Friday, May 16, 2008

Nine Down, Seven To Go

For the first time in the playoffs, the new NHL served the Flyers well- as the referees rewarded Philadelphia’s first period energy with like a zillion away from the puck penalties on Pittsburgh (well three- but that is a lot in one period). The Flyers cashed in twice- added a bad, maybe lucky is better, goal by Lupul- and ended the first period up three.

From there, the Flyers battered defense corps dug in and grimly held on. Randy Jones played his best game I’ve seen: quarterbacking the 2-for-4 power play, picking up an assist, playing 26 minutes without being on for a goal against. I don't know how he wasn't one of the three stars. Twenty minutes from Modry, fifteen from Parent. Really, only Lasse Kukkonen had a rough night on the blue line. Not a bad effort from a collective that features three guys who, in a perfect world, would be solid contributors for the Phantoms. In fact, rather than scratching Parent, let him play and let Kukkonen watch.

And of course, the fisticuffs at the end were a satisfying cap on the night. It was a pleasure watching Hatcher tune up Malone- a pure pro: three shots to the head, casually palming the helmet off, a few more shots for good measure to complete the instruction, pull Malone’s jersey up- and then look directly to the linesman to stop it before he hurt his near helpless opponent. And the Pens’ braintrust further obliged by stupidly running Crosby out there with ten seconds to go, so Richards could slash and punch him a bit. That’s real smart- running your franchise player out there to engage in theatrics in a lost cause on the road.

I want to sit here and write constructs about victory! To wax endlessly that the apparent return of the Flyers’ top defensemen- Timonen and Coburn- will go right at the Flyers three terrible weaknesses in this series: a pairing that can deal with Malkin rather than survive, restore the quality special teams (both ways) that enabled the Flyers to survive the “new” NHL and provide puck carrying defensemen to attack the Penguins trap.

Probably all true- but, you know, the Penguins are good: two outstanding lines, good goalie. Three in a row, two on the road- let’s see the Flyers get one more before we entertain even vague hope of a miracle.