With what's happened in the recent post-seasons, the Philadelphia Flyers and Montreal Canadiens have grown one hell of a rivalry. One so strong I believe I cannot stand the Habs more than one or two division rivals.
With that said, losing to Quebec's Red & Blue on November 16th after getting shut out 3 - 0, nothing would have pleased me more than dishing some payback come this passing Monday night.
Just after the 1st period it seemed as though I'd have to wait a little longer for Orange & Black vengeance.
It was breaking news to Flyers-nation that backup stopper, Brian Boucher, was going to get his second consecutive start over Bobrovsky. Before the puck dropped, Boucher's career record versus the Canadiens was a head-shaking 0-9-1. I couldn't help but scratch my head wondering what business a goalie has with THAT record starting in net against the team just a single point in the standings below us.
A lot was riding on this game; the Canadiens were knocking on the back door and we were only 2-points below Washington. So why start Boucher?
Montreal forward, Maxim Lapierre, beat Boosh twice in the 1st period. Once off a redirected flopper from our own Andrej Meszaros defending the slot, and a wrist shot Maxim let loose inches past our blue line that skipped on the ice and zipped through Boucher's #2 hole.
(I don't care how old I get, I'll never be mature enough to write a sentence like that and not laugh)
So right out of the gates the Flyers looked weak, Boucher let in fluky goals, the energy seemed non-existent, and Carey Price shut us out for the fourth consecutive period.
I admit that I didn't want to watch the next 40-minutes. Hell, "Dancing With The Stars" appeared to be a better option -- and I'd rather kick a hibernating bear in the ass than watch that aborted television bullshit.
If I had to continue witnessing Price shut my Flyers down, shot after shot, I was going to knock myself unconscious.
But what's this? The 2nd period began and.....the Bullies hit the ice with determination, speed and physicality.
Our blue liners worked in a poetic defensive performance, driven by chemistry, heart and hard work ethic. Our forwards attacked the puck like Tom Arnold attacked his divorce papers, out shooting the Canadiens 21 shots to their 5 in the 2nd.
By the 14-minute mark something had to give for all this tenacity.
It was Ville Leino who finally beat Carey Price, ending Price's shut out streak against the Flyers in this 2010-11 season.
That amazing forward line with Briere centering Hartnell and Ville paid off dividends by the THOUSANDS all game long, each of the three gaining a point from that potted puck.
Finally....FINALLY Carey Price has been proven to be human, and once that frozen piece of rubber swished in, I rose from my chair and started doing the happy dance like I was a frat student who bagged his first piece of ass at a college kegger.
Granted we were still down by one goal going into the 3rd, but this was Philadelphia's opportunity to show the league - and its viewers - just how real and great we Flyers fans all know they are.
Montreal had only lost once in overtime after leading in the 2nd this year, so if the Flyers wanted to prove their place in the standings.....that time was now.
Beloved winger, Claude Giroux, wasted no minutes bucketing the game tier after linemate, Darrol Powe, worked like a horse in the crease to free up the puck which Giroux flicked in just under two minutes into the 3rd.
The game was tied. The Canadiens looked like fish out of water. And the forward momentum was on our side, barreling at speeds faster than the vault meter on Al Gore's private estate.
Things were looking up and the energy in the Wells Fargo Center began to look like old times!
The Canadiens scoring lines, who were once just two periods ago dominating the Flyers defense, were getting shut down before they got their chances started. Nothing seemed to click with them, and game's changed atmosphere had shaken up Carey Price's confidence in net.
It's time for the kill shot.
James van Riemsdyk has been nothing short of a bust this season. He's been scratched more times than a zoo keeper, and his payoff has been less than par.
I'm not ragging on the kid, I'm simply stating a fact.
Look, the league-sophomore has gained 10 or so pounds of muscle in the off season and has been trying to adjust to a more physical, grinding role. Up until Monday night, he's gone goalless in the 17-games he's played and managed a whopping 7-points.
A lot of skeptical, judgmental eyes were riding his every move when JVR was out on the ice. His roster spot depended on his production whether he liked to believe it or not.
But what better night to illustrate his clutch than scoring the game winning goal midway through the 3rd!
That's right. The kid from Dirty Jersey potted his first goal of the season and it wound up silencing every JVR-hater dressed in Orange across the NHL Land. Perhaps this is the catalyst to another van Riemsdyk hot streak? We can only hope, wait and see.
* * *
So winning over Montreal sets us 3-points ahead of them, and since Washington went down against the Devils (of all teams) 5 - 0 the same night.....we're sharing a #1 spot with the Capitals tied at 30-points.
The Caps don't worry me. The Canadiens can be slowed down. And Philadelphia is without question the powerhouse of the Atlantic Division.
Although we're only 22-games into the season, the Flyers have proven they can make comebacks and go on winning streaks. On-the-other-hand, we've proven that every once in awhile we don't play a full 60-minutes.
We're not perfect, but if we continue to ride this wave of success, more experience and brawn will fabricate and tie this unity between the players and their chemistry together even tighter.
Less mistakes will be made. More scoring chances will be born. The 'W' column will fill up like a line outside of Madonna's bedroom, and expectations will be reinforced even stronger.
Don't miss tonight's Flyers match up against the Wild in Minnesota. Puck drops at 8:00pm.
Until then, Philly brethren -- Good night. Good hockey.