Saturday, November 27, 2010

Taking teams for granted: Flyers vs. Devils

I have to be honest, I didn't really watch the game today. I had it on multiple TVs throughout the house but I was cleaning and it was more background noise. From what I saw the first period was horrible. They battled back through the second and third and ending up tying the game taking it to OT and a Shootout two days in a row. Unfortunately they lost in the Shootout. But the kicker is they never should have been in that position to begin with. Two games, two points, could have been worse but given who they were playing, it should have been a lot better.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Flyers lose game they have no business winning

Today was an annual family tradition - Orange and Black Friday.  While much of the American population travels to overcrowded malls and shopping complexes, my family and I brave the crowds at the Wells Fargo Center and watch Flyers Hockey.  Rich and I always buy a separate set of tickets so our daughter Mary can go to the game with us and we give our tickets to someone else in the family so we can all enjoy an afternoon cheering on The Flyers.  Mary has a winning record when going to the games.  Last year she was 6-1 in the regular season and 1-0 in the playoffs.  Before today, she was 3-0 on this season.  After today she was 3-1.  The two losses she saw were both the "Day After Thanksgiving" game. 
Last year when we lost to Buffalo, it was the start of the Flyers downward spiral which would end with them underachieving all the way to the bottom of the division and putting their playoff hopes in jeopardy.  Those who followed the Flyers last year know that they managed to turn it around and end up in the Stanley Cup Finals.  Sure they didn't win the ultimate prize but they did pretty well for a team that made the playoffs in a shoot out. 
This years loss was a different story.  The Flyers are having an awesome November.  They are 9-2-2 in November including today's OT loss to Calgary.  They played an OK game today.  But they didn't play with the determination they had played with in previous games.  Calgary was 2-6-2 in their last ten games and 14th in the Western Conference.  This November, the Flyers have feasted on teams like this.  Unfortunately this was not the case tonight.  They scored first in the second period with a goal by Nicolay Zherdev and went into the third up 2-1.  They haven't lost this year going into the third with a lead.  Unfortunately, Calgary tied it up in the third.  It looked like Briere was going to put the Flyers up again in the third but the puck never crossed the goal line.  So it went to Overtime.  And that's when the fun began.
Mike Richards scored a goal in OT to win the game.  The problem was that it didn't count.  The reasoning why it didn't count is what has the Flyer's Faithful up in arms.  The Flyers were on a Power Play in OT (4 on 3) and Chris Pronger was camped just outside Kiprusoff's crease.  He waves his left hand in front of Kiprusoff's face for a second and put his hand back on his stick.  Kiprusoff nudges Pronger with his stick.  No calls are made, no whistles are blown, no arms are in the air.  The puck goes in the net and then the ref puts his arm in the air when Kiprusoff yells and points to Pronger.  They call a penalty on Pronger, not for interference but for unsportsman-like conduct.  They are saying that Prongers one second wave in front of Kiprusoff invoked the "Sean Avery Rule'."  What is the Sean Avery Rule you might ask.  Colin Campbell defined it as follows:
"An unsportsmanlike conduct minor penalty will be interpreted and applied, effective immediately, 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," Colin Campbell, the NHL director of hockey operations, said in a statement.
Pronger was never facing Kiprusoff, he was always facing the play.  And the Sean Avery Codicil to Rule 75 (Unsportsman-like conduct) is not in the rulebook.  Calgary thought the refs got the call correct.  The Flyer's faithful thought the refs got the call wrong.  The team thought the refs got the call wrong.  But they will qualify it that they didn't play well enough to win the game.  The Power Play went 0-6.  The was time left after the goal was recalled to win the game.   They didn't get it done in the shootout.  The Briere line didn't register a point.  The team is right, they could have played better, and they should have played better.  But the fact was, regardless of how they played, they were in a position to win the game, and the refs blew a call to take it away.  And they didn't have to answer a question about it.  Pronger has some great quotes to say about the refs like:
“Well I guess it doesn’t matter. I’m not gonna get in a 'he said, she said' with the ref. And I’m the ‘he.’ ”

But they still lost in the Shootout.  They registered a point.  And if we had to lose a point I would rather it be to a Western Conference team rather than one in our division.  Now it's time to lick their wounds and get ready for a Eastern Conference match-up against The Devils who were just shutout by the Islanders.  Of course the Devs and the Islanders are battling out for the worst record in the East.  But as we learned today, no teams should be taken for granted.  Neither should any hand movements for that matter.