Atlantic Watch: 11/9-11/15

Who would have thought a week that featured three games against mediocre Southeast Division opponents could provide such entertaining hockey (no sarcasm) and debate?

An unusual scene in Tampa Bay, resulting in the equivalent of a puck-possession staring contest, has caused such a stir that the general managers needed to talk about it at their meetings, multiple short-handed penalty-shot goals were awarded AND converted, Braydon Coburn fought a former Philly scrapper in addition to scoring a goal, and the Flyers almost (I know I’m stretching it here) blew a two-goal lead in the final ten seconds of a game.

Let’s start with the Lightning game. The Flyers lost 2-1 in overtime on Wednesday night, but that wasn’t the headline of the game. Tampa Bay occasionally uses the 1-3-1 trap scheme in the neutral zone and decided to use it at the very beginning of the game. The Flyers, not taking part in the trap malarkey, decided to just stand in the defensive zone with the puck until a Lightning’ forward attempted to forecheck. Neither team budged resulting in some pretty boring hockey.

The conversations and debates since the game, however, have been pretty intense with both sides getting representation. For those who actually care about the other events in the game, Scott Hartnell deflected a rocket from Jakub Voracek for his sixth goal of the season while Kimmo Timonen recorded his 11th assist on the season. Brett Connolly scored for the Bolts in overtime and Coburn handed a beatdown to Steve Downie.

Returning to action on Sunday night, the Flyers racked up the 3-2 win on the road against the quietly-good Florida Panthers. Coburn scored his first goal of the season taking part in a beautiful passing play with Voracek. Matt Read had the game-winning goal capitalizing on the most exciting play in hockey for the game-winner. 

Read’s goal was a huge moment in the game because it gave the Flyers a two-goal lead, it came shorthanded, and Stephen Weiss was ejected from the game for yelling at the ref about the assessment of a penalty shot. Ilya Bryzgalov looked good in net making 31 stops on 33 shots. Philly had a scare late as Tomas Fleischmann scored for the Panthers to cut the deficit to 3-2 with only eight seconds left in the game. As Florida won the ensuing draw, the Cats provided one more scoring chance before time expired.

Playing the Hurricanes the following evening, the Flyers won 5-3 in Carolina to cap off a 2-0-1 week. Claude Giroux cleaned up against the ‘Canes providing two goals and an assist on Wayne Simmonds’ goal in the second period, which could have easily been Giroux’s goal as well. Chris Pronger was the other Flyer with three points in the game, all of which came via secondary assists.

It’s worth noting the performance Patrick Dwyer had on Monday night. He pumped in two shorthanded goals – one that came with only a second left in the first period and one that came on a penalty shot in the third period. Saving 17 of the 20 shots that came his way, Sergei Bobrovsky is now 3-0-1 on the season despite a save percentage of .878.

Voracek led all Flyers in points this week with four. Despite going goalless, Voracek provided the primary assist on Hartnell’s goal against the Lightning, Coburn’s goal against the Panthers, and Read’s goal against the Hurricanes. His lone secondary assist came on Max Talbot’s goal against the Hurricanes.

Giroux’s three-point night on Monday is already his third game of the season with at least three points totaled. His season-high is four points, which came against the Hurricanes in the first match up of the season on October 29 when he registered a goal and three assists.

The main roster move of the week for the Flyers was Coburn signed an extension last Wednesday keeping him with the Flyers until the end of the 2015-2016 season.

Tomorrow night, the Flyers host Bryzgalov’s former team as the Phoenix Coyotes come to Philly. On Saturday afternoon, the Flyers travel to Winnipeg in an attempt to avenge their crazy 9-8 loss to the Jets earlier in the season. To conclude the week, the Flyers play the ex-Whalers again, but this time in Philadelphia.   

Pittsburgh Penguins: 2-1-0. It was the week of comebacks for the Penguins, as they overcame deficits early in both of their wins and erased a three-goal deficit in their only loss. The Pens were out scored 5-1 in the first periods of their games this week, but out scored the opposition 9-2 in the third periods. After visiting Florida this week, the Pens return home to take on a team they’ve already beaten twice this season.

The game which featured their least impressive comeback was Friday’s 3-1 win against the Dallas Stars. After allowing Eric Nystrom, who only had four goals in 82 games last year for Minnesota, score his fifth goal of the season late in the first period, the Pens scored three unanswered goals to beat former Penguin Alex Goligoski.

James Neal, playing his former team for the first time since last season’s trade, registered a pair of goals, one of which was the game-winner. Marc-Andre Fleury only allowed one goal on the evening, but he only saw 20 shots the entire game.

Although they scored the first three goals in the third period on Saturday night, the Pens couldn’t handle the Hurricanes as they lost 5-3 in Carolina. Tuomo Ruutu decided to pot a pair for his first two-goal game since December of 2010, while Jeff Skinner had the opening goal along with two primary assists. For the Pens, Jordan Staal’s two goals in a 3:03 span early in the third period along with Chris Kunitz’s sixth goal of the year tied the game at three midway through the third period. Eric Staal decided to return the favor to his brother by scoring the game-winner just 3:08 after Kunitz had tied the game.

Thanks to a monstrous four-goal third period, the Penguins beat the visiting Colorado Avalanche 6-3 despite trailing 3-1 after twenty minutes on Tuesday. Neal, to no one’s surprise, led all Pens with three points on the night putting home a power-play goal along with a pair of helpers. Brooks Orpik opened the scoring in the third period for Pittsburgh registering his first goal of the season 1:12 into the final stanza.

Although they won, let’s point out some negative things about the game for the Pens: Kunitz was a minus-2 on the night (on a night his team scored six goals) and Matt Duchene made a bunch of Pens in the slot look totally foolish for what might possibly be the goal of the year in the first period.

Neal continues his early season dominance as he potted three goals this week in addition to three assists. With each of his goals coming on the power play this week, Neal grabbed the league lead in power-play goals in addition to being ranked second in the league in goals and seventh in the league in overall points.

In an attempt to jinx this phenomenal scoring pace, I’m going to say James Neal is going to set his career-high in goals, assists, and points this season. It’s not too risky to assume Neal will, considering he’s got 20 points in 18 games and his best season was in 2009-2010, when he had 55 points (27 goals, 28 assists) in 78 games for the Stars.

Making his first appearance in the NHL this season, Eric Tangradi played against both the Stars and Hurricanes this week. Tangradi had a plus/minus rating of minus-1 and registered no points with only one shot on net.

Taking a trip to the Sunshine State, the Pens face the Tampa Bay Lightning tomorrow night and the Florida Panthers Saturday night. Facing the Islanders on Tuesday night, the Penguins return home to open a three-game homestand.

New York Rangers: 3-0-0. Don’t look now, but the New York Rangers have won seven straight games. Since losing to the Senators in a shootout on October 29th, a game they enjoyed a 4-1 lead with only 11:55 left in regulation, the Rangers have gone unbeaten in their last seven games needing extra time only once to beat an opponent.

With only one game this week, against a team at the bottom of their division, it’s not out of the question that the Rangers could still be streaking when they take on the Flyers November 26.

The Rangers found themselves with another multi-goal lead against the Senators halfway through the third period, but this time New York managed to hang on for a 3-2 win in Ottawa. Marian Gaborik may have had two goals on the night, one of which clinched the game, but Derek Stepan led all skaters with three points depositing his his third goal of the season in the first period and assisting on both of Gaborik’s tallies.

Goaltending was the difference in the game, as Henrik Lundqvist had 29 saves on 31 Ottawa shots. Craig Anderson, on the other hand, set his team up for failure allowing three goals on a measly 19 shots. As expected, Sean Avery dropped the gloves with Zenon Konopka after Konopka and Rangers’ head coach John Tortorella exchanged words last week.

As the Rangers scored four goals in a 7:39 span in the third period, they rolled over the visiting Hurricanes 5-1 on Friday night. Dan Girardi provided the game-winning goal on the power play halfway through the period, while Brandon Dubinsky scored his first tally of the season just nine seconds after Girardi’s marker. Lundqvist had another big night allowing only one goal on 35 shots. Gaborik avoided the scoresheet, even with his game-high seven shots on net.

The Rangers handed the Isles a 4-2 defeat last night. After outshooting the Islanders 14-5 in the first twenty minutes, the Rangers were out shot 28-16 in the last two periods of regulation, ironically out scoring the Islanders 3-1 in that section of the game.

Steve Eminger scored his first goal of the season in the second period which, at the time, gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead. Allowing two goals in last night’s game, Lundqvist allowed five goals on 99 shots this week.

Starting the season with the Rangers’ AHL affiliate, the Connecticut Whale, Avery has proven to Tortorella as to why he should be on New York’s NHL club. In addition to the fact he has two goals in the last two games, Avery also stood up for his coach last week when he mixed it up with Konopka. Avery has failed to provide an agitating presence over the last few seasons without hurting the good of the team or himself, but in his five games so far this season he has shown some discipline while irking the opposition.

As I mentioned earlier, the Rangers only have one game this week and it’s against the Montreal Canadiens. The Rangers travel to Montreal on Saturday night to try and extend their winning-streak to eight games against a team who has only won seven of their 17 games so far this season.

New Jersey Devils: 1-2-0. The Devils squeaked out a win against the Capitals on Saturday, but dropped their other two games this week after winning three of four last week. If the fact they only won one of their three games this week wasn’t bad enough, the Devils needed a four-round shootout to edge out their lone victory.

With a loss last night, the Devils endure a three-game road trip this week only winning five of their last 10 games.

The Devils dropped the first of their home-and-home against the Caps on Friday night losing 3-1 in New Jersey. Adam Larsson opened the scoring with his first goal of the season, but Alex Ovechkin tied the game late in the second period with his seventh of the season. Early in the third period, Jason Chimera potted the game-winner on the penalty kill. The goal was Chimera’s first game-winner since his double overtime goal in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Rangers last season and it’s Chimera’s first shorthanded goal since February 0f 2008. Martin Brodeur had 17 saves on a night where his team didn’t ask much allowing only 20 shots to reach the aging veteran.

The following night saw the Devils avenge themselves, with a 3-2 shootout victory in Washington. Entering the second period down by a pair of goals, both Petr Sykora and Ryan Carter scored to tie the game at two. Carter, playing for his fourth different team in the last two seasons, scored his first goal of the season. David Clarkson provided the goal in the fourth-round of the shootout that beat Michal Neuvirth and gave the Devils the additional point. Both teams were 0-for-5 on the power play and both teams couldn’t manage twenty shots on net in what must have been just an exhilarating game for the fans.

Visiting Boston last night to take on the Bruins, the Devils lost 4-3 following what was a hectic third period. Nick Palmieri managed to grab a pair of goals in the third period, even though his team was massacred 18-6 in shots for the final twenty minutes of play. With just three minutes left in regulation, who else but Benoit Pouliot cashed in for his second goal of the season and grabbed the win for his team. Although Tim Thomas only made four saves in the third period, the Bruins limited the Devils to very few shots and provided three goals in the third period to support him.

Adam Henrique was nowhere to be found this week as he has provided only one point in the last three games after cashing in for six points last week. His one point, the primary assist on Palmieri’s second goal in the third period to tie the game at three, may have been important, but he failed to score a single goal all week long when his team was in desperate need of one. It’s pretty hard criticism for a rookie who has eight points in 13 games, but his weak play, in addition to Ilya Kovalchuk still out of the lineup, was a big reason as to why the Devils only gained two points this week.

Joining the Devils this week due to Kovalchuk’s lingering injury was Vladimir Zharkov. Zharkov made his season debut on Friday against the Capitals, his 79th NHL appearance, where his stat-line was not noticeable in 4:48 of ice-time. He had no points, no shots, and was an even plus/minus in 11:52 on the ice in three games.

The Devils start their three-game road trip tonight in Buffalo against the Sabres. Continuing their trip on Saturday, the Devils visit the Lightning before taking on the Panthers on Monday night.

New York Islanders: 0-2-1. It’s not looking pretty for the Islanders as they continue their struggling ways this week gaining only one point in the standings. With a surprise win against the Capitals earlier in the month, the Islanders are 1-7-3 in their last 11 games.

If the Islanders were looking to improve their play, the rest of November isn’t bringing too much hope to the club as their seven remaining games in the month are against teams who made the 2011 playoffs.

Jumping out to a 3-0 lead halfway through the game, the Islanders allowed four straight goals to lose 4-3 to the Avalanche in Colorado on Thursday night. Al Montoya tried to weather the storm as long as possible, but on Colorado’s 51st shot of the game, Kyle Quincey found the back of the net on the man advantage.

Montoya’s 47-save effort is the most saves he has made in an NHL game, but his high-sticking minor in overtime ultimately cost his team the game. Josh Bailey netted his first goal of the season with a power-play goal to open the scoring in the first period.

Jack Capuano’s club then traveled to Vancouver to face the Canucks, but the visitors allowed a goal within the opening three minutes of each period ultimately falling 4-1 on the road. Matt Moulson provided the only goal on the evening for the Isles, scoring late in the second period providing a possibility for New York to come back in the third period. A power-play goal by Cody Hodgson early in the third period shot the comeback down, while David Booth added on an empty-net goal late in the game. The Islanders were outshot 27-12 in the first forty minutes of the game and didn’t receive a single power play all game long.

To conclude their road trip, as well as their miserable week of hockey, the Islanders dropped a 4-2 decision last night to the rival Rangers. Moulson registered a power-play goal in the third period to provide his second goal in two games. It’s not much of a scoring statement, but for the way the Islanders have been playing lately, it’s worth something.

The animosity between the closely-situated clubs could be felt last night as Mike Mottau and Avery exchanged unsportsmanlike conducts in the first period only to drop the gloves when both exited the penalty box following the coincidental minors in the second period. Less than two minutes after the Mottau/Avery fight, Brandon Prust and Matt Martin resorted to fisticuffs. The fighting didn’t help the Islanders, as they were out scored 3-1 for the remainder of the game following both fights.

Frans Nielsen led all inept Islanders’ skaters in points this week with three. He had one goal and two assists despite not totaling any points against the Canucks on Sunday.

With a pair of assists this week, P.A. Parenteau now leads the team with 11 assists. Excluding his rare 20-goal season last year, Parenteau isn’t none for putting the puck in the net, so he is only second on the team with 13 points.

In their only noteable roster move of the week, the Islanders transferred goaltender Mikko Koskinen to KalPa of the SM-liiga. Since he was drafted by the Isles in 2009, Koskinen has only played four games in the NHL, all coming with the Islanders last season. So far this season, Koskinen has played three games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (Islanders’ AHL affiliate) posting a 2.82 goals against average as well as a .909 save percentage.

The Islanders hope to remember what winning feels like as they host the Canadiens tomorrow night. After the Canadiens leave town, the Bruins visit on Saturday night. To conclude the week, the Isles return to the road for their only road game in a six-game span in Pittsburgh on Tuesday.