The phrase "Flyers After Dark" has come to life among Flyers fans on Twitter in recent seasons, becoming a go-to explanation for the tendency for weird things to happen in late-night road Flyers games played against Western Conference teams. In actuality, I don't know if weird things happen more frequently in these games, or if they happen about as frequently as they do in normal games and we just notice them more in these games because we're all tired old fogeys.
Whatever the case, there certainly was some unusual stuff happening tonight. An incomplete list of the most notable of those things:
- At the end of the first period intermission, on the Comcast Sportsnet intermission show, Bill Clement absolutely ripped the Vancouver Canucks' fanbase and arena for being the quietest in the league, saying there is "nothing intimidating" about being there. I do not know what prompted this from Bill, nor am I educated enough to agree with or refute it, but it sure was entertaining.
- Zac Rinaldo drew a penalty! This is a thing that used to happen a lot more than it does now, back before people learned to stop falling for so much of his antics. But it was actually a great shift for him, forcing a defensive-zone turnover just before drawing that penalty. (In fact, not a bad night on the whole for him, which is pretty weird in and of itself, right? More on that in a sec.)
- JAKUB VORACEK GOT IN A FIGHT. And not just with anyone, but with Dan Hamhuis, who as we all surely remember is a traitor who hates Philadelphia. Good job, Jake. And immediately after it, the Flyers scored a goal. New captain material? Hmmmmmm.
At this point in the season, we're looking for interesting storylines, player development, and laffs. Especially laffs, because lord knows we need them in this trying time. Tonight, we got laffs. Maybe a little bit of player development, too. But mostly laffs. Moral victories: they count for something.
Oh, and speaking of victories, the Flyers didn't get one. They gave up two goals to noted hand-munching enthusiast Alex Burrows in a 17-second span in the third period en route to a 4-1 loss. Did I not mention that yet? Shame we're at the point on the year where I don't feel a need to mention the actual result of the game until the xth paragraph of the recap.
OTHER, NOT AS WEIRD LATE-NITE NOTES:
* The big story coming into tonight was the debut of forward prospect Nick Cousins, and his evening was actually a pretty solid one. While a line of him, Ryan White, and Zac Rinaldo seemed on paper like one that might cause a lot more chaos than it would, y'know, good hockey things ... there was actually a lot of good that they were able to do. All three of those guys played a strong game physically and were actually able to use that to their advantage on the forecheck and in the offensive zone to get some solid time on the attack. Cousins even just missed out on his first goal in the second period following a great spot from White. He didn't play after the 10:32 mark of the third period. Curious to see what his role and situation will be once Read comes back, but not a bad effort for his first 9:54 in the NHL.
* As a whole, I felt like I noticed the bottom-6 more than I did the top-6 tonight, so take that however you wish. Though the one goal of the night, courtesy of Michael Raffl, did come thanks to some excellent board work from Wayne Simmonds and an excellent set-up by Claude Giroux. (And yes, those three were only together due to Jakub Voracek's fight. Sometimes things work out.)
* It's hard to deny right now that sans-Michael Del Zotto, Carlo Colaiacovo is currently this team's best defenseman. At the very least, he certainly was tonight. This checks out by the eye test -- Colaiacovo smartly stepped up into the play a number of times tonight, leading to quality chances for the Flyers. This checks out by the stats -- Colaiacovo had the best possession numbers of any Flyers defenseman, pretty easily. And Craig Berube seems to recognize it -- Carlo had the most ice time of any defenseman other than Mark Streit, who of course gets top power play minutes. Whether you'd like to read this as "this guy we picked up off the street mid-season is better than all of our other options" or "hey, nice mid-season pick-up by the Flyers" is, again, up to you.
* The other four guys on this defense, though (other than Colaiacovo and his main partner, Luke Schenn) ... not pretty nights for any of them. As Collin mentioned during the game, this is where the adverse effect of the Braydon Coburn trade (and, more temporarily, the MDZ injury) really starts to show. All of the guys who weren't taking on the tough minutes that Coburn handled now have to take a bit more of them, and so far the returns aren't positive.
* We all should really know by now that wins and losses are not in the slightest a good way to evaluate goaltenders but Steve Mason only having one road win this season is still just ridiculous.
* Matt Read['s wife] had a baby tonight! That's cool and great.
* Finally, this game began with a nice ceremony from the Canucks to celebrate the life of Pat Quinn, former coach of the Canucks and Flyers (and others) who passed in late 2014. You can watch it here.
Holy crap there are only 10 more games this season. How time flies! Or something. Calgary on Thursday. Go Flyers.