i am now forced to take back my former declaration regarding antero niittymaki's inability to handle NHL snipers one on one. he was absolutely amazing last night against calgary, particularly in the shootout. yeah, that's right. after going 23 games without a shootout, the last two flyers games in a row have been decided this way. but after losing to nashville in a shootout on saturday, the flyers managed to beat the flames last night.
you wouldn't think that a scoreless game through three periods and the overtime could be so exciting, but despite the goal drought the game was highly entertaining. it had simon gagne totally going after robyn regehr after regehr knocked him into the boards without a call... very unlike simon, if you ask me. i would expect to see mike richards attack a guy after something like that, but not simon. he took a roughing call for it, but it was deserved. i guess he's getting a bit frustrated by the opposition's constant "shut down simon gagne at all costs" objective, especially since it's been effective in the last three games. every time he touches the puck, he gets absolutely swarmed. in addition to simon kicking ass, the game featured amazing saves by both goaltenders, but i have to give miika kiprusoff credit. he absolutely made the best save of the game... with his elbow... from flat on his back... with puck heading over him in the air, not sliding on the ice. i have no idea how he managed that one, or if he just got lucky, which both goalies did a time or two, as the posts saved their asses. also, the flyers' 30th ranked penalty kill was phenomenal last night. they were very together, and calgary only had 4 shots and maybe one good scoring chance over their 6 power plays. but even not allowing a power play goal two games in a row wasn't quite enough to bring their penatly kill out of the basement. however, if they have one more game where their penalty kill looks good, they should be able to overtake carolina and move up to 29th.
i was quite worried about the state of the flyers' penalty kill last night after learning that joni pitkanen will be out for 4-6 weeks. my fears were worsened when eric desjardins injured his shoulder early in the first period. the few remaining flyer defensemen really stepped up and played well, though. even freddy meyer, the AHL defenseman called up to replace pitkanen, played well. of course, derian hatcher still made his usual stupid mistakes, giving the puck away at least three times. and i don't mean he gave the puck away in a situation where he had a flame on his back and lost it. i mean he gave the puck away in a situation where he was all alone and basically made a great pass to the wrong team. he also made some good defensive plays, though.
by the time the shootout rolled around, i was really excited about it. niittymaki had been strong all night, and after he'd handled a jarome iginla breakaway earlier in the game, i wasn't too worried about him. i was, however, a tad concerned about the flyers' shooters, as mike knuble and simon gagne had both failed to score in the shootout in nashville. ken hitchcock (the flyers' coach, for those who don't follow them in the same obsessive way that i do) went with the rookies, though. mike richards scored on the first shootout attempt, but jeff carter didn't. it didn't matter, though. niittymaki was awesome, stopping kristian huselius (a recent calgary acquisition from florida), jarome iginla, and former teammate tony amonte. of the three calgary shooters, i thought that amonte had the best chance of beating niittymaki. but my favorite NHL back-up goalie was ready for him, and he was largely responsible for his team's win.
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