Editor's Note: Jason took in the game in South Florida last night. This is a chronicle of his experience at the game.
Well I'm officially 0 and 3.
In my 3rd Flyer game of the season the Flyers dropped a blowout 7-4 to the Panthers in Sunrise, you can read a recap of my first two games here and here and unfortunately the results of this game were no different. Blame goaltending lack of offense intensity or whatever you want, but this Flyer team has proven that it is wildly inconsistent at best and will not be a serious force in the playoffs, no matter what management tells us.
I’m not going to try to rehash the play by play of the game, after all, you probably watched it yourself, but I’ll try to give you my fan experience after the jump… I’ve always wanted to type after the jump…
The day promised to be a wild one with the March 1st trade deadline, I was not sure the Flyers team I had watched all season would be the same one I watched tonight, however as I said on Broad Street Radio last week I was not confident in Paul Holmgren making any moves and on this day he did just that and this Flyer team remained unchanged after a flurry of trade activity.
Mid-afternoon I had managed to do more than Paul Holmgren had. I had upgraded my $9 nosebleed seats to $50 ADT club seats. Thanks to craigslist and the lack of demand for Panthers tickets, I was assured that I would have a good seat and all the food and beer I could drink to watch the Flyers inevitable victory over a Florida Panther team that had traded most of their talent for draft picks earlier that day.
As a side note, if you’re a Panther fan or a hockey fan that lives in South Florida or even someone planning a trip and you decide to take in a game at the Bank Atlantic Center, there is no better deal than the ADT club. A glass of beer at the arena is $8.00, a basket of chicken fingers and fries is around the same. Assume you are taking two people who will both have a minimum of 2 beers and your tab with upper deck seats is minimum $70.00. For as little as $30 more, you can drink all the beer, coffee, soda you want and have a wonderful buffet dinner.
We arrived at the rink about 15 minutes prior to game time. The crowd while not sparse was about 2-1 Panthers fans to Flyers fans. Looking out at the arena, the upper deck was mostly empty and the lower deck was about 3/4 full which was not surprising for a weekday Panther game, especially given that you almost need a program to keep track of who is playing for the home team. Despite the inevitable buildup of Richards first trip to Florida since concussing David Booth there was not much buzz in the air that soon changed. Three seconds into game the gloves came off and suddenly the crowd was buzzing, two seconds later the gloves were dropped again and now there was electricity in the air.
However it is sad to say the two groups of fans standing next to us had no idea why. The first group composed of Islander fans asked what transpired previously in the season to cause 2 fights in five seconds. The second group sitting in front of us also wondered the same question when Richards and Booth dropped the gloves shortly thereafter. One of the fans, after explaining to him the history between the two teams was quite excited and remarked; "I don't watch too many hockey games but I'm certainly enjoying this one." This then segued into a ten minute conversation about the Olympics and which players played for what teams. I was a little confused at this point.
There was Chico Car Bombs playing on the first line and of the 3 fights, he didn’t participate in any of them. Perhaps he’s suddenly gifted with offensive prowess or perhaps nobody on the Panther’s is tough enough to take him on, I suppose there are just some things I will never know or understand. Who is this Tarnasky kid? And why was he so gung ho to throw down with Asham? (more on this later). Speaking of Asham, does anyone else imagine Asham as a foreign guy that speaks like 3 words of English, with one of them being the F word and he just runs around yelling "<expletive> you" in a crazy foreign accent and then fights guys? Yeah, I guess I’m the only one.
The Panthers clearly had the momentum after the Booth fight and quickly scored a fluke goal. The Flyers undaunted pressed for the equalizer and clearly dominated the Panthers however as has often been the case all season, dumb penalties led to a 2-0 hole at the intermission. Normally I might have just written the Flyers off, but in their last couple of games the Flyers have shown their ability to come back from a two goal deficit and win the game.
During the intermission, one of my sources in the media came down to visit with me. Yes, Eklund "Mueller to the Thrashers" (E4) is not the only one with sources. He informs me that Tarnasky is some kid that is trying to prove that he can fight and Asham was apparently giving him lessons. My views on Asham have not changed. He hopes that he can bring us to meet a few players after the game. It’s actually good to see two teams that genuinely seem to hate each other and yet, I in my Richards jersey didn’t get heckled by one Florida Panther fan.
I was seriously nervous before the game, like that pit in your stomach, is the high school bully going to beat me up for wearing this shirt, type nervous. I guess there was nothing to be worried about, as 100% of the fans around me had no clue who David Booth even was.
The second period saw the Flyers trim the lead to one and I believed the rally was on. During the next TV timeout, I thought it might be safe to utilize the facilities because the game seemed pretty defensively minded. I couldn’t have been more wrong. As I return the Panthers struck again. I decided that I needed another beer and as I turned around the Flyers somehow answered the goal. The bartender offered me 2 beers and when the Panthers scored quickly thereafter I knew it was not the Flyers night. It was kind of ironic that Paul Holmgren showed so much faith in the Flyer goaltending and with Leighton on the bench in favor of Brian Boucher the Panthers quickly tallied to begin the rout.
The floodgates were open, the Flyers seemed demoralized the crowd was rocking and the Panthers soon made it 6-2. The Flyers did show some resiliency at the end of the second on the power play. I did not see the goal clearly because it was at the other end of the ice and I asked my wife; "who scored that?" Then the replay came on and there was the patented fist pump and I knew immediately that Briere had made the game slightly more interesting.
The third period, unfortunately, was rather uneventful on the ice. The Flyers launched 20 shots on goal, but Vokoun showed why goaltending is important in this league as he only allowed a meaningless tally to Parent. There was however a couple of significant highlights to the 3rd period, a group of rabid hockey fans, led by Elvis in a Chicago Blackhawks jersey, about 7 rows from the ice managed to get the half full arena to do the wave, four times around. I also have to admit that Stanley C Panther and Mini Stanley put on a sensational fight of their own, brawling after a mock tug of war. Of course, by the end of the third, the arena was mostly empty.
This was by all accounts a pretty sad display by the Flyers. Here is a Panther team that was icing literally half a defensive core from the AHL and hadn’t scored more than 2 goals a game since Scott Mellanby killed a rat in the dressing room, or at least since the Russian Rocket Pavel Bure, won the Maurice Richard trophy. After the game, Pronger and Richards told the media that it wasn’t the goaltending that was to blame for this lopsided loss. Well, I’m here to tell you that the goaltending was awful. I’m not much for predictions, but if this is the goaltending they are taking into the playoffs, we’re in big trouble. What’s that, trade deadline was yesterday? This is the goaltending we are looking at? Yeah, we’re in trouble.
Oh and the unintentional comedy on the empty net goal was incredible. Go watch the replay of McCabe’s goal; he literally launches it in the air over the Flyer defender, almost like a PAT attempt. I was praying for "wide right", unfortunately, the kick was good.
I clearly do not understand why people don’t attend more hockey games at the Bank Atlantic Center. The parking is easy, the fans are friendly, the mascots are hilarious, they have good fan giveaways and even the BOVA Ice Dancers are fun. They seriously should have to be able to skate, like the girls in Tampa, but who am I too complain. They even had a curling promo for the new curling leagues forming at the Panthers practice facility. I suppose people could complain about the drive from Fort Lauderdale, but it really is easy to get too. The team sucks? It didn’t look like it last night, course this Flyer team also makes backup, unknown goaltenders look like future hall of famers, so who am I to judge?
After the game, we headed down to the player buses, where we hoped that my media source can get us past security to get some photo’s and autographs. My wife wants her photo between Pronger and Hartnell, the two Flyer "bad" boys. I just want Richards to sign my Winter Classic ticket. Apparently, you give a guy a badge and he thinks’ he’s god. I actually used that line once on a security guard, the results were the same, we didn’t get in. Hey, the guy was just doing his job. We did manage to catch Coatsey on our way out though and his attractive assistant…wife maybe….took our picture with the Flyer color man. Wow, she was smoking hot, too bad on this night the Flyers weren’t.