Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Madness in Philly

A day later, I'm still not sure what happened. But all hell broke loose at Wachovia Center during last night's final exhibition in North America for the Rangers when they paid a visit to the enemy Flyers. Perhaps the barbs exchanged between Glen Sather and Ed Snider fired everyone up because it literally felt like a playoff spot was on the line instead of a meaningless preseason match.

Whatever the reason, even with several regulars out for both sides, madness ensued. The Flyers may have prevailed 5-3 on the strength of Braydon Coburn's third period decider and Wayne Simmonds' empty netter but that was irrelevant compared to the garbage we got. And by that, one of the new Flyers Simmonds is front and center still following a heated exchange with our bad boy Sean Avery, who displayed why he still should make the team. Following a certain suspendable hit from behind by Tom Sestito, Avery and Simmonds got together as Ranger teammates came to Andre Deveaux's aid. Deveaux was defenseless when Sestito flew by and boarded him, earning the rest of the night off. Defenseman Stu Bickell came to his defense immediately.

Unfortunately, there's no video but it was brutal because Sestito never let up. Well, he was put on waivers with a double digit ban coming from League Deputy VP Brendan Shanahan, who's been proactive. During the scrum, Avery and Simmonds exchanged pleasantries. A theme that continued throughout. As the old Patrick rivals combined for six goals after two periods with Jaromir Jagr (2 PPG) doing damage to his ex-team, the intensity was up with each side throwing the weight around. Dale Weise was bloodied by Zac Rinaldo in a one-sided scrap. Maybe he should stick to hockey cause he's shown improvement thus far.

Avery, who duped Simmonds into a silly penalty, was at his best getting underneath the Flyers' skin and 'his fans' booed. Beautiful really. When he plays like that, Sean is a valuable commodity who John Tortorella can insert into the lineup. He's best used versus rivals (NJD, NYI, Phi, Pit). With Mats Zuccarello again standing out, it looks all but certain Tort has his four lines when they face the Kings a week from Friday before meeting the Ducks the following day. More later.

The Flyers torched our PK for three power play goals with Jagr connecting twice, featuring that deadly one-timer. No.68 looked great, dominating shifts while having no trouble getting open for Claude Giroux or Daniel Briere. Even minus James Van Riemsdyk, Chris Pronger and Scott Hartnell, the Flyer offense was scary. For the Blueshirts, guys competing for spots impressed with Swede Andreas Thuresson (trade with Nashville) and ex-Leaf John Mitchell notching two of the club's three goals. While Thuresson was reassigned to Connecticut, Mitchell flew with the team to Europe- clearly ahead of pass happy Erik Christensen, who didn't help himself.

Brian Boyle was terrific winning a faceoff and deflecting home a Dan Girardi right point shot for a tying PPG. He also wore a mic and was seen giving pointers to Thuresson and Mike Del Zotto, who had a strong second that at least emphasized his strengths on the man-advantage. He looks bigger, which can only be a plus. With partner Tim Erixon having a rough game (2 minors) and Mike Sauer nicked up (out 7 days), the third-year blueliner could start the season.

Flyer prospect Matt Read impressed with a nice finish off a no-look Briere feed that Henrik Lundqvist had no chance on. King Henrik went the distance, faring okay despite a shaky D that hung him out to dry. He finished with 26 saves while counterpart Ilya Bryzgalov turned aside 17 of 20, including a two pad stack on Brandon Dubinsky, who otherwise took the night off.

Despite the offense and defensive breakdowns, everyone's talking about Avery's accusation which Simmonds didn't deny. Sean claimed that the same player, who a week ago, had a banana peel tossed at him in Canada, called him a derogatory name. Considering that there was video and it was homophobic, it's pretty serious.

"That type of comment has no place in the game," Maple Leaf GM Brian Burke told ESPN.COM. "If that happened, that is just so embarrassing and the league should not tolerate it. That should be treated on the same level as a racially charged incident. It's the same level of offensiveness and inappropriateness."
GLAAD (Gay And Lesbian Against Defamation) got in touch with the league today and the Flyers about possible discipline against Simmonds. "Hate speech and anti-gay slurs have no place on the ice rink," GLAAD President Mike Thompson said. "The word that Simmonds used is the same word that is hurled at LGBT youth on the playground and in our schools, creating a climate of intolerance and hostility. He should not only apologize for this anti-gay outburst, but the Philadelphia Flyers and the NHL have a responsibility to take action and educate their fans about why this word is unacceptable."

Recently, Avery became an advocate of gay rights and supporting gay marriage.
"It's an issue," he said while indicating he didn't feel he did anything that drew Simmonds' controversial reaction. "It's an issue that people are dealing with and trying to overcome and 10 years ago, maybe it wasn't so much an issue but it's certainly an issue politically with people in the game. And just in life in general."

Former Deputy Colin Campbell will review the tape. Hopefully, the league will look make a justified decision. It's a chance to make Simmonds an example so future incidents are avoided. They must get this one right. 

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