Friday, January 25, 2008

The. Penguins. Suck.

Last night's Flyers game was pretty much the reason why I continue to fork over money for seasons tickets. I don't go to every game, but man, the raw emotion and the intensity of big games is the reason that I continue to be a fan of the NHL.

However, when you watch the NHL, one of the things you do have to get used to is officiating, which is beyond subjective. Some nights, like last night, it reminds me of when I was a kid and watched professional wrestling and used to get angry when the bad guys used to take hold down Bob Backlund or Hulk Hogan and beat them up when the referee's back was turned. You get to thinking, "How do referees miss that?" as the Iron Sheik or Roddy Piper pound away at your hero as the hero's manager is futilely talking to the referee.

Everything that is unique about the NHL was on display at the Flyers-Pens matchup last night.


There was enough emotion down at the Wachovia Center to fill psychiatrist's dance card for about a month. There was joy when the Flyers scored, anger when Steve Downie got hit from behind and they counted that bogus goal, and self-righteous fulfillment when Downie fought Ryan Stone and the Flyers battoned down the hatches for the final 1o minutes of the game.

Crappy Officiating:

That 3rd Penguins goal wasn't a goal now or ever. Why it was counted is a fucking mystery, what with:

1.) The Penguin player (Jordan Staal) launched himself straight into the net, which should have, at the very least, been a goaltender interference call by the official.

2.) The net was clearly knocked off of it's moorings by the Penguins player because he consciously flew into the direction of the Flyer goaltender and knocked the goal off of it's moorings. I didn't even know you could count a goal scored when the goal itself is knocked off it's moorings. Now that the Flyers know this is legal, this is a tactic they need to employ against the Devils.

Also, the following penalties were assessed by officials Dan O'Halloran and Greg Kimmerly, and I'm not terribly sure why:

1.) The Kimmo Timonen holding call at the end of the first period, which allegedly occurred right in front of my seats are. He and Jarko Ruutu were essentially battling one another for the puck and there were a couple of questionable tactics used by each player, but none I would consider a real penalty on one side or another or, worst case scenario, you could take both players off the ice.

2.) The Mike Knuble holding the stick penalty in the second period, where I'm not even sure that Knuble touched the player from the Pens involved in the penalty, let alone touched that guy's stick.

3.) Please explain what Riley Cote did to earn a 10 minute misconduct at the end of the 3rd period. I'm dying to hear what rule he violated. Is threatening mediocre players, like Greg Malone, now a penalty? What page of the rule book is that on?

Flyers Turned it Up

The Flyers themselves seemed to find themselves during the course of the game; especially after the Downie fight at the 5:34 mark of the 3rd period. Take Mike Richards, for example. I know his numbers haven't trailed off too much, but if you've watched his play of late, it's been a bit on the ragged side. Clearing attempts he got out the zone earlier in the year have been getting picked off. Lately, when receiving a puck on the fly, he hasn't been handling it cleanly. Those pucks he was kicking from his skate to his stick earlier in the year? Hasn't been happening lately. Maybe he's worn down a bit.

Anyway, after the Downie fight, the entire team took things to the next level and seemed energized. They looked the most determined as I've seen in awhile as they checked the Penguins out of the building. Richards and his line was zipping around the ice and threatened to score again on a couple of occasions. Players like Sami Kapanen and Scottie Upshall demonstrated a great deal of speed and grit as they attacked the Penguins' zone. You could feel in the arena that the Pens could not match the intensity as they seemed to play almost robotically in Sidney Crosby's absence. Even Martin Biron, who looked strangely disengaged through much of the game (you could argue he was outplayed by the Pens' Ty Conklin) was thoroughly in control by the end of the 3rd period such that you just knew the game was sewn up. It was a good win and I hope the Flyers take something from this win and apply it in the second half of the year.

Other observations:

- If Georges Laraque gets less than a 10-game suspension from his blatant boarding offense against Steve Downie, then Colin Campbell will show himself to be a total hypocrite after going out of his way to call out the Flyers as an organization for what he considered a pattern of dirty play. Laraque is a total knuckle-dragger, who allegedly no longer has a place in the new NHL. His hit on Downie was malicious and intentional and he needs to go down.

- Simon Gagne is still playing very tentatively. He got crushed along the boards with a high hit towards the end of the game and most people whom I sat around swore he was probably hurt again. Right now, I get the same feeling when Gagne gets hit that I used to get when you saw Eric Lindros get popped like "Oh Crap, how long will he be out for this time..."

- RJ Umberger was the number one star in the game and rightfully so. Someone should take whatever game schedule he follows and simply fill in "Pittsburgh" for every opponent, because he clearly turns it up a notch against the Pens. Scott Hartnell continued his hot play with 2 assists.

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