So it's been a ridiculously hectic two weeks thanks to Christmas and New Years and all things holiday related, and as wonderful as this time of year is, it's always a relief when it ends. Since so much time has been missed around here, and since quite a few things have happened in Flyerland and around the NHL, a good recap is in order. So without further adieu, all things Flyers hockey since December 23rd.
First Place Flyers: Picking up a point last night in Los Angeles, the Flyers passed the Rangers in points to give themselves sole possession of first place. With a 50-49 lead, the Flyers also still have one game in hand over New York.
Over the past two weeks, the Flyers have compiled a 3-2-1 record with wins over Ottawa, Vancouver, and Anaheim, a shootout loss in Los Angeles, and losses in Columbus and Chicago.
Jeff Carter is God. He was named NHL 2nd Star of December and he leads the NHL in goals with 27. This guy wasn't even on the all-star ballot!?! While he had nothing to show for it on the scoreboard last night in LA, he was the most dynamic player on the ice.
The goaltending has also been pretty darn good, with both Marty Biron and Antero Niittymaki having good games on this road trip. It doesn't feel like we have good goaltending, probably because this is Philadelphia and we never have good goaltending, but pinch yourself... we do.
The best game of this trip entertainment wise was probably the Vancouver game, but resiliency wise, the best was last night against Los Angeles. The team was a makeshift jumble of players playing out of their normal positions and the sole fact that they battled to get the point was pretty special.
A 3-0 loss to Columbus back on the 27th was the Flyers first loss to Columbus... ever. That's right, in seven previous meetings with the Blue Jackets, the Flyers had compiled a record of 4-0-3, with all three of those being ties, not shootout losses. Even worse though is that this is one Columbus team the Flyers should not have lost to. This game would be the first
It was the first time the Flyers were shutout in 76 games, including last years playoffs, dating back to February 17 of 2008 in Montreal, a 1-0 loss.
Chicago is a resurgent hockey club, and while it's nice to see NHL hockey thriving in the Second City again, we don't want it to happen against our team. The Blackhawks beat the Flyers 5-2 in Chicago on the 26th in a game we'll simply chalk up to a Christmas hangover.
The team is really banged up. Kimmo Timonen is playing with a chipped bone in his foot, Scott Hartnell is playing hurt, Upshall just returned from injury, and Simon Gagne is out a week with a shoulder injury sustained against Vancouver. Claude Giroux was elbowed by Anaheim's Corey Perry, who received a five game suspension for the hit to the head. [YouTube] Joffrey Lupul is also hurt, while Danny Briere is still out.
Disney on Ice forces the Flyers (and Sixers) out of the Wachovia Center for two weeks, and the schedule at the front end of the road trip doesn't treat the Flyers well. It's bad enough that the team has to be away from home for two weeks just after Christmas, but its even worse that they have to start the road trip on back-t0-back nights in Columbus and Chicago. Paraphrasing Braydon Coburn, he said the schedule may have had something to do with the way the team played. Some might say excuses, but after a couple of days off the Flyers played a really entertaining game in Vancouver, and they were able to hold on for the victory, 3-2.
Sidney Crosby wins a fight? Okay... not really a fight. He jumped the guy. It's cute that the Pittsburgh announcers sound proud... wimps. [YouTube]
Boston lost? At home? To... Buffalo? Yeah, yesterday, weird. I didn't know they could lose. Of course, we haven't played them yet and thanks to that awesome NHL scheduling, we don't until February.
Around the League
As mentioned, the Flyers took first place from the Rangers last night, and were helped in large part by a Ranger team that hasn't been all that scary in the past few weeks. In their past five games, the Blueshirts are an ugly 1-3-1, with the lone win coming against the lowly Islanders (a squeaker even, 5-4). In those five games, Scott Gomez has only one goal and two assists, Nikolai Zherdev has only one goal and three assists, and Markus Naslund has just two goals. Henrik Lundqvist, the sail to the Ranger boat, hasn't played well at all, allowing 16 goals in four of those five games that he started. The Rangers are proof that when your best players aren't playing as your best players, you don't win hockey games.
What's an Islanders?
Pittsburgh is another team that is suffering without production from its top goal scorers. Crosby can't score to save his life right now, and Malkin isn't performing much better. The goaltending hasn't been good since Marc-Andre Fleury returned to the lineup, and he was pulled yesterday in the Pens 6-1 loss to the Panthers (haha). They have fallen out of the playoff picture (haha x2) and sit in 9th with 42 points... eight behind the Flyers.
The Devils are the only team that still concerns me in the Atlantic at this moment in time. Scott Clemmensen is still performing unbelievably well in Martin Brodeur's absence, and with a win today against Ottawa at home, the Devils can move within one point of the Flyers with a game in hand over us. Go Sens.
The Flyers have a big game against the Capitals to close out the trip on Tuesday night in DC. It should be a good one and hopefully the Flyers get some guys back from injury.