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Shootouts, the Globetrotters, and a Role-Reversal Flyers Loss

Mar 28, 2011, 5:50 PM EDT

One of the things I dislike most about the shootout in hockey is its effect on the post I have to write afterward. Selfish, I know. But the deciding element of the game is entirely inconsequential to the team’s hopes for a deep playoff run, and thus not really worthy of much thought or analysis. Is it kinda fun to watch a shootout? Sure. But so is practice over at the Skate Zone, in pretty much the same way. The points on the line factor into the standings in a very real way, but it’s still kind of pointless to fret over whether a first place team is any good at a trick shot competition that isn’t used to determine postseason outcomes at all. But really, I just don’t like the premise. Similarly, I like basketball, but I get annoyed at the way close games often grind to a halt, with the final minute or so consisting of a bunch of free throws. It’s like settling one sport by seeing which team does individual practice drills more efficiently. Then there’s the shootout in the NHL, which is somewhat like the free throw parade we see in basketball, only the Globetrotters are taking the shots.

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Sometime very soon, we’re hoping to bring you the pro-shootout side presented by a very qualified observer.

Until then, we’ll just talk about the 65-minutes of action that ended in a 1-1 tie before Pittsburgh beat the Flyers in the shootout. And just to warn you, I don’t have any great insight into the first 65 either. As fruitless as it can be to analyze the outcome of a game that ends in a shootout, it isn’t any easier to look at the last couple of weeks of Flyers’ games and put them into a particular context from night to night—other than to say that the team is playing inconsistently right now. The last two games, despite both ending in exactly the same [stupid] fashion, were complete opposites in some big ways.  

Overall, it was a game that lacked in intensity, which is surprising given the rivalry between these teams. It wasn’t terrible, and the Penguins didn’t dramatically outplay the Flyers. The big question of the night was answered positively—Sergei Bobrovsky came back from a bad outing to be the best player on the ice the next time out.

As encouraging as it was to see Bob rebound, the skaters in front of him also reversed their course from the Caps game. The problem, obviously, is that they played very well against Washington. The difference between the two offensive showings, combined with Bob’s complete 180, makes any in-depth analysis seem somewhat off-setting.

Bob’s night was encouraging though. In the playoffs, a goalie needs to have a mentality not unlike a closer in baseball. If you completely blow it, you have to have a short memory. (If you’re keeping score at home, we’ve now mixed sports analogies twice… sorry.) I’ve always wondered how possible that shake-it-off stuff is, versus merely being an objective for the day after you personally cost your team a game. Whatever the case, Bobrovsky showed that he can put a bad game behind him, as he has previously this season.  

Bob made some amazing saves in the first period, breaking up a cross-crease pass with a poke check on Dustin Jeffrey on one play, then stoned Tyler Kennedy on a breakaway. He set the tone for his team, showing them he wouldn’t let them down like last game. Unfortunately, they cashed in the favor pretty quickly. 

Even with about half their team scratched, the Penguins are still pretty good (scary when you consider that Sidney Crosby still leads them in points despite missing nearly three months, and he could be back for the playoffs). Defensively, they were strong, and the Flyers’ only goal came on a fluky play. It was still the result of some hard work by James van Riemsdyk and Mike Richards:

Nice job by JVR of using his big frame to shield the puck from the defender, who was playing him pretty well. He got it out in front, and Richie kicked it up in the air, then whacked it past MAF. At the time, it seemed like a good sign for the Flyers. If that’s gonna go in… 

But, the Flyers had a lot of trouble sustaining offense over the course of the game, tying a season low with just 20 shots. They had a few solid attacks that came dangerously close to scoring, but once they were over, that was it. The third period in particular saw a very flat, at times legless, Flyers side. In the always too-brief OT period, they seemed to regain a step early before fading on the last shift or two. What does that say about a team that was absolutely swarming for 65 minutes two nights ago against Washington? No idea here. 

The Flyers have earned standings points in their last eight games, having gone to the shootout a club record four straight times. I’ve still seen about enough of the shootout, as Danny Briere pointed out after the game, can have an equalizing quality between your bad games and your good ones, so longs as both end regulation play tied.

“Last game we deserved two points, we didn’t get one,” Briere said. “I didn’t think tonight we deserved one, but we got one back.”

You said it, Danny. That’s pretty much this verbose post in a nutshell.

Highlights:

Up next, the return to Flyer Island on Saturday.