"I love the smell of napalm in the morning...it smells like....victory"
- Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore Apocalypse Now
Napalm in the morning
If you were to walk into Bank Building in South Philadelphia today, it would would have a peculiar odor...no not stale beer or rock hard pretzels...but of the scorched remains of the bird with the genus Toxostoma - otherwise known as a typical thrasher. The species of this on-ice bird, however, is a little more rare - the Atlanta Thrasher.
The Philadephia Flyers laid waste to the, now 0-6, Atlanta Thrashers last night at the Wachovia Center with a 4-0 shutout, winning their 4th game in 5 tries and picked up their Division leading 8th point. This victory was also their second home win in a row. Quite a bit different than last year's campaign, where they didn't win their fourth game until late in November and finished with only 10 home wins all season. At this point, John Stevens has the current crop of Flyers not worried about erasing the pain of only winning 22 games in 2007 - they are just concerned with winning the game they are playing that night, against that opponent. Nothing else.
It smells like victory.
This was a classic set up game against a team playing poorly, in fact five losses to open the season, and two days before a Turnkpike clash with the Jersey Devils. The Flyers had to be on their toes and not allow themselves to look ahead. The Thrashers came in and took the play to the Flyers for much of the first period. In fact, the save of the night was a highlight reel save off a high shot from Eric Perrin that forced Marty Biron
to windmill around tossing his legs in the air to block, what looked to be, a sure goal. After watching that save, I shook my head at how calmly and confidently Marty moves between the pipes and how sound he is when he squares to the shooter. I get the feeling watching him that there will be no short-side goals, no tragic miscues or buzzer beaters from the red line. This guy is solid and unflappable. While I am not about to anoint Biron the second coming, his play, his demeanor and supreme confidence reminded me of another Philadelphia goalie...Pelle Lindbergh (RIP). Whether or not Marty reaches the same levels of personal and team success remains to be seen, but one thing is certain...he will have a chance to have more than "a cup of coffee" with this team.
After a hotly contested, scoreless first stanza in which Atlanta comanded the play, Mike Richards continued his torrid play with a smokin' wrister from 8ft out for his third goal to open the scoring 1:21 into the 2nd period. Lupul and Briere picked up assists on the Richards goal as both continue their strong play. Jeff Carter, another young gun, scored his fourth on a wrister from Hartnell and Lupul. I am so impressed with the play of Richards and Carter and, as I mentioned in my initial look at this team before the season began, the season will largely go where those two young men take it. They have more than answered the bell and are leading in many more ways than just points scored. Another pleasantly surprising player is Joffrey Lupul, who was disparaged by many an oiler fan. He has done nothing but put up one goal and five assists for six points, tied for second in team scoring with Gagne and Richards, played hard every shift, created opportunities and taken the body when it presented itself.
The backbreaker came 34 seconds after Jeff Carter's 4th, on a slam dunk goal, past a bewildered Johan Hedberg, by Sami Kapanen. Sami potted the goal into a wide-open net off a beautiful shot by R.J. Umberger coming down on the wing. That goal was the one that the Flyers never got to last year. The trailer was never there, the goalie ate it up, the shot went high and wide...you know the story. This year, the puck is bouncing right, the shots are on net with traffic in front, the trailer is in the right position and the goals are coming. Man, it is beautiful to see the game played like this. The napalm bomb that ended it was an absolute gem of a one-timer by Randy Jones, off a feed from Jeff Carter, for his first of the year.
Yes, it is only the Thrash. I know. But these were also the type of games that the Flyers would find a way to lose or tie last year.
Perhaps the most telling thing about the victory last night is that the goals were not scored by anyone named Knuble, Gagne or Briere. The young guys are stepping up and making themselves accountable every night. The defense is clearing guys from the crease, blocking shots (Thank you Jason Smith) and breaking up passes. The forwards and defensemen are getting rubber on the net, routinely causing havoc by screening netminders and taking advantage of their team speed. I cannot remember the last time when I have seen so many odd man rushes just born out of effort, anticipation and quickness. Marty Biron has been nothing short of spectacular thus far showcasing his acrobatics while circulating ice water in his veins. Last night's win was Marty's first as a Flyer and 19th of his career. He earned it.
One thing that is a truism about team sports is that success breeds confidence which in turn fosters further success. The Orange and Black are confident and playing well.
Will this team win the Cup? Who knows. Will they make some noise in the East? To be determined. Are they as fun a team to watch as we have seen in ten years, since the glory days of the Legion line? Hell yeah!
While I feel
for the plight of the Atlanta Thrashers, I also know that we were there last year. It isn't fun. The Flyers have risen from the ashes and are on the way to returning this storied franchise to respectability.
I love the smell of burnt Thrasher in the morning...it smells like...victory.
Thanks for reading...
(sorry two war movie references in two days....but then, I am a Republican)