Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Earth to Scottie

I gotta say, tonight was a pretty good night to be a Flyers fan. For the first time in months, the Flyers had their full complement of players, healthy and accounted for, to take on the top seed in the Eastern Conference. And they played a tremendous game, defeating the Bruins in Boston 4-2.

But one thing really bothered me about tonight, something that has actually been bothering me for weeks now -- Scott Hartnell's idiotic penalties.

Last night, Hartnell took three penalties, one particularly bad. Six and half minutes into the third period, holding a 3-1 lead, Hartnell took a stupid roughing penalty against a team with the second highest rated home power play in the NHL, with the Flyers fighting for every point to get home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. It was his third penalty of the game, following a slash that actually worked out to be a power play for the Flyers in the 2nd to go along with a very awful, unnecessary boarding penalty in a tie game.

Now, I like Scott Hartnell. I really do. He's a damn fine player who has grit, can score and provides a lot of energy. He's a good player. But the guy has been taking entirely too many penalties on a team that has been putting itself in the sin bin all too often. I understand it's part of Hartnell's game to agitate opponents, get under their skin, but he's good enough to be able to do it without putting his team in a rough spot. Lately, he's been too undisciplined, and at some point, that could really cost the Flyers. Luckily last night, it didn't, but Hartnell has to start using a little better judgment. Hopefully he will.

On the other hand, the Richards line doesn't need to change a damn thing.

The trio of Mike Richards, Simon Gagne and Mike Knuble has been nothing short of spectacular of late, one of the hottest lines in hockey. Tonight, they continued their torrid 2009, scoring three of the four Flyers goals. On the first, Knuble used his muscle, got the puck back to Andrew Alberts who fired it toward the net. And Gagne batted it out of the air for a great deflection to put the Flyers ahead.

Three minutes later, Richards fed Gagne behind the net, who threw a backhanded pass in front of the net, right to Knuble, who banged it home. And to top things off, Knuble made an incredible steal, tipped to Richards who one-timed it to Gagne for a perfect tic-tac-toe goal. The top line simply took over the game.

And it had some help from a line that created some great chances: the newly formed Upshall-Giroux-Briere line. With two awesome passers on the ice, Upshall should see his goals start to skyrocket. He better be ready to shoot, because Giroux and Briere will certainly find him.

With three lines going strong, Timonen back on the blue line and a team with boatloads of scoring, the Flyers are looking good at the moment. They certainly could use some consistency in net, and a trade may be in the works in the coming hours, but the team looks primed to make another deep run. So long as Hartnell stays out of the penalty box. I suggest threatening to cut off a lock of his hair every time he takes a penalty. Maybe that will stop him.

BallHype: hype it up!

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