Monday Musings on Flyers, Canadiens, and Goalies Valiquette & Howard


Written on 12/07/2009 by Jim Cerny

After being smoked 8-2 by the Capitals in Peter Laviolette's debut behind the bench, the Flyers will look to show their new coach their better side tonight when they skate against the Canadiens in Montreal.

But what exactly is their better side right now?

The Flyers have lost four in a row---outscored 16-4 in the process---and seven of their last eight. They scored three goals or more twice in that span, and lost both games anyway.

They are having problems putting the puck in the net. Their goaltending with Ray Emery and Brian Boucher has been spotty. And their commitment to strong defensive-zone play comes and goes on a nightly---and sometimes shift-by-shift---basis.

Bu the biggest issue in Philly just might be in the dressing room. Though there are plenty of denials from the Flyers, I have heard from several reliable NHL sources that the mix may not be a good one in Philly. And if that is the case, that is a huge problem.

Already we have seen a very good man, and solid coach, in John Stevens lose his job. Word is that he couldn't handle the locker room issues that have arisen with the club. Laviolette, not as much of a player's coach, will do his damndest to get the players in line.

But the issues may run deeper than any one coach can correct. From what I saw on Saturday, these players sure didn't look like they gave a damn about trying to impress their new coach.

Laviolette has been a winner at his previous stops. He guided the Islanders to playoff appearances in both seasons he was their coach, and in 2006 he coached the Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup Championship, which was secured with a Game 7 victory. Clearly he seems to have what it takes to get a very talented Flyers team back on track.

Or does he?

Check out Puck Daddy's take over at Yahoo! Sports.

Despite a strong case made by Puck Daddy, I still think Laviolette can turn things around in Philly. And I would not be surprised to see the Flyers right in the Eastern Conference mix when the playoffs roll around in April. They are too talented a bunch not to be.


The Canadiens sure know how to throw a party, eh?

Saturday night's extravaganza to celebrate the organization's 100th birthday was both classy and memorable, plain and simple. The introductions of former greats, complete with the ex-Habs skating out on to the ice, was really just phenomenal.

To see Patrick Roy and the reclusive Ken Dryden not only skate out on to the Bell Centre ice, but do so with their full goaltending gear on, and then proceed to set up in their respective nets and face shots, was most definitely my favorite part of just a terrific night in Montreal.

Hats off to Les Habitants, as classy an organization as you will find in professional sports.


And a tip of the hat to Red Wings netminder Jimmy Howard, who really showed me last night. Back on Friday I wrote right here in Rink Rap that I believe---and still do, by the way!---that Detroit needs to upgrade their goaltending situation. Part of the reason for that is the inconsistent play of Howard, the 25 year-old rookie.

Well, with me in the building at Madison Square Garden, Howard was simply terrific last night in a 3-1 win over the Rangers. It was more than the 28 saves he made. It was the quality of the saves, the timing of the saves. In short, Howard had himself a brilliant night.

Trailing 1-0 with less than 30 seconds to go in the first period, Howard exploded across his crease from left to right to stone Christopher Higgins on the doorstep. A 2-0 lead at home for the Rangers would have been huge, especially receiving a goal so late in the period. Instead Howard kept the deficit at one.

Then less than two minutes into the second period Ryan Callahan was awarded a penalty shot after being hauled down on a breakaway by Detroit's Jonathan Ericsson. Callahan made an excellent move in-tight, switching from backhand to forehand and sending his shot to the far corner of the net. Howard dropped into the splits, and somehow got his left toe on the puck, stopping it along the goal line.

Yet again, Howard kept the deficit at one with an amazing save.

Then after the Red Wings had tied the game at one apiece, Howard made several more big-time saves, including at least a pair during a Rangers power play in the third that swung the game's momentum in favor of the Red Wings.

I still believe Howard needs to be more consistent. And I still think adding a Martin Biron, for example, would be the move to make. But give credit where credit is due. Howard was splendid last night, giving me and 18,200 at MSG a glimpse into the player he could be on a regular basis.


I'll end on somehwhat of a downer today.

One of hockey's real good guys---and a long-time personal favorite of mine---Steve Valiquette was placed on waiver by the Rangers last week. Unclaimed, Valley was shipped to the club's AHL affiliate in Hartford.

In his first two games for the Wolf Pack this weekend, Valiquette struggled even worse than he had at the NHL level this season. On Friday, Valiquette started and was pulled in an unsightly first period. Restored between the pipes in the second, Valiquette ended his first game with the Pack having allowed five goals in a 7-1 defeat.

It didn't get any better yesterday. Valley was pulled early in the second period after having allowed five goals on 16 shots in what would turn out to be a 9-3 loss to the Hershey Bears.


First Valiquette struggles to the tune of a 3.74 goals against average and .852 save percentage in six appearances as Henrik Lundqvist's backup this season. Then after being strafed for eight goals two Saturdays ago in Pittsburgh, Valley is placed on waivers. When no one claims him, an indignity itself for a goalie who performed very well as a backup the past few seasons in New York, he is sent to the minor leagues, where he thought he had finally escaped back in 2006-07. Now Valley is rocked in his first two starts at Hartford.

It is very tough to sit back and watch this happen to a man who is among the most friendly, and funniest, I have known since working in the National Hockey League.

Valley and I first met when he was fourth or fifth on the Islanders depth chart, but was called up to the NHL level in 1999-2000 out of necessity anyway, and I was the team's radio broadcaster. We formed a friendship then, and rekindled it when I became the Rangers' beat writer for and Valley had evolved into a capable NHL goalie with the Blueshirts.

Here's to hoping that Steve Valiquette can pull his game back together and escape the minors again at the age of 32.

If you enjoyed this post Subscribe to our feed

No Comment

Post a Comment