On December 23rd, after the LA debacle, Hitch promised a different team and a different effort against Philadelphia. The man sure knows how to keep his word . . . .
Tonight was a tremendous effort under signifcant pressure after two lackluster performances. The CBJ came out strong, kept the pressure on in all three zones, and never gave the Flyers time to breathe. Passing was crisp, checking was solid, forecheck was intense. Penalty kill shut down the top power play in the league, and we showed great puck movement on the PP, cashing in one power play goal.
A crowd that just missed being a sellout helped with the team energy, even though the visiting colors were over-represented in the arena. All in all, it was an effort that Howson, Hitchcock and the PR department could only have dreamed of for this time and place. Here is the +/- for tonight:
+ Energy-- All four lines were in constant motion, creating space and opportunities on offense, disrupting flow in the neutral zone, and supporting and filling on defense. The crowd and the players seemed to feed on each other as the game went on.
+ Malhotra -- I have called Manny out for lackluster effort this season, and he slapped me in the face tonight. 17 of 19 in the faceoff circle, a goal, and could have had several assists had we finished our chances. He got his chance on the top line, and he thrived. Full Marks, Manny!!
+ Mason -- Stop me if this is starting to sound like Groundhog Day, but Mason was a stud, the Master of the Crease, and the calmest head on the ice. He also created opportunities with his stick handling.
+ Penalty Kill -- Perfect against the top PP unit in the league. Doesn't get any better than that.
+ Power Play -- OK, not a great percentage, but great puck movement, lots of shots and 1 goal. From where we have been, this merits a +.
+ Defense -- We frustrated the Flyers' rhythm and kept them from maintaining sustained pressure in our end. We made crisp clears and fueled some great break outs. Held Philly to 20 shots, while generating 33 of our own. Nice.
+ Net Presence -- Both ends of the ice saw hordes of Bluejackets in and around the blue paint. We harassed the goalie, and bailed Mason out the few times Philly presented serious pressure. Just what Drs. Davidge, Hitchcock and Gare have been prescribing.
+ Individual Play -- This one goes to the whole team tonight, as everyone played their role to perfection.
- Finishing -- The lone minus for the evening. Nash, Huselius and Malhotra could have had 15 points between them had they finished opportunities presented by tape to tape passes. Umberger had a few, as did Voracek. We had 8 more scoring chances than Philadelphia. We need to finish our chances to win consistently.
This was a great way to send the team off for the longest road trip of the season. Good that it starts in LA, as we will be ripe for revenge, and should have some good confidence after a solid victory over a strong opponent. Philly was without Biere and Timonen, but we are nicked too. Super job, boys!