Man, did some old feelings creep back up tonight or what? I don't think I've hated the Tampa Bay Lightning as much as I do right now since 2004, when the Flyers should've won that Eastern Conference Finals series against the Bolts (and the Stanley Cup). And that's fantastic.
Randy Jones sucks. Steve Downie sucks. Steven Stamkos sucks. Hell, Simon Gagne sucks. The Tampa Bay Lightning are a hated rival again, and tonight's game was living proof of that. It was one of those knock-down, drag-out battles from start to finish. A war of attrition at times, a war of engagement at others.
Whether it was Chris Pronger holding the puck in the defensive end to force the Lightning out of that horrible, blasphemous 1-3-1 trap or James van Riemsdyk fighting (!) Jones in defense of Claude Giroux after a nasty, dangerous knee-on-knee hit in the first period, this game had a bit of it all. I mean, it even had a Darroll Powe penalty shot goal. Yeah, seriously.
It wasn't all great, as the Flyers blew a two-goal lead in the second period, ultimately leading to over time. But after falling behind in the shootout, a clutch goal from Mike Richards and a winner from Kimmo Timonen, the Finnish God, were enough to seal the deal. Brian Boucher was brilliant in the shootout and minus maybe the Bolts first goal, was brilliant throughout the entire game.
The Flyers beat the Lightning for the first time this season, and damn, it was exciting. Five points up in the Conference. Feels good. Some bullet points, the comment of the night and our questions answered after the jump.
- Kris Versteeg played mostly with Mike Richards and Andreas Nodl in his Flyers' debut, although he played a bit with James van Riemsdyk and Richards as well. He played 17:44 in the game and while he didn't get on the score sheet, I thought he looked good. He's fast, he back checks well and he showed a bit of a physical edge in the corners. I'm excited to see more of him.
- Speaking of Versteeg, he was wide. open. in the third period at center ice. Braydon Coburn tried to lead him with a stretch pass but Randy Jones, of all people, broke it up with a beautiful (lucky) diving interception.
- We touched on this in the words up there at the start, but van Riemsdyk was a boss tonight. He had a Gordie Howe hat trick and seemed to dominate every time he hit the ice. His last shift in the third period might have been his best, a sign that he can keep that pace up through an entire game. Then again, we knew this. Sorry, Brian Burke.
- Peter Laviolette's game plan against the 1-3-1 was, in my eyes, a thing of beauty. He clearly watched some game tape from the Capitals game in Tampa about a week and a half ago, since Bruce Boudreau employed something similar in that game to counter Guy Boucher's BS. The Flyers also did a good job getting creative with movement on the wings as a way to combat the trap.
- When Tampa gets going in the offensive end, it's scary. They're somehow able to collpase the defense in so low that it just turns into a free-for-all in the slot and the crease. It can be heart attack-inducing.
- Steven Stamkos was held off the score sheet tonight and Dwayne Roloson didn't look nearly as invincible as he did in the last meeting between the teams. These are good things.
- A lot of credit has to go to Laviolette for his game plan tonight. The Flyers were able to figure out the frustrating Lightning as a result of the changes Lavi made.
Questions with Answers
- For the love of God, can the Flyers stop that Tampa top line? For the most part, yeah. St. Louis and Lecavalier teamed up for a goal on the power play, but at even strength, good stuff.
- Scoring on Dwayne Roloson is a good start, too. Can that happen? Go to hell, Dwayne.
- Kris Versteeg makes his Flyers debut. How's that go? Very good, as mentioned above in the bullets.
- This is a big game for the Flyers tonight. Do they play like that? They certainly looked like it. Blowing that two-goal lead could've been demoralizing, but they didn't let it get to them. I thought they turned the page pretty well and really seemed determined. /cliche'd
Comment of the Night
To: Randy Jones
From: James vanRiemsdyk
Subject: Didja see that? Did you? Huh?
Na na na na boo boo!