Putting On The Foil with @jsaquella: Roller Coaster Weekend for Flyers
Editors’ Note: Noted Philadelphia Flyers fan John Saquella is going beyond 140 characters. The man most of you probably know from social media as @jsaquella will bring you his wide-ranging opinion and commentary on the Orange and Black in his column Putting On The Foil.
By John Saquella (@jsaquella)
Photo by Getty Images
The Flyers had a strange weekend, full of good, bad and ugly.
The good was getting a 1-0 shutout win over the New Jersey Devils Saturday night in Newark. The Flyers turned in a workman like performance, limited the Devils to 14 shots and got a strong performance from goalie Ray Emery. Defenseman Hal Gill made his Flyers debut and played solidly.
The bad was injuries to newly acquired winger Steve Downie. Downie suffered a concussion after fighting with Washington forward Aaron Volpatti during the Flyers 7-0 loss on Friday night. Downie seemed to feel that Read had been slew footed, and took a heavy blow, and immediately realized he was in trouble. A report, denied by GM Paul Homlgren, stated that Downie had also suffered a broken orbital bone.
The ugly? Pretty much everything after the 17:27 mark of the first period Friday night. The Flyers, after blowing a two goal lead on Tuesday in a loss to the Anaheim Ducks, got their doors blow off by the Caps. The Flyers had a good start, but seemed to fold after Nicklas Backstrom scored at the 17:28 mark of the first period. Four minutes into the second and the Caps were up 4-0.
Shortly after the Capitals scored their seventh goal, Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds delivered a pair of hard hits off a face off and drew the ire of Washington rookie forward Tom Wilson, who went after Simmonds. As the two wingers traded blows, Emery skated the length of the ice to engage Caps goalie Braden Holtby, who was not a willing participant. The result of all this was basically a line brawl, and a few ejections, including Emery, who picked up 29 minutes in penalties for his actions.
The biggest loss in the fight? Vincent Lecavalier, who suffered a facial injury and would not play against the Devils.
I was not a fan of Emery’s antics, but I do understand the frustration he felt. In fact, despite the media outcry painting the Flyers as thugs-even Pat Sajack got in on the action-it’s hardly the first time that a team getting it’s ass handed to them engaged in a line brawl or started a fight with an unwilling opponent. Just ask Sidney Crosby about how willing Florida forward Brett MacLean was to fight him back in January of 2009, when Crosby started pummeling the youngster off a faceoff.
I don’t recall a lot of attacks on Crosby from back then, so a lot of the sanctimonious complaining about Emery is just noise. One thing that has been discounted by a lot of the media, both nationally and locally, is the impact that a situation like that can lead to a better sense of team, and knowing that your teammates have your back.
It seemed to be the case, to some degree, against the Devils 24 hours later in New Jersey. The Flyers were diligent in their defensive play, avoided the glaring puck mistakes that killed them against both the Ducks and the Capitals and Emery made Brayden Schenn’s first period redirection stand up. It was a gritty, albeit ugly, win-much needed and earned with hard work.
After the Max Talbot-Steve Downie swap, rumors have been flying that the Flyers were not done. It’s not surprising, given their start. The scoring troubles have not sorted themselves out. The defense is still slow, immobile and not especially good with the puck. Coach Craig Berube has juggled lines and pairs to try and get something sustained, and it hasn’t worked yet.
There’s been numerous reports that the Flyers have been heavily scouted by a few teams, including the Blues and Stars. St Louis assistant GM Kevin McDonald was seen at the last few games, and Dallas reportedly has interest in defenseman Luke Schenn, who was a healthy scratch against the Devils.
It would be interesting if Schenn were traded, less than 18 months after the Flyers traded James van Rimesdyk for him. It would give a lot of ammo to those who are calling for Holmgren’s head, because it shows a distinct lack of patience and planning. Throwing in the towel so soon on Schenn, unless the return is a good one, could cause many more fans to join the chorus who chanted “Fire Holmgren” during the game Friday.
Even if the return is a good one, it may well be time to listen to that chorus…even if it means an in house hiring of Ron Hextall, rather than going outside the loop to bring in a guy like Paul Fenton, Nashville’s highly regarded assistant GM.