Atlantic Watch: 11/2-11/8

The Flyers may have absolutely clobbered the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night, and the Flyers may have only been a shootout goal or two away from going 3-0-0 this week, but these three games weren’t the best Flyers team we’ve seen all season.

Before their Saturday night massacre against the worst team in the league, the Flyers may have played 125 minutes as well as participate in a shootout in their first two games, but they really only showed up for a total of about 20 minutes.

Inability to play a full 60 minutes was a problem last year’s Flyers were all too familiar with as they dominated teams until brief lapses of intensity late in games resulted in goals coming in bunches for the opposition as well as easily attainable points being missed all season long.

Focusing on the games this week, the Flyers came out and dictated play early last Wednesday in Buffalo resulting in a shaky 3-2 victory over the Sabres. After scoring three goals in the first 6:23, the Flyers practically sat back for the remainder of the night, allowing the Sabres to come within a goal of tying the game late in regulation. James van Riemsdyk was the only Flyer on the evening with two points scoring the team’s second goal while assisting on Sean Couturier’s opening goal at the 1:43 mark.  Ilya Bryzgalov was a huge benefactor in the win as he made 29 saves, which included 15 in the second period and several in the dying seconds. After producing 11 shots in the first 6:23 of the contest, the Flyers only produced 15 shots for the remaining 53:37.

The following night the Flyers returned home to suffer a shootout loss to the Devils 4-3. Yet again, Peter Laviolette’s charges seemed to lack intensity, but found a way to be tied at two goals apiece after 40 minutes despite being outshot 21-9 in the middle period. Zac Rinaldo produced his first career NHL goal to open the scoring in the second period. Andreas Lilja posted the secondary assist on Claude Giroux’s second period goal, giving Lilja assists in back-to-back games since he assisted Couturier on his goal against the Sabres. In the shootout, the Devils had both Zach Parise and Patrik Elias beat Sergei Bobrovsky, while the only Flyer to score against Johan Hedberg was Danny Briere on an awkward-looking play that many would argue shouldn’t have counted. It marked the first time the Flyers had reached the shootout this season.

Disappointed with their play in the previous two games, the Flyers decided to come out and play with intensity and passion on Saturday night. They accomplished this task while playing the lowly Blue Jackets, a team who had won just two of their first 13 games (2-10-1). An easy Flyers victory was expected, but certainly not by the score of 9-2.

Both of the Blue Jackets’ goals came in the third period, when the Flyers were letting the Jackets skate into the zone and create offensive opportunities. Rinaldo, Hartnell, and Lilja were the only Flyers’ skaters on the evening without a single point. Couturier had his first career two-goal game as well as his first short handed goal in the NHL.

The Blue Jackets’ goaltending was not up to NHL standards by any stretch of the imagination. Steve Mason allowed seven goals on 28 shots. Allen York, who came in relief for Mason later on in the first period, allowed two goals on only five shots.

The game marked the first time the Flyers won by seven goals or more since their 8-1 win over the Hurricanes in Carolina last season on November 11th, 2010. It’s also the first time the Flyers scored nine goals in a game since February 6th,1997 — a 9-5 victory which saw the Legion of Doom show Tomas Vokoun the showers after the first period in his very first NHL start.

Of course it’s exciting the Flyers just pounded a team by seven, but let us keep in mind the quality of that team. The Blue Jackets, at the moment, are a poor facsimile of a hockey team and had no reason to come out motivated for Saturday’s game unlike the Flyers. The Flyers should have destroyed the Blue Jackets that badly under the circumstances. Now, the test will be to see if the Flyers can come out and show the same intensity they did against the Blue Jackets in their next game against the Tampa Bay Lightning after three days off.

If the Flyers come out and play a strong, convincing 60-minute game tonight and beat the Lightning, it will make me happier than Saturday’s laugher.

Following their game in Tampa Bay on Wednesday, the Flyers stay in Florida but wait another two days before playing the Panthers on Sunday evening. To conclude the week, the Flyers move on up to Carolina to visit the Hurricanes on Monday night.  

Pittsburgh Penguins: 1-0-1. A pair of shootouts led to three points for the Penguins this week as they fell to the San Jose Sharks a couple of days before beating the Kings in Los Angeles. Opening both games with strong first periods, the Penguins allowed the Sharks to march their way back into the game for a win, while they managed to hold of the struggling Kings.

Despite a three-point night from Evgeni Malkin, and grabbing a 2-0 lead just 2:04 into the game, the Pens managed to fumble away a point as they choked away a win against the Sharks on Thursday night losing 3-2 in a shootout.

Malkin had two goals and the primary assist on Deryk Engelland’s goal, which came 24 seconds into the game. Engelland’s goal was his first of the season and later in the game he dropped the gloves with Ryane Clowe. Allowing two goals in the third period, Pittsburgh failed to score on Thomas Greiss, who got the win after relieving Antti Niemi early in the game. Clowe netted the only goal in the shootout scoring in the third round to give the Sharks the victory.

Two days later, the Penguins beat the Kings 3-2 after tying the game late in the third period. Chris Kunitz scored the game-tying goal with only 2:57 left in regulation and provided the deciding goal in the shootout to give the Pens two points on the night. For the Kings, Anze Kopitar had a goal and an assist while being the only King to score in the shootout. Kris Letang provided his 12th assist on the season with a helper on Steve Sullivan’s late first period goal. Letang provided the other goal for Pittsburgh in the shootout.

In his first game against the Pens since being traded to the West Coast, Mike Richards had no points in the game on four shots.

Three Pens this week boasted three points during their two-game stint in California. Malkin had all three of his points in Pitt’s loss to the Sharks on Thursday. Scoring his lone goal on the week against the Kings, Sullivan had an assist on both of the Pens’ goals at the beginning of the Sharks game.  Leading the team in goals, James Neal ironically led the team with three assists this week. Assisting on both of Malkin’s goals against the Sharks, Neal had the secondary assist on Sullivan’s opening goal against the Kings.

Making his NHL debut this week, Robert Bortuzzo had two PIM in 10:38 ice time in Saturday’s game against the Kings. Drafted 78th overall by the Penguins in 2007, the stay-at-home defenseman was sent back down to the Wilkes-Barre Penguins after Saturday’s game.

In another roster move by the Penguins, Mark Letestu was shipped to the Columbus Blue Jackets for a fourth round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft. First appearing for the Pens during the 2009-2010 regular season, Letestu had 15 goals and 16 assists in 96 games over the last three seasons. He only had one assist this season in 11 games, playing limited minutes.

In the midst of a five-day break, the Pens don’t take the ice again until Friday, at home, against the red-hot Dallas Stars. The following night the Penguins travel to Carolina to take on the Hurricanes. To end the week, the Pens head out to Colorado to take on the Avalanche on Tuesday.

New York Rangers: 3-0-0. Outscoring their opposition 9-4, the Rangers managed to win all three of their games this week. Henrik Lundqvist recorded two wins while Martin Biron recorded his first shutout since he was a New York Islander two seasons back. Marian Gaborik was the only Ranger to record a two-goal game this week adding on to his goal total, which is now at a team-leading seven for the season.

After being out shot 15-4 in the third period, the Rangers pulled off a 2-1 shootout victory against the visiting Anaheim Ducks on Thursday. Jeff Woywitka’s first goal as a Ranger was crucial, since it pushed the game beyond regulation. Teemu Selanne tied up the shootout at one, after Erik Christensen scored on the opening shot, but Gaborik replied immediately scoring on the Rangers’ next turn. Lundqvist redeemed himself for a mess-up earlier in the season against the Ducks in a shootout as he denied Bobby Ryan on Anaheim’s final turn to give New York the win.

Gaining a three-goal lead before the opening period was over, the Rangers held off a mid-game surge by the Montreal Canadiens to win 5-3 in New York on Saturday. Christensen scored his first goal of the season 4:57 into the game. Assisting on Dan Girardi’s goal later in the first period, Christensen was one of three Rangers who had two points in the opening twenty minutes. Known more for his fighting and size, Andre Deveaux registered his first point as a New York Ranger during the second period of Saturday’s game. Grabbing the secondary assist on Brad Richards’ goal, Deveaux experienced his second career point in the NHL (both of which are assists).

To complete their sweep, the Rangers handed the Winnipeg Jets a 3-0 loss in The Big Apple on Sunday. Biron, who had nine shutouts in total over a three-year span with the Flyers, blanked the Jets by blocking all 23 of their shots. Gaborik didn’t notch the game-winner, but he did have the primary assist on it while also scoring the Rangers’ other two goals. Derek Stepan, with a goal and an assist, and Artem Anisimov, with two helpers, were the other two Rangers with two points on the night. With two games completed against the Jets, the Rangers have two wins and have outscored the lowly Southeast club 5-1 in the process.

Gaborik was the only Ranger to have a point in all three games this week totaling two goals and three assists. Michael Del Zotto had a goal as well as the secondary assist on Stepan’s game-winning goal against the Jets. In addition to his game-winning goal, Stepan also had three primary assists this week. Artem Anisimov had four assists over the weekend.

The Rangers made a pair of roster moves this week featuring the signing of a free agent defenseman and the acquiring of a minor league right winger.

Denied a qualifying over by the Blue Jackets this summer and being released by the New Jersey Devils after training camp, Anton Stralman signed a one-year, $900,000 contract with the Rangers on Thursday. With a goal and 17 assists last year in 51 games for Columbus, Stralman has yet to play a game for the Rangers as he is currently down in the AHL.

Their second move in the week was shipping defense prospect Tomas Kundratek to the Washington Capitals in exchange for winger Francois Bouchard. This trade isn’t too significant as neither player has played a single game in the NHL.

To start the week, the Rangers visit the Ottawa Senators tonight, a team looking to end a three-game losing streak. Traveling back home, the Hurricanes visit New York on Friday night. The Rangers conclude the week by playing the Isles on Tuesday night.  

New Jersey Devils: 3-1-0. After dropping their third straight game last Wednesday night, the Devils have picked up the slack with a three-game winning streak. Beating relatively easy opponents in the Jets and Hurricanes, the Devils will need to prepare for tougher competition this week as they face two fierce teams in the Eastern Conference.

Powered by a Joffrey Lupul hat trick, the Maple Leafs visited Jersey and came out with a 5-3 victory over the Devils last Wednesday. Entering the second period trailing 2-1, Lupul’s trio of goals in a 6:42 span put the game out of reach for the Devils. Rookie defenseman Adam Larsson recorded his first point in the NHL with an assist on Elias’ goal in the second period. Brad Mills had his first point of the season with an assist on David Clarkson’s goal, which came just 4:46 after Elias’ goal. Martin Brodeur received the loss with an 18-save game.

Traveling to Philly the next day, the Devils beat the Flyers 4-3 in a shootout. Adam Henrique registered his first goal in the NHL halfway through the second period to tie the game at two goals apiece. After Max Talbot capitalized early in the third period on a penalty shot, Clarkson tied the game with just 6:35 left after a poor clear by Matt Carle failed to leave Philly’s defensive zone. Both Parise and Elias scored in the shootout for New Jersey giving them the extra point over their divisional enemy.

Capping off their stretch of three games in four nights, the Devils returned home to beat the Jets 3-2 on Saturday night. Blowing a two-goal lead in the third period by allowing both Mark Flood and Jim Slater to score, the Devils turned to their hot-hand for the game-winning goal in overtime. Scoring his first career NHL goal two nights before in Philly, as well as scoring earlier in the game during the second period, Henrique ripped home the game-winner 1:28 into the extra frame for his third goal in two games. The Devils outshot the Jets 5-0 in overtime.

Last night, the Devils won their third straight game with a 3-2 decision over the Hurricanes. For the second straight game Henrique was awarded the game-winner as he broke the 2-2 tie with only 3:19 left in regulation. Dainius Zubrus had a goal and an assist while Elias had two assists. The Devils  outshot the Hurricanes in every period, as well as the game overall.

Henrique made a name for himself this week scoring four goals and assisting on two more in the Devils’ four games. If six points in four games wasn’t enough for the rookie, two of his goals turned out to be the game-winners. It’s true he is on a line with Ilya Kovalchuk and Parise, but that doesn’t mean he’s automatically going to get points. He seems destined to be another Devil that is a constant pain for Flyers fans in the future.

Kovalchuk left late in the Devils’ game against the Flyers on Thursday due to a lower body injury. He didn’t play against the Jets or Hurricanes, but Devils coach Peter DeBoer said Kovalchuk should be ready to play in Friday’s game.

As for the Devils schedule this week, New Jersey will take on two proven teams within the conference while attempting to continue their winning streak. On Friday and Saturday, the Devils will complete a home-and-home with the Washington Capitals playing in Jersey on Friday. On Tuesday, the Devils ship up to Boston to take on a Bruins club that has yet to shake off their Cup hangover. Winning just 6 of their 13 games so far this season, but strafing opposing netminders in the last three games, the Bruins are surely on the verge of returning to their championship form.

New York Islanders: 1-2-0.  In spite of losing two of there three games this week, the Islanders decided to go ahead and beat the toughest team in the group. In their losses to the Jets and Bruins this week, the Islanders were out scored 9-2 overall and out scored 5-0 in the third periods of their losses.

Suffering their third shutout loss within their first 10 games of the season, the Islanders fell to the Jets 3-0 on Long Island Thursday night. Ondrej Pavelec posted the 34-save whitewash, while Johnny Oduya had a two-point night which included his first goal of the season. Even with two whole power-play opportunities during the second period, the Islanders couldn’t find the back of the net despite out shooting the Jets 19-6 in the middle stanza.

Two days following their embarrassing loss to the team at the bottom of the Southeast division, the Islanders came out and beat the team at the top of the same division with a 5-3 over the visiting Washington Capitals. Trailing 2-0 after the first period, the Islanders scored five of the final six goals in the last 40 minutes. Brian Rolston scored his first goal as an Isle late in the second period to tie the game at two goals apiece. Playing against his former team, Milan Jurcina provided the primary assist on P.A. Parenteau’s game-winning goal for his first assist on the season.

The high the Isles experienced from beating the Caps didn’t last long as they were demolished by the Bruins two nights later with a 6-2 defeat Monday in Boston. Tyler Seguin’s eighth goal of the season served as the Bruins’ game-winner late in the first period. The Bruins scored three goals in both the first period and the third period to dominate the New Yorkers.

Due mainly to the fact Pavelec shut them out Thursday night, no Islander had more than two points this week. John Tavares and Steve Staios were the only Islanders to register points in both games, with Tavares having a goal and an assist while Staios had two assists. In their tortuous defeat in Boston, both Matt Moulson and Michael Grabner had a goal and an assist.

The Islanders seem to slowly be letting their season slip away, again, as they are currently experiencing a 1-5-2 stretch. It’s still early enough in the season for the Islanders to turn it around, but there aren’t too many expectations or indications that they will change their losing ways.

Finishing their three-game road trip this week, the Islanders travel to Colorado tomorrow night to take on the Avalanche and complete the trip by visiting Vancouver Sunday night to take on the Canucks. When the Islanders return home on Tuesday, they will face off against their divisional, and city, foe in the Rangers.