Thursday, February 1, 2007

Flyers Choke One Away Signaling Difference Between Two Franchises

There's no other way to say it. For as much as you can say that the Devils showed their usual resiliency, it was the NHL Siberia Flyers inventing a new way to blow a game in their own building and lose. For those keeping score, it's been over two months since the Cheesesteaks won a home game, last doing so last November 24.

If you saw this wild 11-goal affair between the two former Turnpike rivals, then you know this was the night the losing streak which I believe is now 14 should've ended. Back and forth the clubs went trading goals. And when it was 4-3 Devils, you figured it was over. Except the Flyers not only got the tying goal but went ahead.

The time ticked down. 2:00...1:30...1:00 as Devil alarms sounded off as to which player would tie it and turn the Flyers into a more fragile opponent than Glass Joe in Tyson's Punchout. The drama was building. 45 seconds to go until NHL Siberia ended their losing streak. As the clock hit 40, that's when I knew the game would be tied. With all sorts of time behind the net, loser defenseman Denis Gauthier had his head down and apparently didn't watch HNIC Coach's Corner around the holidays. And here's basically what Don Cherry said:

"If you can lift the puck out, you've done something really good."

So many NHLers don't do it though. Especially when protecting leads. You lift it out and an attacking opponent has no chance of stealing it and tying the game. Gauthier didn't listen and panicked as the Flyers usually do. Ironically, a couple of weeks ago they were 21 ticks away against the same team until Brian Gionta pulled his last minute magic to tie it and then Chico Resch probably orgasmed about the heart of THESE DEVILS in that voice. Oh. You know it. It's the same one he always uses to describe any Martin Brodeur save even if it's routine. Who could forget that priceless, "Nobody does that better rant" on a routine block before the Islanders tied it with 0.8 left. Maybe Chico should've given it rest for once.

So there was Gauthier with head down behind the net and not one Devil anywhere near him. All he had to was look up and lift the puck out. But no. Instead, he waited until he saw Patrik Elias coming and tried for the boards. Not surprisingly, Elias' stick knocked it down and then came the usual Flyer fold job. As Jamie Langenbrunner recovered the puck, he saw what everyone else did except the Flyers out there. Not one bothered to take Zach Parise for what essentially was a gimme. Before Antero Niittymaki could flinch, the puck was in and he shook his head in disgust. He knew. That was it. Game. Set. Match. No reason to play OT. Little Zach got a goal so easy, almost any pee wee hockey player could've scored it.

Like taking candy from a baby. That btw describes the Flyers to a tee. How can a team that made the playoffs so many years in a row be so dreadful? They are stuck on 30 points which of course ranks last, way behind the Kings. I think it's 13 but you and I both know they're not going to catch them. After out of all people Brad freaking Lukowich tipped home the winner with maybe 40 seconds left, the Flyers still were stuck on three home wins. How pathetic is that? Oh. Well, they still got at least another 15 or 16. So, there's still time to pickup much anticipated Win No.4. I bet every Flyer fan if they haven't committed suicide or jumped can hardly wait!

Now let's give the Devils full marks for never quiting. If there was 0.8 tenths of a second left with a faceoff at center ice, they still might believe they could tie it. That's the power of this team. They're like a cult. A machine. You can't really describe it unless you loathe them. Despite that, it's easy to respect what they've accomplished. Few draft and develop players better and integrate them into the protypical Devil. What does that consist of? Probably some of Satan's blood.

I want to go back to something Resch concluded with about a minute left in OT. No, not the ridiculous homerism exhibited by him when Brodeur didn't have complete control of a rebound where Jeff Carter tried for it. And no. Definitely not Resch's praise that the saves the Hart hopeful made in OT might make him the game's first star. Come on Chico. Yes, he made some good saves with his best coming on Mike Knuble with no room in front. In a game where that many goals are scored, it's a good bet neither netminder is getting tabbed a star. And oh btw...after The Franchise made his 22nd straight start (you'd think he might have Julien axed if he dare misses one), that's nine goals allowed in the last two games. Is he getting tired? Would it be wise for him to actually let his coach sit him out the next one? I bet Scott Clemmensen is praying for that chance. Who are we kidding though? He's got the luckiest job and it pays pretty good. So I doubt the former BC standout is too upset. It's like stealing money.

Getting back to what Resch concluded and this is what I actually said at the same time:

"I don't know Doc but if I'm John Stevens, I take my timeout and let Forsberg go back out there for this shift. He was just dominating."

Basically stole my thought through the set. Is that even possible? That btw is how dominant the much discussed Forsberg was. It didn't look like that foot was bothering him at all. Unbelievable would be one word to describe the Swedish playmaker's play on his shifts in OT. The Devils who are so good defensively had no answer. Zero. They couldn't stop him. NHL trade deadline teams, take note. The price just went up.

So the rookie NHL coach screwed up by not using that timeout. Instead, he sent the Kyle Calder unit out. Not long after, the Devils did what they had to do and got their first sustained attack. And when Elias setup Brian Rafalski, you figured like myself that it was Gionta in front for the winning tip-in. Wrong! It was Lukowich. A freaking defensive defenseman. This same two-time Cup winner also scored a tying shorthanded goal against the Flyers earlier this season in the same building with about 2:00 left before the Swamp Rats predictably won. And that tells you all you need to know about these two franchises. One never seems to lose momentum and is a pain in the ass to play. The other went from being a classic Cup tease to being the worst freaking team in the league. A flat out disgrace to the Flyer jersey. Almost 40 years later to when they debuted, this franchise is lost.

At least they still got Rocky.

Just a note for anyone who missed it, the Pens won their fifth straight by outshooting the Habs 5-4. Evgeni Malkin won it. I believe Sidney Crosby had three more points increasing his league-leading total to 82. That's 13 better than second place. Can you say the Super Soph is raising his Hart stock. If the Pens continue to win it's a two-horse race between the best forward and the best goalie. Fasten your seatbelts. It should be an exciting final couple of months.

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