Monday, November 1, 2010

Good Things Come in Threes

They say that good things come in threes, and that was certainly the case this weekend for the Flyers and Penn State.

The Flyers had the number 3 all over the place. They scored three goals against the Penguins on Friday night to win 3-2. They then exploded for six goals on Saturday (3 x 2 = 6) to extend their winning streak to three games. And between the two weekend victories, the Flyers had three players score two goals in a game.

On Friday, it was Claude Giroux stealing the show, scoring yet another shorthanded goal — his third shorty of the season, by the way — on a beautiful pass by Mike Richards, then later scored the eventual game-winner on the power play by ramming home a loose puck in front of the net, his third game-winner of the year.

They were Giroux's 5th and 6th goals of the season, tying him for the team lead with Danny Briere. He also now leads the team with 11 points, and those three game-winners also are the most on the Flyers. He's certainly looking like he'll make good on my proclamation that Claude Giroux will be an all-star.

The victory on Friday was an important one on several levels. For starters, it was the first time all season the Flyers managed to win back-to-back games. That's an encouraging sign. Secondly, it was already the second time the Flyers have defeated the Penguins this season, taking a 2-1 season series lead. That looms large for how much this team has grown, winning two of three already against a team that has in recent memory tormented the Flyers. And lastly, it was yet another good outing by Sergei Bobrovsky, especially encouraging following a bit of a slump in his play after his tremendous start. Bobrovsky stopped 26 of 28 shots, proving to be early kryptonite for the Pens.

When you add to that Dan Carillo's beautiful redirection goal assisted by Matt Carle and Blair Betts, not to mention that Carcillo has been thriving once again on the fourth line and even managed to stay out of the penalty box against Pittsburgh, it was an all-around excellent win.

Of course, we all know that Carcillo is what he is, going back to his familiar role as agitator and oft-penalized player in Saturday's 6-1 victory, piling up 22 penalty minutes courtesy of two fights, a cross-check and a game misconduct in a game that got pretty ugly.

Truth of the matter is, Carcillo was actually doing his job in this one. When the Flyers went up big, the Islanders really lost their cool and started taking some dangerous runs at the Flyers. Trent Hunter had one particularly dangerous hit against Andrej Meszaros, a hit that injured the big defenseman. The hit was unnecessary and illegal, drawing a five-minute major. From there, things just got worse, and Carcillo and the rest of his teammates made it a point to protect their own.

The game got out of control because, well, the Flyers dominated. Bobrovsky was a rock in the net, stopping 30 of 31 shots. Meanwhile, Rick DiPietro was a sieve, surrendering six goals and somehow not getting pulled. Jeff Carter scored twice. Ditto Chris Pronger. And Kimmo Timonen had a great all-around game, opening the scoring with his first goal of the season, adding two assists — good for three points — blocking countless shots and finishing a plus-2 for the game. Andreas Nodl scored the other goal on a great hustle play by James van Riemsdyk to flag down a very nice pass by Carter; then JVR put a perfect pass to Nodl, who buried it. The helper by Carter gave him three points on the night as well.

The only negative was the injury to Meszaros. He's listed as day-to-day, and it doesn't sound too serious, so that's good.

You know what else was good? Penn State. Like, really good, at least offensively.

On Friday, I said I thought Penn State would be in for a long night, yet held out a little hope:

"I hope Michigan's terrible defense allows Penn State's running game to take the burden off McGloin, letting the inexperienced QB to get more comfortable …"

I never thought that would actually happen. But it did. In fact, that's exactly what happened in Penn State's 41-31 victory over Michigan in Happy Valley Saturday night. And it was Penn State's third straight win against the Wolverines. Stunning.

Right from the get-go, Penn State marched down the field 71 yards behind a rejuvenated Evan Royster and an unrecognizable offensive line. Clearly motivated by breaking the Penn State school rushing record, Royster looked like his old self, the one that was so effective the past few years. He didn't look slow or plodding or indecisive. He looked quick in hole, intelligent and aggressive. And he was the biggest difference in the game.

The way this season was going, it looked as though Royster was going to limp to the all-time record. Instead, he exploded through it on Saturday night, putting up by far his best performance of the season with 150 yards and two scores, breaking the record on a 20-plus-yard run.

Royster had nearly 100 yards and two touchdowns by halftime, and the Nittany Lions led 28-10. The only moment the game looked to be in doubt was when Denard Robinson responded to Penn State's opening drive with a 32-yard touchdown run. After that, it was all Penn State. Yes, Michigan did hang around and keep it close, but the outcome was never in doubt.

Royster and the offensive line were having their way with Michigan's horrid defense, and that, in turn, gave McGloin all the comfort he would need. The former walk-on looked infinitely better than he did a week before — partly due to his increased reps during the week as the starter, but mostly due to the effectiveness of the run game. McGloin was 17-28 passing, throwing for a touchdown to Graham Zug (who actually didn't drop the ball for once) and running for another TD on a QB sneak. And most importantly, he didn't turn the ball over. He spread the ball around, connecting with eight different receivers, and his ability to play under control kept the Penn State offense balanced.

Defensively, well, the Nittany Lions did still give up 31 points, and Denard Robinson predictably ran all over Penn State for 191 yards and three touchdowns, but the defense played good enough. They got several key stops in the first half, allowing the offense to get out to that 28-10 lead, and they limited Robinson, who had been completing nearly 70 percent of his passes, to just 11-23 throwing the ball for just 190 yards. It wasn't the best defense in the world, but it was a huge improvement and certainly good enough for the victory.

It was an all-around tremendous effort by Penn State, especially in the first half. Great to see Evan Royster look like a real football player again, and congrats to him. He's earned it. The win was Joe Paterno's 399th, placing him now just one win away from 400.

And as always, fuck michigan.


  1. Let's hope Meszaros comes back A-Ok...

    For all the craziness you talked about Matt McGloin, the man held his own. Of course, he did perform that way against a Michigan defense that looks like you, me, and Kenny were on the defensive side of the ball. many more wins does Paterno get after 400? A friend of mine says he finishes precisely at 400. Looking at the schedule, they've got NW, Ohio St., Indiana, and Michigan St. Plus, you all need two wins to get bowl-eligible. I had a hard time disagreeing...thoughts?

  2. I agree with you. Indiana is the only definite win. But you never know, maybe this game can give these kids confidence and help them pull out another victory or two.

    They obviously aren't going to beat Ohio State. No chance. Northwestern and Michigan St. are definitely better than Penn State, but I wouldn't be surprised if they found a way to beat one or two of them.

    Don't get that twisted. I don't expect Penn State to beat NW or MSU. But I could see it happening.

    Indiana is the only W I fully expect to happen.