Like they all say, a win is a win and that's what counts. For the Philadelphia Flyers, today's win is just that: a win.
Mike Knuble scored two goals in the first period, and Mike Richards scored the eventual game winning goal on an exceptional play by Steve Downie whose come along very nicely in recent games (more on him later). Jim Dowd, and R.J. Umberger also scored for the Flyers and Kimmo Timonen put in an empty net in closing minute of the third period to secure the win.
Marty Biron, starting for the first time in awhile, played an okay game showing signs of rust in the beginning of the game. Yet, he quickly rebounded and overall shouldn't be blamed for most of the goals because team defense was terrible in this game.
A big problem for the Flyers this year has been playing overall solid team defense. Of course, Jason Smith, Derian Hatcher, and for the first quarter of the season, Randy Jones, all played exceptionally well and got support from wingers on the back check. However recently, that has not been the case. Although the back checking from forwards still remains, the Flyers D-men look as though they're simply being played all the way down to their own net. Simply put, they're giving up a lot of ground to the rush and it's very easy for a player like Sidney Crosby, and Ovechkin to score goals from simply dropping back to the face off circle and getting a good shot off, which is what Ovechkin did today as he netted a goal.
This is a troubling sign for the Flyers, in which they need to improve on big time in the second half of the season if they want to get into the playoffs. Their offense alone can get them there, in my opinion. Yet, it's going to be the result of how well they play team defense that is going to decide on how far the team goes in the playoffs. When the defense is there, and the offensive lines are clicking, this team is almost unstoppable. The Flyers are very fortunate, due to GM Paul Holmgren's efforts, to have the ability to constantly roll three to four lines without worrying about offensive productivity. The depth of this team is amazing--which can be seen at this time with the constant injuries that the Flyers are piling up, like usual.
Of course, to point out a specific player, Steve Downie has been in the limelight a few times already this season for his hit on Dean McAamond, and punch to Jason Blake. Yet, Downie should be certainly raising eyebrows with his performance in the past few games. He's not only always on the puck, but somehow is able to get on net as shown today against the Capitals when he made a fancy move by a Washington defense man and got the puck on net, in which Mike Richards was right there to tap it in. John Stevens rewarded the rookie by putting him on the ice at a crucical time with the lead at one in the closing minutes of the third period. Congratulations to Steve Downie.
Last but certainly not least, props to Jason Smith for sticking up for Sami Kapanan, (who seemed to get drilled a few times on a number of questionable hits) after he got drilled. Although, I completely disagree with the instigator penalty that Smith receieved, especially when both players dropped their gloves at the same time, it's good that he stuck up for a teammate and one of the reasons why he's the captain of this team.
As always, I'd like to remind everyone just how important wins are, especially against an Eastern Conference team, and specifically an Atlantic Division opponent. Wins against Eastern Conference teams are much needed, as much as possible. The Flyers need to keep up the good work as their next five games are against such opponents, with the last two of the five being from the Atlantic Division (Pittsburgh, and NJ).
Wednesday night against the Panthers is the next Flyers game. Until next time...