THOSE DAMN DEVILS!
Well, the Flyers-Devils home-and-home results are in, and while
one Flyers point out of four is about par for the course, there
are reasons to be encouraged.
For one, Philly finally proved they can score against their ugly,
mutated cousins from North Jersey. The nine goals they produced
in the series were more than enough for a pair of victories, but
shoddy goaltending, particularly by John Vanbiesbrouck in the
first game, doomed the Flyers to a tie and a loss.
The Flyers can also take heart from the way they rallied after
inserting Ron Hextall in Vanbiesbrouck's place in the first game.
In the past, third-period Devil leads seemed more insurmountable
than the Viet Cong, but some plucky play by the Flyers helped
turn a certain game one loss into a "good" tie.
Of course, there are also reasons to believe that nothing much
has changed. For starters, it's possible that the Flyers sudden
offensive explosion against New Jersey was a mirage. Many of
their goals were the result of horrific play by Devils goalie
Martin Brodeur. For whatever reason, Brodeur has looked more like
Martin Short against Philly this season, displaying more holes
than Al Pacino's character at the end of "Scarface."
The Flyers scrambly play in the third period of the second game
is another cause for concern. Not only did the boys in orange and
black fritter away a victory by allowing an uncontested tap-in
rebound goal in the final minutes of regulation, they compounded
the offense by allowing the OT game-winner on a flurry of shots
that forced Ron Hextall to face more rubber than a Saigon hooker.
With those types of breakdowns becoming more and more frequent,
Roger Neilson's "defensive genius" status is definitely in
Speaking of third periods, the Flyers late meltdown in the second
New Jersey game marked the first time all season they blew a lead
in the final stanza of a game. Prior to that ugly mishap, they
were a perfect 8-0 in that situation.
But the New Jersey goof may have marked the opening of Pandora's
box. Since that game, they've yacked three more third-period
leads, turning potential wins against Edmonton and pitiful
Calgary and Tampa Bay teams into ugly ties. The Tampa Bay tie was
particularly galling since the tying goal featured an assist by
none-other than the just-deposed king of the Flyers
underachievers Chris Gratton himself. Talk about adding insult to
MORE TRADE RUMORS
Obviously, Bobby Clarke has been changing players the way most
people change their underwear lately. By the way, that's most
people I'm talking about. At LCS, we don't embrace the
conventional wisdom regarding underwear. We generally wear it
once, turn it inside out, wear it again, and then repeat as
necessary, depending on the size of the laundry pile of course.
But I digress.
The latest name from the rumor mill is that of Sandis Ozolinsh,
Colorado Avalanche malcontent extraordinaire. And for once, we
have a rumor that makes sense. Ozolinsh could finally give the
Flyers a top-notch pointman for the power play, a role that Eric
Desjardins, Paul Coffey, Janne Niinimaa, and now Ryan McGillis
have tried to play without much success.
Obviously, the asking price for Ozolinsh is probably pretty high,
meaning that any Ozolinsh deal would probably include multiple
players, most likely Dainius Zubrus, Luke Richardson, and
possibly one of the Flyers prized goaltending prospects.
If that doesn't seem like all that much to give up, consider
this. Ozolinsh would only add one more unsteady hand to a defense
that already manages to self-destruct with alarming regularity.
Then again, at least he can skate backwards. That's more than you
can say about Richardson, who recently cost the Flyers a tie with
Edmonton when he fell down trying to retrieve the puck behind the
net in the game's final minute.
That's enough for me. Do it, Clarkie!
He's the one constant on an inconsistent Flyers team, scoring
goals and points, killing penalties, and forechecking like a man
playing against boys. And now he's the NHL's active leader in
consecutive games played, too.
Rod Brind'Amour became the NHL's new iron man last week when
Montreal's Mark Recchi succumbed to pneumonia and ended a streak
of 570 consecutive games. Brind'Amour has now played 433
The iron man mark is just one more feather in Brind'Amour's cap
-- and perhaps the most important reason that he's far too
valuable to EVER trade. Still, it's no wonder that rumors
constantly surround his name. How many superstars combine
Brind'Amour's rugged style with that type of durability? None.
Let's hope Bob Clarke's recent insanity doesn't extend to exiling
Brind'Amour, which, yep, is a rumor that's making the rounds
again. Surprise, surprise.
TO THE ROAD
The Flyers next six games will take place away from home, not
such a bad thing for a team that's rapidly incurring the wrath of
its fans. And since the trip includes games against doormats such
as Chicago, San Jose, Calgary, and Vancouver, it should be the
perfect Christmas present for a team in need of some confidence.