Talk about a tale of two teams. The Flyers who played in Tampa were not the Flyers who came out on the ice last night in Sunrise. The final score was 6-4, but was not as close as it sounded. Even with two fights to open the game, they came out sloppy and sluggish in the opening stanza and fell behind 2-0 to a good goaltender who we were trying to score at the deadline (Vokoun). It is only fitting that Leighton was pulled after the Flyers fell behind 4-2 in the 2nd period after the huge rumors about the Flyers making a move on a goaltender. He was pretty solid in the opening period. The first goal was a fluke goal going in off of the torso of a Panther after a shot went wide, and that kind of spelled the night for the Flyers. He let in a couple weak goals after that, particularly in the 5-hole. At 6’3 and being a butterfly goalie, he cannot let things like that happen. He takes up the whole lower portion of the ice with his size and positioning, GET THE PADDLE DOWN.
Albeit those couple goals, the loss was by no means Michael Leighton’s fault. The Flyers were outshot, outworked, and outplayed in the first period and they were lucky to only be down 2 goals. Leighton actually had some nice saves in the first, but he couldn’t do it all. The discipline level of the Flyers was lackluster last night. I felt like I was watching a game from last year. Stupid penalties were being taken by players who weren’t moving their feet, and they were making so many errant passes (many of which were the no-look type). They did not play Flyers hockey, they did not play Peter Laviolette hockey. Boucher came in to see his team on the penalty kill and let up a quick goal on the powerplay and another soon after. Then the Flyers score at the end of the period and look like they have some life with a VERY nice play by Ville Leino who saw his first action in a Flyers uniform. They kept fighting and in the 3rd period while Boucher calmed down and made some stops. They mustered 20 shots in the period but Vokoun was solid and made some amazing saves to keep the Flyers off the board as they completed a season sweep of the Flyers after the Flyers swept the Lightning the night before.
Here are a few things I have to say that are more positive about last night’s game:
-Ryan Parent got his first goal last night in a great play by pinching in to pick up a rebound. He hasn’t looked spectacular in his first two games back, but last night he showed some improvement in his own end and looks to be gaining confidence after that back injury. If he can stay healthy and help out Coburn who has continued to improve from the turnover machine he was in the beginning of the year, we can have a solid 3rd pairing.
-I strongly believe that Lucas Krajicek has been playing some damned good hockey. He of course has an easier job playing with a guy like Kimmo, but they are both great puck moving defenseman who have been rarely caught out of position lately. I’ve liked him joining the rush lately to create offensive chances and I hope I’m not speaking too soon on a guy we picked up off the waiver wire earlier this year.
-Ville Leino got a goal in his first game as a Flyer last night since Darroll Powe was out. He showed how the Western Conference does it with a nice little dangly move with great pressure and net presence by his linemates Blair Betts and Ian Laperriere. I love Powe’s energy and checking, but you can’t have everything. I’m not sure how good this kid is yet, but he helped generate a lot of chances during the 2nd and 3rd period for that 4th line.
–Mike Richards gave Booth a chance to redeem himself last night in a short-lived fight. After Richie gave him a concussion earlier in the season, Booth wanted some revenge. Gotta love how Richie understood that this guy had a score to settle, and he was happy to oblige in some fisticuffs. For all of you anti-fighting people, what now? That fight served no consequence except for a 5 minute major to each participant and prevented Booth from taking a cheap shot and possibly injuring our captain.
-Simon Gagne has seemingly found that swagger and confidence back. Since that New Jersey overtime winner, he has shown improvement. In the game against Tampa he registered some points and was flying around the offensive zone. Simon was making moves and getting himself in scoring position like I haven’t seen in a long time. Last night was no different. I saw him skate around defenders again and use crisp passing with linemates Richards and Carcillo to create scoring opportunities. He had no goals or assists to show for it last night, but I hope he continues to right the ship and play well. That could certainly help in this home stretch of games and into the playoffs.
-Jeff Carter has goals in 6 straight games, the first Flyer to do that in over 10 years. With his slow start this year, he’s another player we could really use down the stretch.
Flyers are back in action tomorrow night at Buffalo before hosting the Maple Leafs on Sunday night in what will be a good weekend of Flyers hockey. The Flyers are closing in on Buffalo in the standings and they are coming off of two straight tough losses to good teams (Pens and Caps). Should be a great game, and the follow-up on Sunday will be nothing short of a brawl. We all know what happened the last few times these teams met. They better be ready for a hard hitting game on Sunday, but not before hopefully sealing 2 points in Buffalo against USA Olympic hero Ryan Miller.