Dear Pittsburgh Penguins; This Is How A Home Opener Should Go
Tyler J. Altemose
“Oh, but anyway, Toto, we're home. Home! And this is my room, and you're all here. And I'm not gonna leave here ever, ever again, because I love you all, and - oh, Auntie Em - there's no place like home!”
Those iconic words from the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz couldn’t ring more true last night. The Flyers opened up the Wells Fargo Center in front of a capacity crowd and also revealed their 2010 Eastern Conference Champions banner.
The Flyers brushed off a sloppy overtime loss in St. Louis and appeared settled down for their home opener last night against the Colorado Avalanche. They got the ‘W’ 4-2 and now have a 2-0-1 record with 5 out of a possible 6 points obtained so far this season.
But of course I would be remiss if I failed to mention the opening festivities.
The opening ceremony sent chills down my spine. There was smoke, lights, and raucous music. Down at one of the corners was a “jumbotron” which was split in two in order to form a set of doors. The jumbotron “doors” featured each player’s profile and a shot of the back of their respective jerseys as their names were called. As each player’s name was called, the doors split open and that player skated out onto the ice. It was epic. It was also very…orange.
Two player introductions stood out for me. “The Well” (as I shall be calling the Wells Fargo Center throughout the season) erupted in cheers as Ian Laperriere’s name was called and he came out onto the Flyers bench. This city clearly still loves him (he looked really snazzy in his suit, as did Matt Walker). I’ll admit that it was touching for me and I was only watching from my couch. I couldn’t imagine what my emotions would have been like had I been there. In fact, I spoke with two individuals who were at the game and they both told me that it was quite the tear jerker.
The other player whose introduction really got me pumped up was rookie netminder Sergei Bobrovsky. Hearing his name announced and watching him speedily skate out in full gear― orange lights flashing and smoke pumping―really got me pumped up for the game.
After the player introductions concluded they played a short video of last season’s playoff run before revealing the banner up in the rafters. Of note in the video was the lack of the game-winning goal of Game 7 against the Boston Bruins by former Flyer turned Tampa Bay Lightning “he-who-will-not-be-named”.
“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”
The ceremony concluded with Lauren Hart singing “National Anthem” The beauty in her voice is matched only by her appearance. She rocks.
* * *
Lavish ceremonies and my fantasies of Lauren Hart aside, they also apparently played hockey last night.
The Flyers lines remained the same as they had been for the previous two games, except there was one difference; a 6’ 6”, 220lb. difference: Chris Pronger. That’s right. He’s back, Jack!
The lines were as follows:
Carcillo / Richards / Carter
Hartnell / Briere / Leino
JVR / Giroux / Zherdev
Shelley / Betts / Powe
Pronger / Carle
Coburn / Timonen
O’Donnell / Meszaros
The scratches were Nodl (who dressed for the ceremony even though Walker didn’t), Walker, and Bartulis. Laperriere remains on injured reserve, and Leighton (who had surgery on the herniated disc in his back yesterday) remains on long-term injured reserve.
* * *
The first period started out with some solid, steady, back-and-forth play. The pace of the game was very fast. The defense did a far better job of clearing the zone than they had in the previous two contests. Could that be because Chris Pronger is back? Perhaps. Could it be because the Flyers were playing in an electric atmosphere? Perhaps. Could it be because Lavvy is an amazing coach and he managed to settle the squad down? Perhaps. Personally, I like to contribute all three to the team’s performance coming out of the gate.
Offensively the team was working out the kinks as well. The fourth line was very impressive, maintaining a rapid pace and working hard and winning battles along the boards. The first and second lines put on some nice, consistent pressure. The offense as a whole was also stronger in the neutral zone.
The Flyers as a whole were playing with a stronger sense of confidence this evening. Again, I’m not sure what exactly to contribute it to. I was just glad to see the team perform so well.
“What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage!”
Nikolai Zherdev, whose impact on the ice has yet to be felt this season, felt an impact of his own courtesy of Colorado’s Ryan Wilson. Wilson caught Zherdev with his head down and leveled him with a huge open ice hit. Insert Scott Stevens/Eric Lindros reference here.
Hartnell created the first PP opportunity for the Avs by drawing a “Too Many Men on the Ice” penalty at the halfway mark of the period. The penalty was served by Dan Carcillo. He’s used to it.
And that’s when the first period turned into the Mike Richards Show.
Richards first took advantage of some sloppy puck handling around the blue line by the Avs which led to a breakaway. Unfortunately, Colorado netminder Craig Anderson stopped him. But Richie wasn’t done there. Later in that same penalty kill he again took care of some puck handling issues by the Avs, poke checking the puck out of the neutral zone. He maintained just enough control to backhand a pass to an open Claude Giroux. Giroux went in and burned Anderson, putting the Flyers up 1-0 at the 12:13 mark.
Colorado then went on the attack with the Flyers spending a considerable amount of time in the defensive zone. This led to an unnecessary slashing penalty on Richards in the offensive zone. Carter cleaned up the mess by seizing control of the puck in the neutral zone (again the result of sloppy puck handling by the Avs), netting his first goal of the season past Anderson and putting the Flyers up by two. They would maintain that lead coming into the second period.
* * *
Colorado Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco (Philadelphia Flyers, 2002-03) must have given his boys quite the pep talk during the first intermission. Right off the bat they started taking it to the Flyers in the second period.
The Flyers later failed to take advantage of a PP opportunity off of a Matt Duchesne hooking penalty, although Hartnell almost made up for his previous mistake. Unfortunately, he reminded us all that he’s Scott Hartnell, and instead of the puck ending up in the net he himself ended up in the net. More Hartnell shenanigans would follow.
Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette took the time to mix up the offensive lines a bit in the second, opting to put Leino on a line with JVR and Giroux. We may see more of this to come.
A little more than halfway through the period the Avs took advantage of some sloppy puck handling by (you guessed it) Scott Hartnell in the defensive zone, allowing Brandon Yip to cut the Flyers’ lead in half. He was assisted by John-Michael Liles.
“I haven't got a brain... only straw.”
The team as a whole played pretty uninspired hockey in the second. It seems as if this squad still hasn’t learned that you have to play a full sixty minutes of hockey if you want to win―lead or no lead. If not for a stellar performance by Bobrovsky the Flyers may have been going into the third period with either no lead or even perhaps down a goal. As it stood, however, the Flyers maintained a 2-1 lead.
* * *
The second period didn’t start off well for the Flyers. The start of the third was worse.
The Avs scored off of a shot by Milan Hejduk which squeaked by Bobrovsky only forty-five seconds into the period. This tied the game at two goals each. Bob may have been screened, but in any case it still seems as if he’s having some trouble with those side angle shots (note Tyler Kennedy’s shot in the season opener). I’m sure goaltending coach Jeff Reese will address this. In any case, I really don’t blame this on Bob. Furthermore, Scott Hartnell struck again and put Philly a man down on a tripping penalty. Fortunately the Flyers were able to kill it.
The defense again played well in the third, notably the third pairing of Sean O’Donnell and Andrej Meszaros. There was one particular instance where O’Donnell himself managed to keep the puck in the offensive zone long enough to allow the Flyers to get a barrage of shots off on Anderson.
The Flyers continued the offensive assault on a PP about ¾ of the way through the period. However, Colorado controlled the puck off of a faceoff and managed to get a 3-on-2. But Bobrovsky would have nothing to do with this shorthanded opportunity and he stoned defenseman Kyle Quincey.
Colorado would maintain the pressure after the PK, but soon enough things became unhinged. Carter, Richards, and JVR managed to start a 3-on-2 opportunity. As the trio approached the net, JVR passed from the right side of the rink to Richie at center ice. He in return quickly passed to Carter who took a very sharp side angle shot from the left. The shot caught Anderson off-guard, and the puck bounced off the left skate of the out-of-position netminder and through his five hole into the net. Jeff Carter broke the 2-2 tie at the17:22 mark of the third period.
Shortly after that, Carter and Richie managed their own breakaway. Richards took the shot but missed. The action, however, surrounded Carts and Anderson. At the conclusion of the play, Carter got his stick in on Anderson. Anderson tripped and fell, and Carts got called for goaltender interference. Luckily for the Flyers, the zebras were paying attention. Although Carts did get his stick and body on Anderson, he fell over as if swept off of his feet by the force of a mighty ninja. Anderson was called for unsportsmanlike conduct―diving. Kevin Porter served the penalty.
With only about 1 ½ minutes remaining, Colorado opted to go with the open net since the faceoff was taking place in the Flyers zone. Unfortunately for the Avs, they underestimated the energy and grit of the fourth line. Blair Betts controlled the puck off of the 4-on-4 faceoff and managed to bounce it off the boards. Darroll Powe, arguably the fastest thing wearing orange and black, picked up the puck and got the empty netter, putting the Flyers up 4-2. That would end up being the final score.
And that’s how the Flyers won their home opener. It was sloppy, yes. But a win is a win. I’ll take it.
“No, Aunt Em―this was a real, truly live place. And I remember that some of it wasn’t very nice….”
* * *
I’ve decided to start picking a Star of the Game prior to each contest a la CSN Philly. My pick for tonight was JVR. I am obviously not psychic.
My Stars of the Game for tonight’s contest are as follows:
1. Jeff Carter
2. Mike Richards
3. Sergei Bobrovsky
* * *
The Flyers scoring went as follows:
Giroux: SHG, assisted by Richards
Carter: Assisted by Richards, JVR
Powe: EN, assisted by Betts
According to the stats sheet, the Flyers outshot the Avs 28-27. Also, they outhit the Avs 20-13, had 5 more takeaways (8-3), and went about even on faceoffs (the Avs had the slight edge, 29-28). Most importantly, however, the Flyers had less PIM than the Avs (8-10). Perhaps Lavvy is sending a message which is settling in with the squad.
“If ever oh ever a Wiz there was,
The Wizard of Oz
Is one because
Because, because, because, because, because
Because of the wonderful things he does”
That’s all for now, folks. One hive, y’all.