Complacency & Controversy Cost Flyers
It seems like no matter what the Philadelphia Flyers do, New York Rangers pest Sean Avery is a thorn in their sides. On Black Friday, a rule that was instituted because of his antics was called against Chris Pronger in overtime of a 3-2-shootout loss to the Calgary Flames. Although the game should have never come down to such an asinine rule to begin with, the call and the aftermath that follows will surely be talked about quite a bit in the coming days.
After a fairly uneventful first period that saw no tallies on the Wells Fargo Center scoreboard, the teams finally started trading punches in the second. About three minutes into the period, Nik Zherdev had an absolutely fantastic dangle and toe-drag shot that found its way to the back of the Calgary net. Tough guy Jody Shelley provided a great screen on Mikka Kiprusoff that was essential to the goal.
Ten scoreless minutes later, the Flames finally answered the Flyers’ first goal. On yet another terrible Flyers power play possession, Curtis Glencross created a breakaway that ended with a smooth backhanded goal. As the Flyers have done all season, they bounced right back and tied the game two minutes later on an excellent fore-check.
Andreas Nodl forced a turnover to the right of Calgary’s net and Mike Richards found James van Riemsdyk on a centering pass. JVR converted the one-timer and after his slow start, he has now tallied a goal in the team’s last three games. If van Riemsdyk and Zherdev can maintain some consistency moving forward, the Flyers could very well have the best top-ten forwards in the league.
Although it seemed like the Flyers carried play though most of the game, they simply failed to put the Flames away. Calgary generated some great chances and the Flyers were hemmed in their own zone for stretches of the third period. Around the thirteen-minute mark, the Flames knotted the game at two on a transition drop pass that found Steve Staios in the slot. After a hectic finish, the game would head to extra time.
Halfway through the overtime period, Ville Leino drew a holding penalty and in the subsequent 4 on 3 power play, controversy took over. Richards scored what seemed to be the game-winning goal, however after the goal was scored, Pronger was whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct.
On the play, Pronger took his hand off the stick, and with his back to Kiprusoff, he attempted to block the goalie’s line of sight. The letter of the law clearly states that the penalty should be applied, “…to a situation when an offensive player positions himself facing the opposition goaltender and engages in actions such as waving his arms or stick in front of the goaltender's face, for the purpose of improperly interfering with and/or distracting the goaltender as opposed to positioning himself to try to make a play.”
While the letter of the law is clearly up for debate, I find the call incorrect because Pronger wasn’t facing Kiprusoff. Furthermore, if the penalty was indeed a penalty, then it’s perplexing why it wasn’t called upon the occurrence. Rather, the call was made five to ten seconds later as the goal horn sounded. Not only do I think the call was incorrect, but the manner of which the call was made seems to be incorrect as well. In my opinion, there should be no hesitation in making the call as it happens.
Despite the controversial call, the Flyers have themselves to blame for the loss. They played lackadaisical for stretches and never offered a final blow to the Flames. When you let a team hang around in the NHL, you’ll find a way to lose. The Flyers have failed to break their recent power play slump, and that’s also inexcusable. With the talent the team boasts, there’s simply no reason to score once in their last 31 opportunities.
It was a tough loss for the Flyers, but the good news is that they have a chance to amend Friday’s wrongs tomorrow. They to New Jersey to face the Devils at 1:00 and I would expect them to play with some fire after the way Friday’s game ended.