Stevens Out, Ovie is Dirty, Sabres Quietly Making Hay
December 8, 2009 by Big Tony
A lot to cover so let’s get going.
1. The Philadelphia Flyers fired John Stevens after four seasons in which he had experienced quite a bit of success. In the 2006-2007 season the Flyers were awful and Stevens followed up that season by leading the Flyers to the Eastern Conference Finals where they were eliminated by the Penguins. Then of course last season Stevens had the Flyers in the playoffs again only to see their cross-state rivals once again eliminate them from the playoffs. Granted, there is nothing good about losing but there is really no shame in getting eliminated from the playoffs by one of the best and eventually the best team in the league. Thus far this season the Flyers have been mediocre but are hardly out of playoff contention currently sitting in 13th in the East but it games in hand on every team in front of it so if it wins those games in hand a playoff spot would belong to the Flyers. It remains to be seen what will happen with this early season coaching change—and I was forced to eat my words about midseason coaching changes last year by Pittsburgh who made a coaching change then went on to win the Stanley Cup—but I do not think it will make one bit of difference for Philadelphia. There is a fair amount of talent on the team and Ray Emery has been pretty good in goal but the Flyers problems focus more on trying to win a fight on skates rather than a hockey game. Physical play is in fact important and it’s a significant piece toward becoming a championship team but being undisciplined is a dagger in the heart of victory. They also have to play much better defense in front of whoever is in net because in their last nine games they have given up at least three goals on seven different occasions. No offense to new coach Peter Laviolette but the Flyers are who they are and so I don’t think the season will go any differently with him than it would have with Stevens. (please see the following link for my preseason thoughts on the Flyers http://sportsroids.com/2009/09/27/eastern-conference-outlook/)
2. As much as I enjoy watching Alex Ovechkin play he is really making a name for himself as a dirty player. All of North America saw his knee-on-knee hit on Sergei Gonchar is last year’s second round playoff series, and now Ovechkin has served a suspension for doing the same thing to Hurricane defensemen Tim Gleason (Ovechkin also sustained an injury on that same play). There are some other questionable plays on Ovechkin’s record and if they continue to build up it will taint his image. No other player in the league can impact the game any more than Ovechkin can with his incredible offensive presence but hockey is a game of honor and if Ovechkin continues his dirty play he will have to answer to some pretty tough guys who will not go quietly. So if I’m Caps coach Bruce Boudreau I am making it clear to Ovechkin that has to keep better control of himself and stop with the dirty play for otherwise the Caps championship aspirations will be in serious jeopardy.
3. The Carolina Hurricanes got their first road win of the season in 14 tries by defeating the defending champion Penguins. Why the Hurricanes are so bad is a headscratcher but a sarcastic congratulations from me to them on their first road victory of the year. Here’s to many more road wins… or at least one more anyway.
4. Despite having recently lost two-in-a-row the Buffalo Sabres are quietly having a very successful season led by the incredible play of Ryan Miller. Anytime your netminder is posting an incredible 1.90 GAA you’re more than likely going to win a lot of games. But despite such great numbers Miller cannot go it alone and thus far he certainly is not. Tim Connolly and Derek Roy are leading the way with 21 points (6 goals 15 assists for each) with wingers Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek not far behind with 19 and 18 points respectively. Buffalo is not a flashy team but they are very consistent and find themselves ahead on the scoreboard come the end of the game and that’s all that matters. Their power play is less than stellar putting them 21st “best” in the league but they counter it with a penalty kill that is 3rd best in the league and that is very important/impressive—it also helps that the Sabres stay out of the penalty box. The Sabres were very good last year before being crushed by injuries in the stretch run but so far this team is better than last year’s and if they keep this up the East needs to be on notice because fore you know it you’ll be shaking the hands of the Sabres and wishing them good luck in the next round.
There’s much more to talk about but it will have to wait for next time…
P.S. To everyone making comments, thank you so much and please continue to do so. Many of them have not been posted to the site (as you may have noticed) but I do not have control when those are posted so please keep the comments coming for they will be posted shortly. Thanks everyone.