Rink Notes: Flyers-Leafs Report
It’s official — after last night’s 4-1 loss in Toronto, the Flyers are off to their worst start ever.
Sure, there were some positives to take from this one. Philly actually had some jump, managing 41 shots on goal. But the Flyers still can’t put the damn puck in the net. In fact, only Columbus has fewer than the Flyers’ total of 29 goals in 14 games.
Some of my posts have been pretty damn long of late (which seems to have alarmed some), plus I have some deadlines today, so let’s try to keep things relatively quick today.
My game observations:
- Flyers were 0-for-7 on the PP. I’m not sure if that’s more an indictment of the team’s woeful power play or an acknowledment of the Leafs’ penalty killing prowess. Toronto has been superb in this area, killing off 30 of 31 penalties over the past six games.
- For instance, in the second period, the Flyers have a two-man advantage and are exhibiting great puck control, but they seem unable to move the pick quickly enough tape-to-tape to set up for a one-timer. Every pass seems to be in the skates. No wonder this team can’t score; it has no touch and certainly no finish.
- The Leafs have also been pretty darned good on the PP, going 6-for-26 over their past five games. Last night, however, they only scored once on seven tries.
- Next to Bryan McCabe and Tomas Kaberle, Ian White is seeing more ice time than any Leaf defenseman lately. His PT is up almost two minutes per game so far this month and he’s responding with better play. White is +2 over the past two games, almost removing him from the hole for the season.
- Leaf announcer Joe Bowen seemed to have a hell of time pronouncing Flyer goalie Antero Niittymaki’s name in the early going. There were a couple of different incarnations, but he seemed to be stuck on NITKAMAKI. Dumb ass. At least he got it right later.
- Whatever you want to call him, Niittymaki was looking fantastic. Although he was shaky on the first goal of the game, this contest would have been way out of reach had it not been for him. The fact that his numbers aren’t far off what he did last year when Philly supposedly had a good team speaks volumes about Niittymaki.
- Here’s a crazy thought: Darcy Tucker is almost on a 50-goal pace. Yikes. But the fact is, he’s got a good thing going on the power play with eight goals and has found a sweet spot just to the side of the net where he can pound in cross-crease passes. It’s working, as Tucker has drained about six of those already.
- Mats Sundin is enjoying his best season in a decade with 19 points already. With 504 career goals to his credit, Sundin in breathing down the backs of some all-time greats. Next up is the legendary Jean Beliveau, just three away. The top 30 is within sight for the 35-year-old Sundin.
- The Flyers looked very strong in the second period, especially in the opening couple of minutes. I haven’t seen a hint of that kind of forechecking pressure all season, so it was very nice to see.
- This second stanza has been Philly’s undoing this year, as it had been outscored 23-7 in the middle frame heading into last night. Last night, the Flyers chose the first period to be crap, but luckily they weren’t buried by it. Instead, it was the Leafs who sucked in the second period.
- Rumours abound that the Flyers are trying to add an offensive defenseman to help take the pressure off Joni Pitakanen. David Tanabe has been mentioned as a possibility and certainly the Flyers and Hurricanes have a rich history of trading. Tanabe is not playing much right now, so he’s been linked to many teams in a variety of proposed deals.
- What’s up with Peter Forsberg? He’s gone pointless in three straight games and screwed up a sure goal early in the third period.
- Midway through the third, the Flyers are on another power play looking for the tying goal. Hal Gill’s stick breaks, essentially turning it into a 5-on-3, so what happens? Geoff Sanderson skates into a Leaf and takes an interference penalty. This is the kind of thing that happens when things aren’t going well.
- The third period was fairly even for the first dozen minutes or so before the Leafs pulled away for a 4-1 win.