Any way you slice yesterday's 6-4 home loss to the Penguins, it was an extremely frustrating and concerning game for Philadelphia. After a bad start, the Flyers seized the lead and control of the game and basically gift-wrapped it back to Pittsburgh.
Even then, the Flyers would have won the game with a good third period. Instead, just as they did against the Rangers (twice) and Red Wings, the Flyers collectively imploded.
Philadelphia's goaltending has already been pilloried and ridiculed (yet again) for the last 15 hours, so I'm not going to dwell too much on the obvious fact that both Ilya Bryzagalov and Sergei Bobrovsky were lousy yesterday. Four of the goals against came on routine shots, not testers. When that happens, everything else eventually gets dragged down right along with it. However, it is foolish and wrong to blame it all on the goaltending.
Not when the team had the lead and numerous failed power play opportunities -- including a 5-on-3 that resulted in one of the Pens' two shorthanded goals. Not when the Penguins took the lead in the opening minute of the third period off a turnover by Philly's best defenseman, Kimmo Timonen. Not when Timonen (prior to leaving the game early) and the Flyers' top line got outskated and outhustled on sequences leading up to several of the momentum-changing or momentum-killing goals. Not when the Flyers were guilty of 15 giveaways, including five by Marc-Andre Bourdon, to just 6 by Pittsburgh.
In terms of positives the Flyers can take away from the game, there are three main ones, discounting Wayne Simmonds' too-little-too-late goal in the closing minute of play.
1) Jaromir Jagr's quick two-goal outburst against his former team was an encouraging sign. Prior to his bout with the flu, he had been knocking on the door of breaking through his goal-scoring dry spell. I thought Jagr looked good on Danny Briere's line yesterday, although Jakub Voracek had a rough day on the Claude Giroux unit.
2) Nicklas Grossman had a nice debut for the Flyers. He had little to do with the first Pittsburgh goal, and was solid thereafter. Grossman finished with a plus-one, eight hits, three blocks and zero giveaways in 18:26 of ice time in an important divisional game for his new team. The Flyers would gladly take two dozen similar games from him down the stretch and the playoffs, although it's unrealistic to expect him to keep up that kind of hitting pace.
3) With his goal (off a horrible play by Pittsburgh's Deryk Engelland) late in the second period, Eric Wellwood became the eighth Flyers' rookie to score a goal this season. The last time that happened for Philly was the 1993-94 team.
Paul Holmgren said after the game that there were no injuries to report, so hopefully whatever knocked Timonen out of the game wasn't major.
A few hours after yesterday's game, the Flyers traded Jon Kalinski, the conditional (2012 or 2103, Florida Panthers' option) second round draft pick acquired from Florida for Kris Versteeg and a 2013 fourth-round pick to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for veteran defenseman Pavel Kubina.
In order to make room for Kubina, the Flyers will send Bourdon back to the AHL's Adirondack Phantoms. Kalinski was included in the trade so that the Flyers could remain compliant with the 50-contract reserve list maximum this season.
The 34-year-old Kubina will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. He is in the final year of a two-year contract paying him $3.85 million per season. The Flyers absorb the prorated remainder of his cap hit this season, leaving the club with about $900,000 of long-term injured reserve allowance to use the remainder of this season.
Kubina's play has dropped off a bit the last few years. This season, he has 11 points (3G-8A), 59 penalty minutes and a plus-one rating in 52 games for the Lightning, while logging 19:52 of ice time for the underachieving team. However, Kubina is a former NHL All-Star (2003-04) and three-time Olympian with a Stanley Cup ring (2003-04), as well as an Olympic bronze, three IIHF World Championship gold medals and 953 games worth of regular-season NHL experience to his credit.
The 6-foot-4, 258-pounder was never a speed demon even in his prime and has lost a step in the last couple years. But his size can still come in handy in battles down low in the defensive zone. He blocks a lot of shots and, although his hitting game can be sporadic, he plays with an occasional mean streak (three NHL seasons with 100-plus penalty minutes and an elbowing-related suspension last year on his rap sheet).
A righthanded shooter, Kubina's best asset has often been his big, booming shot from the point. He's reached double-digit goals five times in the NHL, most recently in 2008-09 when he tallied 14 for Toronto. His career high is 17 goals.
A little-known fact about Kubina is that he is the son-in-law of Frantisek Cernik, who was one of the elite goal-scorers in Czechoslovakia during the mid-70s to mid-1980s. A mainstay on the national team, Cernik was finally allowed by the communist government to come to the Detroit Red Wings (at age 31) for one season in the mid-80s.
Today, Cernik is the owner and president of Czech Extraliga team HC Vitkovice. That is where Kubina got his start in hockey and is likely to play one season when his NHL days are done, before he hangs up his skates for good.
Today is the annual Flyers' Wives Fight for Lives Carnival. To those who are going, enjoy!
For those who asked, no Chris Pronger will not be able to attend this year's event. The organizers will accommodate those who purchased photo booth/autograph tickets with the team captain.
Use coupon code "FlyersBuzz" on HockeyTickets.ca
between now and the end of the regular season to receive a 10% discount on all ticket orders over $150 and also have a chance to win two free lower-level seats to a Flyers regular season game of your choice at the Wells Fargo Center.
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