Flyers vs. Sharks 10/22/2008

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Flyers vs. Sharks 10/22/2008

Pregame.
I wrote my more extensive meditation on this game a little earlier today. What I didn’t include there was my biggest wish for the Flyers: put something in the win column. It’s completely possible for the Flyers to come tonight in front of the home crowd with gusto and break the losing streak. It will require grit, endurance, and probably some ugly goals off shinpads and rear ends and God knows what else. (Insert any of your own Patrick Thoresen jokes here.) But it could definitely happen.

I’m an eternal optimist.

Quick note. Just announced on CSN that Gagne was not out for the warm-up. Rookie Andreas Nodl will get the nod to serve as winger with Briere and Knuble in his very first NHL game. In Philadelphia. With no wins.

Now that’s pressure.

First intermission. Sharks 4 - Flyers 3
Except for the fact that San Jose didn’t have a team until the 1991-92 season, slap some vintage jerseys on these guys and you have a classic 1980s game.
I’m not going to break down everything the Flyers are doing wrong right now. At this point, I think everyone out there could submit a doctoral thesis on the subject. Spending too much time in the box, defensive lapses, failing to clear the porch, yada yada yada . . .

I love the compete level from the majority of this team. Jeff Carter looks like a young Sundin. Scottie Upshall is hitting everything in sight. Scott Hartnell reminds me of a healthy Michal Handzus tonight with his clutch faceoff win and making plays from his knees. Mike Richards is showing why he deserves the C with his patience and his defensive plays. Andreas Nodl and Luca Sbisa hardly even look like rookies.

What kills me is the way Andrew Alberts and Steve Eminger can’t seem to match that. I understand that they’re not the most talented defensemen in the NHL, now or ever. But the two of them are standing around, watching the puck go by, and worse, watching the Sharks skate right past them. That third goal is a direct result of neither one talking to the other; both ended up in the same corner while two Sharks are waiting to pounce on Antero Niittymaki. That lack of energy will kill even the best team, let alone one that has yet to find a win.  If it weren’t for the fact that it would over-exhaust the top four, I would bench both, put Kukkonen back on defense, and start shuffling the forwards.

Quick note. Martin Biron in net to start the second period. Not a reflection on Niitty’s play, so I’d guess this is more about motivation. Hopefully not a sign of injury to the Finnish goaltender.

Quick note. That play where Boyle banged one home past Biron on the loose rebound reminds me so much of the Setoguchi goal on the rebound Niittymaki allowed on Saturday. Similar situation, with the Flyers controlling play and generating offensive chances. The Flyer forwards are giving their team the support they need, but these goaltenders need to come up bigger in rush situations.

Second intermission. Sharks 5 - Flyers 4
What an incredible goal from Joffrey Lupul. Scott Hartnell started it off with a patient play along the half wall, dishing a back-handed feed for Lupul on the opposite wing. Lupul was headed towards the corner and released the puck about a foot from the goal line, putting it top shelf over the sprawling Nabokov. Guys like Lupul need to score to be confident, and scoring a beauty like that should do the trick nicely.

On the topic of goaltending, I don’t intend to imply that Biron isn’t a quality keeper. I’m more frustrated by those little losses of focus from one or two players that disappoint the entire team. All 23 guys on the roster need to follow the same work ethic to be successful, especially when things are not going well.

And back to the subject of benching players, note that Alberts hasn’t made an appearance since about a third of the way through the second period. Lasse Kukkonen has been returned to his spot on the third D pair with Eminger.

John Stevens’ other coaching move of note: Andreas Nodl on the penalty kill with Jeff Carter.

Quick note. Anyone else think that Biron looks like he’s playing in slow-mo while everyone around him is in regular time?

Postgame. Sharks 7 - Flyers 6
I appreciate the resiliency and tough work ethic the Flyers demonstrated in this game. Several of the secondary players had fantastic performances, including Upshall, Hartnell, and Lupul. Kukkonen also played admirably and used his chance to crack the lineup wisely. Nodl presented himself as a cool-headed rookie, and Luca Sbisa continue making his case to stay in the NHL for a full season.

On the negative side, Marty Biron is shaky between the pipes. His confidence is shot, and he didn’t exactly blow anyone away this evening with his porous play. Alberts isn’t impressive either, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he found himself demoted to the Phantoms when Jones and/or Parent returns to the roster. Steve Eminger stepped up his play once rotated away from Alberts, proving once again that it’s the pairing and not talent that makes or breaks a D-man.

A disappointing overtime loss for the Flyers tonight. I would have chosen Carter, Upshall, and Lupul to shoot given their strong games and clearly hot hands. Also, those three do not have the widely known signature moves of Richards (toe drag into a backhand through the five hole) and Briere (deke ’til the goalie drops).

      
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