Round 1: Rangers vs. Flyers (Things might get Messy)
For a game that was scheduled at the end of September, Monday night’s Flyers-Rangers bout would have been better served as a game that took place at the end of April. But regardless of the date on the calendar, Philadelphia’s 5-3 victory over New York was a preview to the kind of animosity that will be brewing between the two teams prior to January’s Winter Classic.
The Rangers took an early 1-0 lead but the real fireworks began when Philadelphia’s Zac Rinaldo challenged New York’s Dale Weise to a fight. Rinaldo pummeled Weise and left him with a large gash above his eye. Following the fight, Tom Sestito made a poor decision and boarded a defenseless New York player from behind in the Ranger defensive zone. Sestito’s decision ended up costing him dearly as he was given a five-minute major for boarding, a five-minute major for fighting and a 10-minute game misconduct, effectively ending his night seven minutes into the game.
After a chaotic couple of minutes and a subsequent penalty to the Rangers for tripping, the Flyers found themselves on the power play. Following a skillful sequence of puck movement in the offensive zone, Jaromir Jagr scored his second goal in as many games and knotted the game at one.
The second period continued the aggressiveness found in the first. Following an interference penalty to the Rangers, the Flyers would once again find themselves on the power play. Philadelphia worked the puck around the offensive zone until Danny Briere found the puck at the right side of the New York net. Briere sent a pass to Jagr at the bottom left quadrant of the right faceoff circle and the newly acquired Flyer one-timed the pass to give Philadelphia the lead.
Special teams played a huge role in Monday night’s game. Considering the amount of physical play as well as the bad blood between the teams, it’s no surprise that the referees had plenty of opportunities to use their whistles. After a New York power play goal, the Flyers once again went to the man advantage. Briere found himself down low with pressure and instead of wrapping the puck around the boards, he decided to send a beautiful backhand pass to the slot that found the stick of young standout Matt Read who regained the lead for the Flyers. Prior to the end of the second, the Rangers would net another power play goal off of a deflected shot from the point that tied the game at three a piece.
Physicality was much less of a factor in the third then it was in the prior two periods. The Flyers looked like they were using their speed more so than their strength and this allowed the team to control the flow of the game. This was made evident by the play that would amount to the game-winning goal.
Jagr found himself with the puck along the right-wing board. Claude Giroux was positioned at the top of the right face-off circle calling for a pass to the top of the slot. In the process of calling for the pass, a New York defender was moving into the zone and caught Giroux’s attention while Jagr was sending him the pass. The puck bounced off of Giroux’s stick and found it’s way into the slot. Braydon Coburn was skating into the offensive zone to prepare for the attack when the puck landed on his stick. Coburn acted instinctively and fired the shot that Giroux had intended to take and ultimately won the game for the Flyers. Instead of the broken play going the opposite direction, the Flyers were able to capitalize on a cohesive attack.
Monday night was further proof of the skating abilities of the 2011-12 Philadelphia Flyers. The team is not only fast but also physical. Their ability to play a versatile game is one of the most intriguing dynamics of this new group of players. Hopefully the club will continue to dictate the style of game they wish to play rather then fall back on their ability to play in different styles. If they allow their opponents to decide the kind of game being played it could result in bad penalties and/or blown assignments in the defensive zone.
Erik Gustafsson and Tom Sestito did poor jobs of displaying why they deserve the few open spots left on this team. Sestito’s penalty in the first period was a reckless decision. Not only could it have seriously hurt someone but it also seriously hurt himself. For an individual who needs all the ice time he can get, Sestito only played one minute and forty-seven seconds and will most likely be dealt a suspension.
Gustafsson was on the ice for all three of the New York goals but most importantly he appeared to blow assignments on the first two. On both plays, a Ranger player was fed a pass in the middle of the slot and on both plays Gustafsson was standing in the slot looking for a man to pick up.
On the bright-side, Jagr, Giroux, Briere and Read all look wonderful. Jagr and Giroux appear to be developing a wonderful chemistry and Briere looks primed to have a productive season. Not to mention, all three looked great on the power play. It also seems all but certain that the speedy forward Read has won himself a roster spot on this year’s team.
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