Thursday, February 21, 2013
Need to know: Another Flyers-Pens show
By Pierre LeBrun
What in the wild, wild world of sports is in the water when the Flyers and Penguins play?
Entertaining for the fans, yes, but good, sound hockey it was not Wednesday night, as Philadelphia outlasted rival Pittsburgh 6-5 in a game that had a bit of everything.
And you can't even blame Marc-Andre Fleury this time. He watched from the bench as Tomas Vokoun got the start. But he, too, suffered from the apparent malady that's come with playing goal in this rivalry since last spring's wild playoff series.
The winning goal was banked off Vokoun by Jakub Voracek (completing a hat trick) with 1:31 left in the third period, just 32 seconds after Brandon Sutter had tied it for the Penguins by beating an irate Ilya Bryzgalov on a wrap-around.
The Flyers are 8-2 all-time (regular season and playoffs) at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.
According to Elias Sports, Voracek's hat trick was the first in Pittsburgh in a regular-season game by a Flyers player since Bobby Clarke in December 1980. Mind you, Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux each had a hat trick in the same playoff game at Consol last spring in the wild and kooky series.
Wednesday's game reminded us of that bizarre, wide-open series. And just like that postseason matchup, it was the Flyers who outlasted the Penguins. Philadelphia, which beat the Islanders 7-0 in its previous game, finished its road trip at 3-3.
Are the Flyers back on track? Not so sure just yet. Giving up a 5-3 lead in the third period wasn't comforting. The Penguins also have to be wondering whether they're going to figure out how to play defense in time for the puck to drop in May.
• In Calgary, the Flames lost again, which is hardly news. But it was Jonathan Bernier getting the job done for the Kings, stopping 26 of 27 shots to run his record to 3-0-0 on the season.
The more he wins, the more the Stanley Cup champs augment Bernier's value as trade bait. Whether it's before the April 3 deadline or in the offseason, the Kings will eventually trade Bernier. The former first-round pick needs to get a shot elsewhere to become a No. 1 goalie, and given L.A.'s injuries on defense plus its scoring woes, if the right offer came along, I believe GM Dean Lombardi would finally move him. But the Kings hold Bernier in high regard and aren't going to move him for the sake of doing so. Two NHL GMs I've spoken with over the past two months suggested that Lombardi wanted a high price for Bernier. The real problem for Lombardi is that if you look at young goalies who have been moved recently, whether it's Anders Lindback going from Nashville to Tampa last summer or Semyon Varlamov from Washington to Colorado the summer before that, they both went for draft picks. The Kings don't want draft picks. They would want a roster player to help now. Not sure that's available.
In the meantime, don't look now but the Kings are just one point out of a playoff spot after sweeping the two Alberta teams on back-to-back nights. After playing 11 road games on the season and only four at home, the Kings have eight of their next nine games at Staples Center.
• In Denver, Varlamov stopped 33 shots and David Jones scored in overtime as the Avalanche beat the Blues 1-0.
That's not good if you're like me and you have three Blues players on your fantasy team.
The Blues are going to demand the return of our own Scott Burnside into their fold. When our veteran ESPN.com columnist was embedded with the team last week, St. Louis went 3-0 on a road trip. The Blues have lost two straight after Burnside went home.
In all seriousness, the Blues still have issues. There's so much skill on this team, but not everyone is committed to doing the little things that make good teams into great teams. There's work here for head coach Ken Hitchcock.