Eisbären Berlin may have lost their first game with Claude Giroux and Danny Briere in the lineup, but they definitely guaranteed that I'll be watching their next game on Sunday vs. Wolfsburg. Maybe it's the extra ice or the wide-open play or the general lack of exciting hockey in my life, but Berlin's 6-5 loss to Kölner Haie was extremely entertaining despite the outcome.
Perhaps it helped, also, that Briere and Giroux put on quite the show in their first DEL game.
First, to Giroux's evening:
* G scored a game-tying goal about six minutes into the third period on a beautiful individual effort. With the puck at the top of the faceoff circle, Giroux sniped the far corner, placing the puck just inside the post and over the shoulder of the Kölner goaltender. As reader Devon MacIntrye said on Twitter, watching Giroux in this game felt like being in the Army and having your wife send you pictures. Watching him score was as if they were dirty pictures.
* Giroux assisted on Mark Katic's first period goal, which gave Berlin a 1-0 lead, but it was just a secondary assist. We'll get to that in a minute.
* Late in the game, Giroux and Briere both assisted on a goal that was eventually credited to Julian Talbot. It was a power play goal that cut the Köln lead to 6-5. Briere, playing low on the goal line pushed the puck up to Giroux, who then sent it over to Talbot. Talbot ripped the shot and it looked as though Andre Rankel may have tipped it in front, but the goal was ultimately given to Talbot.
* One minute after the goal, with Berlin back on the power play again, it looked as though they'd get a two-man edge when Giroux's stick was ripped out of his hands behind the net in the offensive zone. After a meeting, though, the officials sent Köln's Torsten Ankert to the box for holding and Giroux to the box for slashing. Claude got out with 20 second to go, but it was too late to make a final push.
* Giroux generally looked good, especially since he hasn't played a game in months. Of course, he's also probably the best player in the DEL, so it's not shocking that he looks a step faster than most players on the ice.
Now, to Briere...
* Danny and Claude each assisted on Mark Katic's first period goal. Giroux picked up the secondary assist, dishing off to Katic before Katic tossed it down low to Briere. Briere then fed Katic in the slot for the shot that went up over the shoulder of the Kölner goaltender. Nice little passing play gave Eisbären a 1-0 lead.
* Briere drew a first period penalty when former OHL No. 1 pick Charlie Stevens dragged him down behind the net. Soon after the ensuing power play expired, however, Briere did the same, pulling down a Köln player in the offensive zone. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
* In the second period, Briere set up linemate Andre Rankel with a beautiful pass at the door step. Rankel had a wide open net but flubbed the pass and pushed the puck wide of the net. Would have given Berlin a lead.
* As mentioned above, Danny assisted on Talbot's goal in the third. He also assisted on Giroux's tally, but it was just a secondary assist after a bit of passing in the offensive end. He finished with three assists and two PIM, and it seemed like he played for much of the latter part of the third period. He may not have left the ice in the final three-four minutes or so.
Some other thoughts ...
* The defense definitely left much to be desired for Berlin. Haie took a 2-1 lead late in the second period when Berlin's Florian Busch picked up a loose puck in the crease and played it into his own empty net. Berlin goaltender Rob Zepp, a Canadian, had just stopped a Haie breakaway, but instead of, you know, playing the puck away from the net, the D played it into the back of the net. Awful. Haie forward Nathan Robinson was given credit.
* Eisbären tied it right up, however, roughly 40 seconds later on a goal by Laurin Braun, but it would ultimately be the defense that again came back to bite Berlin in the ass. On the penalty kill midway through the third, Köln's Andreas Holmqvist skated in from the blue line to the high slot. Completely untouched and without pressure, he ripped a blistering shot that beat Zepp.
* That was generally the theme. Zepp was quite solid, especially in the early portion of the game, and while he didn't provide that big save that could have helped his team during the Haie onslaught in the third period, he wasn't at fault for it either. Maybe it's the wide-open ice that leads to more scoring, easier passing and thus weaker-looking defense, but regardless, the defensive zone coverage was awful for Berlin.
All in all, an enjoyable game. We'll do it again at 10:30 a.m. (alright, maybe) on Sunday.