Oh, how sweet it is to beat the Devils. There is no team in my lifetime that has single-handedly tormented one of my favorite teams more than the Devils. Not even Michigan. I hate the Devils. I hate them so very much. But the hatred isn't as loud or obnoxious as it is for Pittsburgh or New York or even Washington. Why? Because, besides David Puddy, there's no such thing as a Devils fan.
And that makes me hate the team that much more. All they do is win. And win. And win. Even if nobody is watching. And they do the vast majority of that winning against the Flyers. In fact, the all-time leader in wins for a goalie, Martin Brodeur, has more wins against the Flyers than any other team.
It's been infuriating watching the Devils own the Flyers. So when a 4-2 victory against the Devils occurs, highlighted by 3 power play goals, it's always fun. After a brutal stretch of games, the Flyers have come out unscathed, sitting pretty in the 4th spot in the East at 90 points and still 10 more games to play. Matt P. broke down the Flyers' current state quite well, touching on the new lines, the resurgence of Danny Briere and the power play, and taking on rivals like Pittsburgh and New Jersey.
I would like to wholeheartedly agree with him on the play of Briere. Like Matt P. said, Briere needed some time to get back into the swing of things, and now that he's healthy, he's becoming a real difference maker, especially on the power play. A healthy Danny Briere is a damn good hockey player, and he's healthy at the right time now.
But I'll let Matt P. finish his own thoughts there. Go check it out. I'd like to point to three Flyers that I feel have really been key. First and foremost is the play of Martin Biron. As great as it is to have balanced lines and Briere returning, Matt P. failed to mention that in the brutal stretch where the Flyers took on the league's elite, Biron was the best player on the ice almost every night.
Last night against the Devils was no exception. Biron faced
But in order to hoist the Stanley Cup, the Flyers are going to have to take a serious look at themselves in the mirror and admit they have a problem. The Flyers take entirely too many penalties for a team that has aspirations of hoisting the greatest trophy in sports. And I don't want to hear about the referees' biases toward Philadelphia or any of that crap. Watch a game, like last night's, and count how many stupid, legitimate penalties the Flyers take.
The Flyers were penalized 11 times last night, putting the Devils on the power play 7 times. And that's been a common trend for the Flyers. I know last night, and against Pittsburgh, and really all season, the Flyers have been incredible on the penalty kill. They're one of the best teams in hockey shorthanded, giving up few goals and even posing offensive threats on the opposition.
But in the playoffs, you can't take too many penalties. Every little detail matters, and continuing to put yourself a man down, against the top teams in the league, is a recipe for disaster. Players like Scott Hartnell, Daniel Carcillo and Matt Carle, really the Flyers as a whole, need to be more disciplined. You can't expect to give the opposition 5, 6, 7, 8 power plays a game in the playoffs and win. If they don't cut down on that by the time April rolls around, you won't have to worry about Detroit or San Jose; the Flyers won't get that far hanging out in the box.
Maybe this isn't the best time to be bringing this up, seeing as the Flyers are playing extremely well, so let's get back to the positive. As I stated before, Claude Giroux is my favorite Flyer. Sure, I love Mike Richards and Jeff Carter and Knuble and Gagne and all the rest as much as everyone, but Giroux is my guy. And man, oh man, is he making me look like a genius for choosing him.
Giroux is a magician with the puck. When he's on the ice, it seems as though he's moving at full speed and the rest of the players are going in slow motion. He seems to have the puck on a string, toying with defenders, and his passing acumen is second to none. Really. Just check out his pass on Gagne's goal:
That's just filthy. The kid is amazing. Admittedly, I was apprehensive about shuffling the lines, and I still sorta am, but having Giroux center Knuble and Gagne has been exciting. Gagne and Giroux already look as though they have great chemistry, and the other lines have continued to play well even with the reshuffling. As sad as it was to see Scottie Upshall go, I'm sure as shit glad that Claude Giroux is getting more and more ice time.
Of course, not as much ice time as Kimmo Timonen. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Kimmo Timonen is as good as any defenseman in the National Hockey League. Any one of them. Maybe he won't put up the same numbers, but the man just notched his seventh straight 40-point season with two assists last night, including this beauty of a pass to Briere:
But more important than that, Timonen is the definition of a shutdown defenseman. He hounds the opposition's top line, top players, and gives them nothing. He sacrifices his body, blocking more shots than you can imagine. He quarterbacks the power play, anchors the penalty kill, organizes the rush, moves the puck well, skates, hits, takes the hit to make the plays, and never seems to make a mistake.
Mike Richards is the Flyers' captain the most complete forward. Simon Gagne is the best sniper, Jeff Carter the best scorer. Daniel Briere and Claude Giroux are the best playmakers, Scott Hartnell and Daniel Carcillo the best agitators, Lupul and Knuble the best players along the boards. Braydon Coburn is the fastest defensemen, Matt Carle the most offensively talented, Andrew Alberts the biggest, Randy Jones the quietest. But Kimmo Timonen is the most important. The best.
And that's saying a lot for a team with as much talent and depth as the Flyers. This team is playing incredible right now, and they provide plenty of reasons to be excited. Let's just hope they can stay out of the box, stay healthy, and stay hot.