Friday, February 12, 2010

A Few Thoughts Before the Olympic Break

A week ago I was wondering if the Flyers were a playoff team. They have done well to put themselves back in the playoff picture this past month, but they had a possibility to come away with six points on an easy road trip last week and they only got two. A last second (literally) loss to the worst team in the league (Edmonton), and a lethargic looking loss to Minnesota last Saturday really made me wonder if the Flyers could hang tough with some of the better teams in the league and secure a playoff spot. With a home and home coming up against New Jersey, and a tenuous grasp on the 8th seed, things did not look good. A period and 15 minutes into the first game against the Devils, the Flyers were down 2-0 and looked lifeless. The Flyers had one goal in the past 7 and a half periods... it was ugly. And then JVR happen. Van Riemsdyk lumbered up through center, split the D and fired a wrister over Brodeur's shoulder. A minute later, Carter one-timed a Hartnell pass past Brodeur to tie the game. Richards scored a late PPG in the third period to win the game.

This was the first time this season that the Flyers came from two goals down to win a game. That is a scary statistic. If the Flyers want to make a deep playoff run this year, they're going to need to be able to come from behind to win occasionally. Playing against teams like Washington and Pittsburgh, two goal deficits are easy to come by. However, Wednesday night's game in New Jersey (in front of an announced crowd of 5500 thanks to Snowmageddon 2010) provided a lot of encouragement. The Flyers again dug themselves into a 2-0 hole thanks to a couple of flukey goals. But Arron Asham scored 30 seconds after the Devils' second goal and Carter tied it in the second. The Devils controlled the 3rd period (outshot the Flyers 7-1) and the first two minutes of OT until Gagne turned in his best shift all year. First he faked Brodeur out of his skates and had a wide open net to shoot at, but the defenseman was able to poke the puck off his stick before he could score. Instead of giving up on the play, Gagne picked the puck back up in the far corner, skated out to the blueline and around two Devils. Then he moved down the slot and floated a wrister over Brodeur's shoulder to win the game and snap his 13 game goalless streak. Those of you that follow me on Twitter know that I've been calling for Gagne to be traded lately as he's just looked horrendous. I still think it's in the Flyers best interest to trade him, but that goal bought him a little more time.

So now the Flyers have one last home and home series with Montreal before the Olympics start. It is incredibly important for the Flyers to win both games. They're one point behind Montreal for 6th place in the conference, so wins in both games would put Philly in firm control of the 6th spot (they have three games in hand and one more win than the Canadiens). The Flyers are also playing with a ton of confidence right now, so they need to take advantage of it since they have no games from Feb 14 - March 2.

Another thing I wanted to comment on was the play of Michael Leighton. When Emery got hurt again two weeks ago, I'll admit that I was worried that Leighton's magic was gone and that he would revert to the play that got him cut by Carolina (and Carolina sucks this year). However, he has proved me wrong yet again. He's 2-2 and has given up seven goals in four games, and he only got one goal from his own team in those two losses. I think it's time for the Flyers to cut Boucher (when Emery comes back) and make Leighton the starter for the rest of the season. Emery has been fine since his return from injury, but Leighton has been lights out. In 16 games with the Flyers, he's given up more than two goals THREE TIMES. He has a 2.21 GAA and a .925 Save %. Emery has a good GAA (2.64) but his save % is only .905, and Boucher has a 2.84 GAA with a .896 save %. It's clear to me who the goalie should be going forward.

Anyways, the Flyers face off against the Canadiens at 6 PM tonight, and the Olympics opening ceremonies are at 7:30 PM, so it's gonna be a good night for me :)

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