I was actually pleasantly surprised tonight. The Stars are in the middle of a road trip that’s pretty rough and they’re still not finished with it. Against Pittsburgh, they looked tired, and a lot of our key guys like Mo and Zubov just looked worn down.
They came out of it tonight.
Mittens came back from his groin injury to play, so lines are shuffled…again. At least we’re not doing like we were earlier in the season, where I was convinced lines were being created off of the old “pull it out of the hat” way.
The Stars struggled for the first ten minutes of the game before something somewhere starts to click. The loss of Jere Lehtinen is hurting the Stars, but they put Miettinen on the Morrow-Ribeiro line, which works beautifully.
Aside from the early attempt Turco made to stop Randy’s Jones’ goal from Pittsburgh, which looked like a five year old trying out a Slip-n-Slide for the first time, Turco played beautifully. He made some good saves and looked solid in net.
The big turnaround in this game, though, is the fact that the Stars aren’t leaning on the goaltender to save them. Offense stepped up in a big way here. Goals were scored by Ribeiro, Jokinen, Halpern and Miettinen. Sadly, there were no goals by Niklas Hagman, thereby dashing my irrational hopes of a Finnish hat trick.
Every single player improved. Many players who looked wobbly or just plain exhausted in the Pens game looked energetic and played solidly. I don’t think I have a single complaint or issue with the way the guys played tonight.
Philly, on the other hand, was a different story.
This road trip’s been a big long procession of meeting ex-Stars players in new cities. Langenbrunner plays for New Jersey now, Sydor for Pittsburgh and Hatcher for Philly. The longer we played, the more I began to worry for the guys. Philly got more physical as the game went on, and the Stars stuck with it.
Martin Biron didn’t look up to snuff at all and the fact that he wasn’t pulled from the game is surprising. Also, this game had a lot of penalties – seven from the Flyers and two from the Stars.
Halfway through the second period, I became seriously concerned for the health of Steve Ott, as in, “if they keep this up and someone lands a bad check, they might paralyze him”. It was open Otter season in Philly tonight. Now while Otter is paid to throw the opposition off their game, he kept getting nailed into the boards so much and at such awkward angles that I began to get worried.
When Mittens scored, Brad Richards knocked him flat down, face first on to the ice. (Not cool, Richards. Watch it. You’ve made it onto the List. THE List. The list of players that we hold near that we will never support, never like, and will cheer against every day for the rest of our lives. See: Jeff Finger, Ian LaPerriere, Sean Avery, Daniel Briere, et al).
Edit: An eagle-eyed reader has pointed out that Brad Richards’ name is actually Mike. This should teach me not to post when I’m running on no caffeine and distracted. Richards is still dead to us though. You can check out our nifty commenter k-mart out here for his blog.
Miettinen went out in the third to rest, apparently to avoid reaggravating the groin injury. (Thanks to Mike Heika on that one.)
In the closing minutes of the game, a Flyer player did something very, very stupid.
Matt Niskanen, our very own Happy Meals, had gotten behind the net and did not have possession of the puck. Riley Cote left his feet and nailed Niskanen in the head with an elbow. Kudos to the officials; they blew the whistle immediately and called a ten minute match penalty on Cote.
We’ve all heard about the Flyers suspensions and I have a feeling another one is coming. If not, a suspension is deserved.
I am well-past the point of feeling that this is a “fluke” with this team. The Flyers have not learned a very valuable lesson, which is that you can play a physical game but many times you don’t need to play a more physical game, you need to play a smarter game. Dirty hits like the one on McAmmond are hurting them and other players.
You’d think at this point the coaching staff would have a freeze-frame of that hit up in the locker room that says “DON’T DO THIS” on it. After so many suspensions, you would think this team would learn to make clean checks and hits. You would think someone would step back and say, “What’s the problem here? How can we fix it and make sure it’s not repeated?” It’s not a matter of the NHL being rough on the Flyers; the only real problem is that the league has been fairly arbitrary with the length of the suspension. This is costing this team a lot of players and a lot of money.
Why hasn’t this been fixed?
If I were a Flyers fan, I would be so mad right now. Is it possible to win with a team that’s half-suspended?
Luckily for us, Happy Meals is still up and scampering around and looks to be alright. He was still vertical after the hit and just looked a little dazed.
We won, but I turned off this game with the feeling that if you’re watching a game and you are hoping that no one on your team has to be carried off the ice on a stretcher…something is wrong there.
We’ll keep you posted on the Flyers situation. If the league announces anything, it’ll be sometime tomorrow.