2010 Stanley Cup Finals, Game 4: Flyers not worried about top line's struggles

Carter2.jpgThe top line of the Philadelphia Flyers have not had a good series
against the Hawks, but the rest of the team isn’t really all that
worried about it.

After all, the Flyers survived until the third round without leading
scorer Jeff Carter. Simon Gagne’s return in the second round helped
spark the Flyers’ historic comeback against the Bruins, yet since
scoring seven goals in seven games against the Bruins and the Canadiens
he has just one point in his last five games. Still, the Flyers keep
winning and the rest of team has found ways to step up and make up for
the lack of production from their best players.

Coach Laviolette is far from worried, and says he was pleased with
what he saw from the trio on Wednesday night.

“You’re talking about really three of our top goal scorers on the
team, there are others as well,” Laviolette said when asked about
potentially breaking up the top line.

“But those three guys are capable of putting the puck in the net.
Their opportunities are there. Their chances are there. And I think
what I look for anyway in a line is: are they getting looks? Are they
getting opportunities? And they are. Some of them are hitting the net.
Some are getting blocked. Some attempts are missing the net. But the
chances are there. So we’ll continue with that line.”

One aspect of the top line’s lack of production has been the
continued struggles of Jeff Carter. Carter returned from his injury in
Game 4 against the Montreal, and scored two big goals against the Habs
in the series-clinching game. Since then, the top line of Gagne,
Richards and Carter is a combined minus-15, with just one goal and
three points between them. Carter has yet to show that he can keep up
with the tremendous pace of the series so far, and has yet to get to use
his true speed and goal scoring ability.

Mike Richards isn’t ready to put the blame on Carter, however, and
says he sees improvement each game in his linemate.

“I think when you’re not on the ice for a long period of time, your
hands, it takes little bit to get back. I think they’re coming back.
He’s starting to get more shots there now. The little areas, the little
passes, in the corner I think he’s obviously doing a lot better job of
finding those seams, and the little plays through people.”

During Wednesday’s game I noted that Mike Richards didn’t exactly
resemble the captain of a Stanley Cup winner, as he struggled all game
long with sustaining pressure on the Blackhawks and made several poor
decisions as he pressed and tried to make plays that just weren’t there.
I wish I could find a note I made on Carter, but there weren’t any —
Carter was nearly invisible.

Whether it’s just the injury that’s
holding him back, or the incredible play by Duncan Keith and company,
there’s no doubting that the best players on this Flyers team are
struggling and Carter is at the center of that. Thankfully, this is a
team that has survived due to its dept and this is a team that is
supremely confident in its role players continuing to make a difference.

We’ve
said it for over a week now, but the Flyers will eventually need Carter
and the top line to make a difference. For now, we’ll continue to cover
their struggles; something that’s not as big a deal after they’ve won a
big overtime game at home.

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    Fight video: Brouwer makes Watson pay for Hathaway hit

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    Austin Watson nodded with recognition after landing a questionable hit on Garnet Hathaway on Saturday, as he understood why Troy Brouwer demanded immediate retribution.

    And, as you can see from the video above the headline, Brouwer got that bloody payback after beating Watson in a fight.

    Watson (who isn’t that far removed from a two-game suspension) was ejected for his hit. It wasn’t the only nasty moment between the Nashville Predators and Calgary Flames, either, as the toxic exchanges included Anthony Bitetto‘s ugly cross-check on Sam Bennett.

    (Video or a GIF of Bitetto’s hit will be added if it becomes available.)

    Some other penalties reduced some of the advantage for the Flames, but they ultimately still received serious man-advantage opportunities amid all of the violence, and they weren’t able to convert.

    The best news is that Hathaway might end up being OK after a scary-looking check. He returned to the game during the third period.

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    Should Erik Johnson be suspended for ugly play on Namestnikov?

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    Vladislav Namestnikov has been the Mikael Renberg equivalent on the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Legion of Doom with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov for much of this season, complimenting those two scorers with strong work of his own.

    The Lightning were lighting up the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night, perhaps frustrating Erik Johnson and others. Whatever the explanation might be, it was a pretty ugly sight when Johnson slashed and then boarded Namestnikov, earning those two penalties plus a game misconduct.

    Plenty of people believe that supplemental discipline would be merited for Johnson’s actions. For what it’s worth, “Names” did return to action in the third period. We’ve seen instances where players return only to be hurt anyway, so we’ll see if the nifty winger sees any delayed issues.

    Johnson, 29, was suspended for two games by the NHL back in 2014, but has a generally clean history otherwise.

    The Lightning ultimately ended up beating the Avalanche 6-5, as Nathan MacKinnon almost led a rally with two power-play goals.

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    Senators blank Canadiens in NHL 100 Classic

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    One win, even in the frosty outdoors for the NHL 100 Classic, only means so much.

    Still, the Ottawa Senators probably experienced some ice-cold relief on Saturday, beating the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 during a tightly defended outdoor bout.

    It was 0-0 for much of the game until Jean-Gabriel Pageau tipped an Erik Karlsson shot for the first goal with about five minutes remaining in the second period. Bobby Ryan then capitalized on a rough Jonathan Drouin turnover to make it 2-0, while an empty-netter iced the icy evening for Ottawa.

    For a night, it was a fun time, and Karlsson reminded us what all the fuss is about, as he logged a ridiculous 32:55 of ice time. And he seemed to be having a good time doing it.

    This night laid the “Canadian” on thick, with Bryan Adams performing during the event, and Gary Bettman posing for photos with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

    via Getty

    Weird, but OK then.

    Generally speaking, things haven’t been that OK for the Senators lately. Such headaches did surface during this frosty-mug-on-ice event, as owner Eugene Melnyk inspired a #Melnykout hashtag on Twitter, not to mention icy barbs like these.

    Fair criticisms about the Sens’ bigger picture aside, Ottawa looked nice tonight, with Karlsson shining and Craig Anderson pitching a rare shutout outdoors (shutoutdoors)?

    Carey Price generated some nice saves of his own, but couldn’t will Montreal to win in his 10th consecutive start. The Habs rarely got things going against the Senators, seen most easily in Ottawa’s 38-28 advantage in shots on goal.

    Nights like these make a bigger impact on fans’ memories and bottom lines, but this marks consecutive wins for the Senators either way. Considering the fact that the Senators hadn’t put back-to-back wins together since they faced the Avalanche in two contests in Sweden, it might not be a big deal, yet it’s far better than the nothing they’ve been coming up with far too often lately.

    Also

    In other news from the event, Mario Lemieux’s “five goals, five different ways” was named as the NHL’s greatest moment, voted by fans:

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    Sadly, Capitals aren’t selling this collection of Christmas songs

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    Let’s be honest, virtually any time a team gets its players to embrace a holiday theme, it’s in the name of goofiness. And bless NHL teams for this.

    When it comes to Movember, you get the fantastic combination of mustaches and charitable contributions.

    The holidays are rapidly approaching (hey, I see that Amazon tab open), so we’ll start to see various New Year’s/Christmas/Festivus/etc.-themed fun. Even with that in mind, the Washington Capitals will be tough to top with their collection of Christmas tunes.

    Sadly, there’s no Volume 1:

    Question: which performance stood out to you the most? While Braden Holtby was fantastic (with a Tomas Plekanec-level turtleneck game), the simple entertainment of watching Alex Ovechkin sing is tough to top.

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.