards and get someone in the face with their stick ) the penalty problems would continue, as Henrik did just that to Braydon Coburn, who made sure everybody in the rink and around the country saw it too.
3rd PP, 7:57 into an obviously not going the way they wanted it opening period for the Canucks. Luongo was doing what he had to do when the Flyers got chances on the power play. They did have some over the first three chances. Luongo made a wonderful save on this one on Matt Reed, was all over a Briere shot, and made a wonderful reaction save on a puck off Higgins as well. Burrows, off a great Ballard clear, got a chance late shorthanded, and the Canucks had killed another off. But for the lucky goal, that's good right?
So, after a solid chest save by Luongo, Rinaldo somehow skated away to the bench to laugh at the Flyers good fortune when, after running over a defenseman ( I think it was Edler ) when the puck was long frozen, one Alexandre Burrows went in and gave him an even gentler push in response ( it was called a cross check ) and somehow got a penalty, the Canucks fourth. It was a ridiculous call that showed us why the two refs assigned to a sexy marquee matchup had a total of only 40 playoff games between them over 29 years of service. I don't care. This one is worthy of a little ref bitching. A FOURTH straight power play on that?
4th PP, 7 seconds less than three minutes since the last one, one of our best Pkers, because he is obviously the Devil. Maybe it was the fact that of the first eleven minutes, we were looking at the fourth straight PK on the guys that do that. It started out well. They were winning faceoffs and clearing pucks, just like the plan. Or, maybe it was all the practice the Flyers got at it. Whichever, they executed perfectly when Pronger was allowed tp load up up top, and Hamhuis got in the way to help Wayne Simmonds screen the goalie even better. The double screen was too much for Luongo to see, on a shot that went post and in for a 2-0 lead.
So, it was kind of startling when Alberts was dumped twice...once behind his net while making a great breakout pass, and again as the Sedins raced away, without a call. I mean, four straight, is it usually not how this goes? There was easily some "penalizable" ( new word, pat pending ) contact there. The Canucks, finally able to play five on five, were exerting their play on the game as well. Of course Ferraro took this opportunity to tell us how much they sucked, but thats OK. Ray's a professional right?
Finally, something was called the other way, as Scott Hartnell got the stick up on Jannik Hansen for last year's power play kings to go to work.
Canucks PP, with 4:27 left. It looked just like it is supposed to, with some fine puck movement. This time, they changed it up, and on the goal, it was Henrik Sedin up at the left point. The Flyers penalty killers left him for someone to cover for the pass that was obviously coming to them, only to see Henrik Sedin shoot it. Bryzgalov made the save, but Mikael Samuelsson was there for the rebound and an easy goal to narrow the score line to 2-1.
Cody Hodgson had a solid chance soon after when he found himself out with both Henrik for a minute ( or maybe it was Daniel!), and his line had a great shift, where even Marco Sturm managed to look OK.
What followed was really the only goal I would "blame" on Luongo. A long shot from the point that he has to freeze layed in front of him. With his teammates on a change. James Van Reimsdyk beat Roberto's glove to the puck, and he tucked it home for an opportune goal to make it 3-1. Kevin Bieksa has to take some of that one on himself as well, not covering JVR when he had time to.
I have to admit, even though at this point I did not know what was going to be called one way or the other, I was surprised when Rinaldo was allowed to plaster Andrew Alberts with a hit right into the numbers ( an identical play to one they did call later in the game ), without any consequence. Its "THE" hit that the league and Sheriff Shanny are all over right?
Even with another solid Twin powered shift, where Edler almost scored, the Canucks were unable to get back to even, against the tide of all the special teams play. However, Hartnell ensured they would start the second when, as Bieksa was skating by their resident Ginger, he popped him in the face. Juice responded with an MMA takedown and a good punch in the face while he was down, but the refs decided that they would call the first punch and not the second.
Unintentionally funny comment of the period ( a new bit I am test driving tonight ), comes to us from the fine folks at Hockeybuzz. One dshiddy had this to say about the goaltender for the visitors tonight
As a backup he'd be great. Plus, imagine how good of a coach he'd be for Schneider on how to handle the puck behind the net.
so, there is that. Like I said though, there was only one goal I really would put down as his fault in the first.
So, as the canucks came out for their second power play of the night, it was like it usually is when you get one at the beginning of a period. A bit disjointed. A great setup on the first unit was thwarted by Chris Pronger and his reach, which brought out the second unit. Marco Sturm had a moment here, settling it down on entry and setting up Sami Salo for a Salo Bomb that Bryz' was able to smother before Hodgson could get the rebound. The first unit came back out, but they could not get set up in the final seconds, and a rush that looked promising was fuddled when Bieksa looked like a free skate patron and not a pro hockey player, taking them off a potential 4 on 2 by not stopping. It did look like it was more than him though, as rushes from the Twins and Burrows, the third line, and others all petered out at the blue line.
But they were forcing the play more, in one of the longest stretches of five on five all night. The Canucks cashed in that play with a wonderful read and jump by Edler on Jaromir Jagr, checking him, getting the puck down low. Burrows made a nice touch to Henrik for a goal that made it 3-2, and looked like the harbinger of things to come. Maim Lapierre almost tied it on the next shift, but the new #1 in Philly made a save. That tying goal was coming!
Perhaps it would have been. On a play that was not his fault, you just wished Roberto Luongo could have made a big save to give his team time to get back to even. He made a big save on Giroux on a slick Pronger feed. But on what was probably the team's worst defensive zone coverage of the night ( well, there was more than one choice there! Top 3...), everyone was running around. Sturm and Samuelsson were no worse than Hodgson on this shift, and really, the only guy that stayed in position and did not follow the puck mindlessly was Keith Ballard, but a nice pass from the rookie Couteurier ( sp?) to Jakub Vorachek ( it was our prized rookie at center that left Vorachek alone ) gave the one time Blue Jacket a chance to unleash a shot he got all of. Again, not blaming the goalie. But it would have been nice to hold the score there. It came only 1:51 after the 3-2 goal.
The team did not respond that well to this one ( hell, my shoulders slumped watching at home), and the Flyers had some great pressure for a while. But honestly, Canuck haters should just shut the hell up about the "diving" rep. James Van Reimsdyk ( though when he does it, I am sure its called, "doing what it takes to win". ) was already by Aaron Volpatti on an entry into the zone, and was going down as well. Somehow, the guys in stripes saw a hold in there, when really, it looked more like a full gainer with a twist to me.
The Flyers power play had a lot of practice tonight. They went 2 for 5. But this one was Luongo coming through for his team. He made a monster save on Jagr, and that was about it. Lapierre had some solid PK work on this one as well, though the Flyer rookie Couteuriere ( huh?...my apologies to his family. I do get our guys spelled right all the time!) continued his great game with a shot off the post.
It seemed to get the Canucks going too. They were the better team the rest of the period for sure. Chances and turnovers were falling like pennies from heaven, and the lines were changing like the colours of the leaves on the fall trees. After mixing up his lines at about the thirteen minute mark, a line of Hodgson, Burrows and Higgins dominated an entire shift, and cashed in when Burrows went behind the net, was patient with the puck, and fed Chris Higgins at the line in close for a great piece of skill in close. Perhaps Bryz should have had that one, perhaps not. But, suddenly it was 4-3 with 4:29 to go in the period.
We were basically in firewagon hockey mode for the rest of this period, and this game for that matter. Chances, blown coverages, turnovers in all zones. It was ugly in that respect. But as fans, we love the back and forth. It was far more "forth" for the visitors. They had some chances, but it was Luongo that made the best save of the night when Jagr found himself alone and tried to deke him. Lui went into "Gumby" style and got a toe on it, and then smothered his attempt on the rebound for a great reaction save.
The visitors got to the end of two down just one, and after a 1st where the Flyers outshot the Canucks 14-9, the Canucks led the total at 23-20 after two. They were doing OK in the other stats as well, considering the 10-4 disadvantage in PIM, helped along by the 8 turnovers the Flyers had given up after 40 minutes.
This one started out with a Claude Giroux chance right off the opening faceoff, which forced a strong save, and then a better one on Claude as Jagr showed his strength with the puck, holding off Salo to set it up.
The line bingo had pulled the numbers 9-36 & 20 out of the hopper, and they looked OK together. Then Samuelsson was out with Lapierre and Weise, and they looked solid as well. The Twins and Burrows were still together, and after some pressure and a chance, JVR went the other way and was denied on a play by Salo that may or may not have been a penalty, depending on the tides and whether it is a full moon. Van Reimsdyk obviously thought it was, and said a bad word to the referee, who sent him to the box to feel shame.
After some initial trouble getting set up, they got it going and threw the puck around like the power play we know and love around here. After some Sedin magic that I swear drew a gasp from the Flyer faithful, only to see Samuelsson ring one off the post, Sammy then made a smart pass instead of the shot from up top to Daniel Sedin, who had an open net after Bryz' pulled himself out of position anticipating the shot. Daniel buried it for a suddenly well earned tie game.
But after a solid shift by Cody Godson and his new linemates, the Canucks shot themselves in the foot once again. This time ( again, this time only 1:01 after tying it up ), everyone went to the bench but Sturm, who took a wrong angle to the puck carrier. He was rubbed a bit by a Flyer to keep him off Briere, but he has to do better there, and after missing that, he at least tried to get to Mezaros, who had all day to walk into the slot.
Again, you "hope" that your goalie can rob someone there, but that was a pretty Grade A chance, and he beat our goaltender high glove side for the 5th and final goal for the home team.
Not that the refs did not try to help. Though, it was the Flyers too. They almost gave the Canucks that goal back and more. Let's see. It was ; Zac Rinaldo for a totally deserved roughing penalty. After the AHL PIM magnet got away with all sorts of stuff this game, he tried to run Volpatti into the boards when he had already went down on a hit at the blue line at 5:50. Chances came and went, with maybe the best on a Salo Bomb.
It has to be said too, the Flyer PK stiffened up, as did Bryzgalov. The Canucks were the team pressing at five on five after this one, ( one play I did want to mention specifically was Hodgson getting in both Simmonds and Voracheck's face when Lui had frozen a puck and they were still standing over him and digging a bit. He did what a hockey player does for his goalie, and he stood in nose to nose without drawing a call or a punch )
The Flyers then gave the Canucks a third straight PP in the period. This one was a no doubter on Jagr for a hook on Edler where his stick was tangled up in the hands. This one really should have scored, with both Twins and Edler getting solid chances to do so. Cjris Higgins almost cashed in on one in close again at the end, but the Flyers, and especially Pronger, were solid on the penalty kill.
Lapierre was now out with 27 and 36, and they had a solid shift again. Volpatti came off the bench and actually had a chance driving the net, and with CoHo and Weise, kept the pressure up. Vorachek then showed he is learning the "Flyers Way" when he complained to the referee that "I held up" after another of the hits Shanny and Co hate, this one on Alberts. Yeah, maybe you slowed a bit Jakub. You also drove him in the back, hit him in the numbers, and followed through with the push.
Edler started this one off with a shot that broke Talbot's stick. Instead of them working him because of that, they kept trying to set up the perfect pass. The shot that finally came was blocked by the one time Penguin to break the pressure, and other than a weak attempt by Sturm, this opportunity was found wanting as well. They were lucky then that, after Couteriere lost his stick ( the kid was out for important draws late, played great on the PK and five on five...good pick!), the ensuing scramble led to Pronger giving Edler a push that he may or may not have embellished, drawing the 5th and final PP for the Canucks on the night.
Bryzgalov did his thing though, the Flyers hung in desperately, and while there were some chances late, nothing was to come of it. Although our "smart kid" Cody made a great play to get the faceoff deep as Luongo went to the bench, and the Canucks desperately tried, the Flyers were solid in their own end as well, and that was that.
So. Fans of the Flyers will be happy, though they were shitty in many ways tonight as well. Fans of the Canucks will point to the almost comeback ( although, let's face it, most of the haters will blame this one on the goalie and bray for Schneider to be the #1 ), when the power plays late have as much responsibility as the inept play in their own end for most the night.
All about how you look at it. At least Philly can point to one winner to make them forget about the Eagles.
Me, I fully expect the Canucks to have a strong bounce back game against the Wings. They always play them well in Detroit, and must feel angry at all the opportunities they had to pull out a game they have only themsleves to blame for.
Lastly, the final "unintentionally funny comment of the night". I could go back to the kids at HB, who are all blaming Luongo something fierce. But that is just too blase. Too, "on the nose". As usual in these kind of games, he looks less than perfect when he does not have his team playing the game and system last year's #1 defensive team knows how to play. Fot this one, we turn to someone who calls himself "Habssuck2" from CBC. I think he might be a Leaf fan with that handle, but I won't judge! Anyhow, in a game where it looked to me that the Flyers, especially JVR, were trying to draw calls with dives all night, and only the Pronger penalty late on Edler could have been construed as "diving", here is his expert take...
Now i see why the choker fans are embarassed to come out......what a bunch of divers,i thought the scabs were divers but these guys take the cake.11- 3rd period minutes and can't deliver!!!and then you have belly flop lou.I wonder of dirty still thinks the west is the power house?
41 years of gutless,cupless DM hockey....embarassing.
I guess "dirty" is a Canuck fan! ( I would say to Mr Suck that it was not the best reffed game, but perhaps he should look at both teams, at the least.
Enjoy a briefer take on the Detroit game as I finish up with the Film Fest, and I'll be back for the Saturday night game versus the Oilers. I tried to be brief, honest! Its just that so much happened in this one.