Written By: Mark “The Hard Hitter” Ritter
There was plenty of hype surrounding last night’s matchup between the Philadelphia Flyers and the San Jose Sharks and there was plenty on the line for both of these clubs, mainly, bragging rights.
Arguably, two of the NHL’s best teams, the tilt between the Flyers and Sharks had a number of story lines, front and centre was the matchup down the middle, namely the Flyers’ Mike Richards and Jeff Carter vs. the Sharks Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.
Richards and Carter bring a unique combination of skill and toughness that, for the most part, is unequalled in NHL circles. Thornton and Marleau are two of the NHL’s most skilled forwards in the game and, when you add a player of Dany Heatley’s ilk to the mix, well, you got yourself one heck of a lineup.
In the end, the Flyers were left bloodied by the Sharks attack as the Sharks skill and passing ability would prove to be too much for the Flyers. Richards managed to post one assist on the night, but Carter failed to register a point and the duo was limited to just four shots on goal and were a combined minus one on the night.
On the flip-side, Thornton and Marleau looked dominant last night and, with the help of Dany Heatley, who scored a hat-trick, outclassed the Flyers duo in every facet of the game. Somewhere, Team Canada’s leader, Steve Yzerman, was smiling...what a great line that would be.
Thornton was able to showcase his tremendous passing abilities, seemingly able to pick apart the Flyers defense, which, for the first time all season, looked lethargic and uninterested. In the end “Jumbo Joe” as Thornton is so aptly nicknamed, netted four assists, as impressive a game I have ever witnessed Thornton play.
Let’s cut to the chase, shall we? The Flyers got “punked” last night and, in the end, their overall effort was a joke. Jeff Carter had a terrible game, positing a minus two rating and was six of 23 (26 percent) in the face-off circle, hardly what we have come to expect from Carter.
Blair Betts was another Flyers’ player that was dominated in the face-off circle, going 6 of 17 (35 percent). For the most part, Mike Richards was 50/50 on face-offs, but his one for three effort against the Sharks Manny Malholtra, brought him to nine for 19 (47 percent). Puck control, it seems, was a huge factor in last night’s loss.
Chris Pronger and Matt Carle, arguably the NHL’s most dominating defensive pairing to date, were out of sync and out of breath most of the night, seemingly unable to control the Sharks down low.
Where were the big hits? Why didn’t anyone step up to thump Heatley into next Tuesday?
The easy thing to do would be to point the finger at Flyers goaltender Ray Emery, fact is, when you consider Dany Heatley scored all three of his goals from less than three feet from the goal line, the blame falls on the Flyers forwards and defense for not disposing of Dany Heatley in the first place.
Simply put, you cannot allow a player of Heatley’s talent level to sit on the doorstep, something the Flyers know all too well now, albeit too late.
The Flyers took 10 penalties against the Sharks, highlighting the fact the Flyers were not playing a disciplined game. The Sharks made the Flyers pay, as they scored twice on the Power Play, proof that you cannot give the Sharks that many opportunities.
The Flyers are now one and one on their five game road trip, one which continues tonight against the Phoenix Coyotes, a team that, despite a strong start, is now struggling with a 6-5-0 record at Home and 4-5-1 record in their past ten games.
It’s always tough to pick yourself up after you have been beaten down. That said, you have to believe that Flyers head coach John Stevens will be reading his team the riot act today and will have his team ready to battle hard tonight.
Former Flyer Scottie Upshall is expected to be in the lineup for the Coyotes tonight and is sure to give the Flyers forwards fits. His tenacious style and high compete level is always tough to play against; every Flyer will need to keep their head up when Upshall is on the ice.
Beating the Coyotes would go a long way in reversing the embarrassing effort put forth by the Flyers against the Sharks. Pronger, Carle, Carter, Richards, and right down the line, will have to be better and be more physical, that’s what has got the Flyers to this point and failure to bring those attributes tonight will be fatal.
For the Flyers, the loss was brutal, embarrassing and a reminder that if you are not prepared to play hard for 60 minutes, you’ll get burned. It will serve the Flyers well to remember this game, tonight, next week and, for the remainder of the season.
It is what it is, was what it was and, hopefully, will not be repeated.
Until next time,