Boy, have the last few days have been a little satisifying for the Flyers’ fan or what? For example, the moronic Canadien hockey press and this curious Sabres' blog has gone from mocking the Flyers’ game (too slow and plodding), chances (down 2-0 in games and looking real confused) and admiring Umberger’s unconscious form laid out at HSBC Arena in Buffalo to a respectful silence. To continue the same theme, this respectful Buffalo News article gets it right: Sabres Get Serious Reality Check.
I like this quote best: "Basically, the Sabres looked frightened, the Flyers frightening." It is the sort of article that could run in the Philadelphia Daily News when the Eagles' lose a division game! Delicious!
Fools! The number one tonic for ailing teams in Philadelphia- brusied, beaten, embarrassed- is to come home to the willing embrace of America’s number one ill-tempered mob. Seriously, how many times does this sort of thing have to happen before people “get it”?
I’m being silly of course. To be honest, the Flyers haven’t really looked that much more orderly at home. Esche has been pretty good- some big stops on breakaways and penalty shot- but you can’t hang great on an effort that features four goals allowed. And continually, the defense is alternately badly outskated and outmanuevered, taking the sort of penalties you sort of have to take after being beaten, or barely hanging on for long periods.
Last night, down 2-0 fairly quickly, the Flyers dug in. Desjardins has been a little lost this series- but he keeps digging- and easily had his best game of the series: “+2” for once- and an unbelievably big goal to get the Flyers back in it late in the first period. Since returning to Philadelphia and getting the match-up choices, Hitchcock continually plays the Forsberg line against Buffalo top grouping- and they candidly are destroying Buffalo in that contest. Umberger avenged his national shellacking with the tie-breaking goal in the third period. The referees kept the whistle in their pocket- giving the Sabers only four power plays- despite the Flyers featuring the same level of murky dasher play that put them in the box somewhere between 8-12 times previously. And facing two gut checks in the third period- first when quickly blowing the lead in the third period, then after re-taking it- the Flyers did what they have kinda done pretty well all series (outside of the second game): grimly hang on.
But while still outplaying the Flyers, Buffalo has undoubtedly gotten a little less crisp, a little more jumpy. I think the Flyers' relentless physical assault is taking some toll. Buffalo's public list of wounded is growing. Defenseman Teppo Numminen was missing- albeit for non-hockey reasons. Now, winger Jochen Hecht has an "upper-body injury." And the quiet, private list is undoubtedly growing also.
I have no real unique observation- other than to say “Kudos to Freddie Meyer”. I’ve been rough on Freddie all season long- he’s been a real poster child for the nature of the “emergency NHL sixth defensemen who sort of has to play”. But I thought he played pretty well last night- and he got some ice time late. Protecting the one goal lead, Hitchcock gave him a chance to play.
Looking at Freddie, you are never impressed with his work inside his own blue line. Yes, he has some offensive punch (27 points in 57 games- not bad). But last night, Hitchcock seemed to make a determination that since he can’t trust two of his other defensemen (Rathje and Gauthier) to stay out of the box in the third period- to give the kid a look. Freddie was able to sort of stay within himself. He has good wheels- he got to the puck and made good decisions: no bad turnovers, moved the puck up ice quickly, no penalties, paid the physical price of NHL corner play. I only mention this because the Flyers needed to find some more positive play from the defense- and they got some last night from Freddie. I bet he gets sixteen minutes again in Buffalo.