Ed.Note: Sorry for the late recap tonight. Had computer problems (re: forgot my charger like an idiot) today at the game.
PHILADELPHIA -- Nikolay Zherdev hasn't spoken to the media once following a home game this season. He's exhausted every excuse not to speak, ducking out of the locker room before reporters enter and even going as far as to claim ignorance of the English language.
But when you become your teams' hottest player and you score two goals in a game against your former team, you kind of run out of those excuses. That doesn't mean you have to make things easy, though. So there he was today, chatting it up with the media -- in Russian. He speaks perfect, or at least good, English.
And as the questions come in, hes nods, smiles and glances up as if to imply yeah, I know what they're saying, let's just fake this. He responds in Russian, we wait for the translation, and then the charade goes on again. Just another bizarre chapter in the curious resurgence of No. 93.
If this were happening weeks ago, when Zherdev wasn't playing all that well, this would be a story in itself. But now, Zherdev is lighting the world on fire. He's getting more ice time and he's making the most of it. He's among the team leaders in goals now with 13, and his line is giving the Flyers great balance in the production department.
His antics are no longer a frustrating annoyance of an enigmatic, egotistical former star. Now, they're the hilarious side show of a player proving he belongs back in the NHL.
The irony, of course, is that this happened today with the New York Rangers in the building. On Blueshirt Banter Radio, the radio show over at SB Nation's Rangers blog, prior to the season, I was told by the hosts that we'd be sick and tired of Zherdev's act by the time the middle of the season rolled around. Wishful thinking from the Ranger faithful?
Certainly seems that way now, doesn't it? Zherdev now has himself three goals in two games against NYR this season, as well as three goals in his last three games. As a result, the Flyers have won two huge games back-to-back against two very tough opponents. His recent play is a major reason why the Flyers are being talked about as perhaps the best team in hockey this season.
After the jump, a bit on the defense today, some more post-game notes, questions with answers and the comment of the day.
Andrej Meszaros stepped into a much larger role today and shined. It's tough to get a particular read on how he looked by just reading the stats (not that they necessarily make him look bad, mind you), but Mez and the entire defense didn't really seem to miss a beat today. That's a hell of a feat considering who they lost on the blueline.
A big part of the defensive success today was the play of Oskars Bartulis, who admitted that it's not exactly easy to step in and play after sitting out for weeks. He said he felt a bit tired in the third period, and he only played about 12 minutes. In any event, he looked fine in those 12 minutes -- the only time you really even noticed him was one shift where he made a strong foray into the offensive zone -- and that's a huge fact given some were thinking he'd parked on the bench while the Flyers rolled five defensemen.
A few notes, courtesy of Flyers PR...
- The Flyers have now won five in a row, seven of their last eight and have gone eight games without a regulation loss. They have grabbed 15 of a possible 18 points through nine games in December.
- Nikolay Zherdev tied a career high with his two goals. It's the ninth time in his career he's scored two goals in a game and the second time with the Flyers (Nov. 18 vs TBL, 8-7 L).
- Brian Boucher is now 6-0-1 in his last seven starts with a 1.66 GAA and a .943 save percentage.
- Braydon Coburn was responsible for seven of Philadelphia's 15 blocked shots today. Oskars Bartulis led all Flyers in hits with four, while Jeff Carter was 13 of 17 on faceoffs.
- Today's attendance of 19,898 was the fourth-largest regular season attendance in Flyers history.
No video today thanks to some technical issues. Might have some audio in a bit, but that's not a promise.
Questions with Answers
- Dale Wiese gets the call up today for the Rangers. He tries to make a name for himself and drops the gloves, right? Hahahahaha, poor guy. Yeah, he dropped the gloves after embarrassing himself twice in about two minutes -- once on a great acting job after kicking the puck in the net, and again when he dumped a Gatorade on himself in front of perhaps millions of people.
- How does Oskars The Grouch look in there today? Good, good. Went over that above.
- And what about Andrej Meszaros? Big shoes to fill... Same, good. Coburn led the defense in ice time, which is worth mentioning, since it's not like Mez was THE guy to replace Pronger, but Mez was solid.
- Then there's Matt Carle, without Pronger for the first time in a while. How's he look? Didn't really notice him out there... although he did see some PK time, which is abnormal. He was fine, no mistakes or anything. As we said, though, it was just a very strong defensive game all around.
- Henrik Lundqvist is great on the road lately. Can the Flyers beat him again? He looked unbeatable for a while there, but once the Flyers got one by him, they never looked back.
Comment of the Day
He has a drinking problem
>> jreed, on The Life of Dale Wiese