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Meltzer's Musings: 11-17-09

November 17, 2009, 9:23 AM ET [ Comments]
Bill Meltzer
Philadelphia Flyers Blogger •NHL.com • RSSArchiveCONTACT
There's no such thing as a must-win game in November, but last night's game against the Devils came pretty close to qualifying for the Flyers. Even this time of year, there's a big difference between being five points out of first place (with two games in hand) and trailing by nine points.

In addition, heading into last night's game, no team in the NHL was playing better hockey of late than the Devils. Apart from their eight-game winning streak and perfect record on the road (and Martin Brodeur's pursuit of the all-time shutout record), New Jersey had been dictating the pace of most games.

Scoring first is always important in the NHL -- just check any team's winning percentage when it scores first versus when it trails first -- and it's virtually a must if you are going to beat New Jersey. If not for some clutch early saves by Ray Emery, last night's game would likely have taken on a much different tone. Once the Flyers had the lead, they did a fine job of protecting and, later, adding to their lead.

As is typical of a Jacques Lemaire team, the Devils did not alter their 1-2-2 system even when trailing by one goal in the third period. That probably would not have changed until the final five minutes of regulation were in not for James van Riemsdyk snapping a shot past Brodeur for an insurance goal that proved crucial.

****

On Versus.com's Daily Drop today, I took a look at one of the Flyers' unsung heroes so far this season: Darroll Powe.

I've heard people comment that Powe is giving the Flyers everything they'd hoped to get out of Scottie Upshall, and then some -- and at a much lower price to boot. I agree.

Like Upshall, Powe brings speed, occasional scoring pop (as he demonstrated in scoring the first goal last night) and tenacious forechecking to the table. However, I'd say Powe's play has been superior to Upshall's in other ways. Both players can be feisty, but Upshall was far more prone to silly penalties (especially slashing penalties). Powe, who can play any forward position, is more versatile and he is more consistent defensively than Upshall was during his time in Philadelphia.

I don't think anyone expected Powe to already have six goals on the season, given his checking line role on the team. But he showed hints of offensive ability in the second half of last season, and he looks more confident this year.

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Speaking of Powe, the decision to move Claude Giroux off Mike Richard's wing and have him center the fourth line certainly paid a dividend last night when Giroux made a nice play to feed Powe for his goal.

I did not really see the need for the move, however. Mika Pyorala's strong checking and lack of NHL offense are fine on the fourth line and the unit was doing just fine without the switch. I read in one of the newspapers today that the move back to center for Giroux is an "attempt to get more offensive production" from him. Since when is moving from a scoring line to a checking line -- regardless of position -- an effort to boost a player's offense? If anything, it's a move to take scoring pressure off him for a little while.

By the way, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that the other member of Powe's line, Arron Asham, has been playing fine hockey for the club. The strained oblique that he suffered last night and will keep him out for about two weeks could not have come at a worse time for him.

I am very much in favor of the club's decision to recall Daniel Laliberte to fill in for Asham, rather than inserting Riley Cote in the lineup. Laliberte did a very good job playing in the absence of Daniel Briere and bring more to the line with Powe and (presumably) Giroux than Cote would.

*****

Did anyone else find it curious that the Devils were nowhere to be seen before the opening faceoff last night? Not only were the New Jersey players not on the bench during the Dave Schultz Hall of Fame induction ceremony, they weren't even lined up during Lauren Hart's rendition of the national anthem.

Finally, after the anthem was finished, the Devils took the ice. I'm not sure what happened.

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I covered the Schultz Hall of Fame induction ceremony for Philadelphiaflyers.com last night. The ceremony moved along at a brisk pace. While it was not as touching or emotional as other ones I've witnessed, the presentation was nicely done and you could tell that Schultz was genuinely moved and humbled by the honor.

*****

Tonight, I will be speak at the annual Flyers Fan Club Q&A session at the SkateZone in Voorhees. I'm looking forward to it.

On Thursday, I will be a guest on Daily News Live on Comcast Sports Net to talk about the Flyers and the Pelle Lindbergh book.

I will be doing book signings for the Pelle book on the following dates:

December 4th 7 PM
Chester County Book Company
975 Paoli Pike
West Chester, PA 19380
610-616-1661

December 12th, 2pm
Barnes and Noble Booksellers
1553 Almonesson Road
Deptford, NJ 08096
856-232-3123

December 13th, 1 PM
Barnes and Noble Booksellers
2300 Chemical Road
Plymouth Meeting, PA 19462
610-567-2900


December 16th, 7PM
Barnes & Noble Booksellers
150 W. Swedesford Road
Devon, PA
610-695-6612
Devon, PA 19333

You can order Pelle Lindbergh: Behind the White Mask online at Barnes & Noble, via Amazon or through Middle Atlantic Press.
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