15 December 2009

Timonen, Boucher Shine in Winter Classic Preview

Last night, Chelsea and I were lucky enough to witness the Flyers’ third-period shallacking of the Boston Bruins in person at TD Banknorth Garden.

The first period was fast and furious, with plenty of chances for both teams. Ultimately, the Flyers were unable to capitalize on 1:12 of a two-man advantage, and the Winter Classic preview was scoreless at the end of twenty minutes.

For most of the second period, both teams matched the intensity of the first, combining for 22 shots. Flyers’ goalie Brian Boucher stood on his head all game, but was unable to stop a late-period deflection from right on the door step by Vladimir Sobotka. Shawn Thornton took a sharp angle shot which Sobotka deflected wide, but the rolling puck hit Jon Kalinski’s stick before crossing the goal line and giving the Bruins a 1-0 lead.

Flyers' coach Peter Laviolette rallied the troops in the dressing room between periods and the Flyers came out buzzing in the third, outshooting the Boston 15-7 in the final stanza.

Lighting the lamp first for the Flyers was James van Riemsdyk, who had been on a 12 game goal-scoring drought coming into Monday’s action. Riemer scored a Sobotka-like goal not even three minutes into the period, off a nice pass by Aaron Asham.

Halfway through the third, Kimmo Timonen fired a wrister from the point with traffic in front to beat Tim Thomas and give the Flyers a rare 2-1 lead. Kalinski, who fought hard all game, especially after the Bruins’ tally, picked up the primary assist on Kimmo’s second goal of the season.

With a minute to play, Scott Hartnell high-sticked former Flyer Mark Recchi to give the Bruins a 6 on 4 powerplay with Thomas pulled. The Flyers PK held steady with a good clear and some desperate blocked shots, before Timonen fired the puck from behind his own blueline to notch a shorthanded empty-netter, stretching the Flyers lead to two goals.

After the goal, Boston coach Claude Julien pulled Thomas again in favor of an extra attacker, but the Bruins were unable to beat a very stingy Brian Boucher in net.

What We Learned:

·     The Flyers need work on faceoffs very badly. Their team percentage last night was a painful 40.8% (20/49). Moreover, these are important faceoffs that Mike Richards and Jeff Carter continue to lose. Watching the game, I couldn’t help but notice how completely different the outcome could have been had the Flyers managed to win some more offensive draws. Likewise, a plethora of opportunities were given up following defensive zone faceoff losses. Time to tighten up boys.

·     It’s all about hunger. Watching Richards in the pre-game warm-ups, you could sense his excitement to play the game. He was singing along the arena music, going through his movements, and getting the team psyched up for the big game. Carcillo and Kalinski were some standouts in the effort department, both of the forechecking hard every shift, and throwing their body around. If they Flyers can put together the effort, they can put together the wins.

·     Powerplays. Even though they Flyguys couldn’t score on a lengthy five-on-three powerplay, the chances were there and the powerplay unit was doing the right thing. Cycling the puck, getting traffic in front, firing shots from the point. Unfortunately, even though the Flyers’ powerplay looked pretty good, I was much more worried when the Bruins got the man-advantage then I was confident when we got ours. It just doesn’t feel like the threat is there when our boys take the ice in those situations, partly because of the faceoff factor mentioned above.

·     Penalties. The Flyers were disciplined all game, with the exception of Daniel Carcillo Scott Hartnell. As much as I love this hairy mess, he absolutely cannot take a penalty with a minute to play, on the road, with a one-goal lead, with his team trying to end a huge skid. He took three minor penalties—the only Flyer penalties in the game—which almost cost his team. I’m looking for a healthy scratch once Blair Betts and/or Darroll Powe are back in the lineup.

Fun Facts:

·     There was a huge brawl during the Mites-on-Ice intermission game. I’m talking goalie on goalie action brawl. This drew a bigger applause from the Garden crowd than the Bruins play after three periods. Good work, kids.

·     The train ride back from the game was filled with “B is for bisexual” and “Fuck the Flyers” chants. Boston fans try to be as drunk and belligerent as Philly fans, but as anyone who has ever attended an Eagles game knows, Philly FTW on that one.

·     Last night’s game was Chelsea’s Christmas present from yours truly. Merry Christmas, honey, but don’t expect them to win every time.

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