Q: Do you think you're a better goaltender than Marty Biron?
A: "I can't tell you that, but on any given night if we play them this year, we're going to win."
>>Flyers goaltender Ray Emery, September 2009
Heh. Heh heh. It's cheap but come on, you knew I was going to dig that one up whenever this crazy losing streak ended.
Four of the five Islanders losses to the Flyers this season were by one goal, so you knew the series could turn on a dime with the right bounces. Those bounces came tonight.
Blake Comeau's two goals -- the kid is on fire when pucks are looping in through the air and bouncing in off defensemen's skates -- were two of the craziest goals the Isles have received all year. Coming as they did just eight minutes in, they set the tone. Then 28 seconds later, Jon Sim and Frans Nielsen put the game toward full Flyers disaster by breaking out with speed (Trent Hunter made the nice outlet) to make it 3-0 on Nielsen's tip-in.
The rest of the night was uninspired by the Flyers (seriously, what is WITH these bubble teams?), and after Sim and Hunter scored on nice high shots in the third to make it a proper blowout, the Islanders five-man defense got sloppy to let the Flyers chip a few back and make it look close.
Fortunately for the Flyers, their bubble competitors all lost, too. Fortunately for Islanders tankers, their lottery brethren mostly won, too.
An Awfully Chipper Scott Gordon Post-Game
Including this, on Blake Comeau's progression:
"I think Blake has honest intentions to work hard all the time, but you know with the ability he has, the skill that he has, he should be able to produce offensively. And really, it's nothing more than putting pucks at the net. Those two goals that he scored, probably no one thought they had a chance to go in the net but they did. ... Lesson learned for the rest of the team."
This game was nice for the ease of victory and for the counting stats: Comeau's two (15th and 16th, each assisted by John Tavares); Sim (12th), Hunter (11th), Frans (11th) and Sean Bergenheim (8th) inching upward on their season tally; Dylan Reese and Bergenheim combining on a great rush and setup play on Sim's goal. When a blowout is in the offing, the getting is good, so it's fun to see the non-stars get in on the action.
It was nice for Martin Biron's early performance, too. The Flyers ended up putting four by him, but he held strong when it mattered. He made some key saves while the game was still 1-0 and 2-0. The second Flyers goal was due to the PK unit's oversight rather than his rebound. Nice to see for Biron, who post-deadline continues to get the luck that eluded him in the first half of the season.
This and That
- Easy fight for Trevor Gillies, landing punches and taking down Riley Cote. Cote wanted a fight, Gillies obliged. Cote appeared to
piss and moantalk it up afterward that he wanted another chance, but no obligation there. Gillies took a dumb penalty when he gave Cote a poke at the benches -- I admit, I laughed, it was Riley freaking Cote -- but it seemed in response to Cote's and Ian Laperriere's odd determination to get under Trent Hunter's skin all night. Hunter was having nothing of it, and rightly so. If suspended Daniel Carcillo is the agitator here instead of Cote, maybe it turns out better for the Flyers.
- With the ease of a blowout in effect all night, ice time was pretty balanced throughout the lineup save for Gillies' 2:41 and Mark Streit's less-but-still-a-lot 25:35. In Dylan Reese's 14:39 (+4), he continues to make me think he's another smart, quiet pickup by Garth Snow.
- Jaffe said it on the broadcast, and it wasn't a homer point: Comeau's goals were luck, but they were created by good habits: Winning the faceoff, putting the puck to the net, having a guy crashing the net.
- The Flyers outshot the Isles 35-28 overall, but that was due to the Flyers throwing pucks at the net trying to climb back into the game. No harm there.
"We have to learn to win, and win big," Biron said. "We have to be able to put teams away and not let them crawl back into the game. For the most part, we did that."
I guess so, for the most part they did. I was still bothered by their tendency to sit back in the third period and refusal to pressure the puck in the defensive zone. It's one thing to concede shots when you have a big lead, but the Islanders' coverage became condensed and passive -- at times at 5-on-5 they played their zone as if they were on the PK, minus the commitment.
But credit the Islanders for continuing to push after the 3-0 lead, a lead we know can be dangerous when acquired so early in the game.
Strangely, This Game Changed Nothing
So Florida beat Boston in regulation 1-0. Toronto beat Buffalo 4-2. Atlanta fell to Washington 2-1. Carolina picked up a regulation point before losing the shootout to Ottawa. Columbus lost in regulation to Detroit, in the only game that didn't go to bubble or lottery script.
Montreal, Boston and Philadelphia all sit on 80 points with the final three playoff spots. Atlanta and the Rangers are two and four points behind, respectively.
For most of these parties in both races, just four or five games remain. May the best loser win?