A look at three of the biggest stories from the NHL weekend and how they’ll play into the coming days.
Flyers Hit Rock Bottom; Grab Shovels
The biggest news of the weekend came on Friday night, when the struggling Flyers faced the Capitals. Despite missing the injured Alexander Ovechkin, Washington pumped five second-period goals past Steve Mason and Ray Emery on its way to building an eventual 7-0 lead. That had Philadelphia fans chanting for GM Paul Holmgren’s job, and set the stage for the game to devolve into a third-period gong show.
You’ve no doubt seen the highlights by now; Wayne Simmonds running anyone he could find, the line brawl that followed, and then Emery’s rink-length dash to fight his unwilling counterpart, Braden Holtby. Goalie fights are usually high entertainment, but this one was different. It was a ridiculous mismatch between a player with a long résumé of fighting experience and one who’d never been part of one at the pro level — and, more importantly, one who hadn’t done a thing to provoke it other than play for a vastly better team.
Emery won handily, at one point raining punches on the back of Holtby’s head while he was down — all while referee Francois St. Laurent bizarrely stood by, occasionally waving away any Capitals who looked like they might try to help. In postgame comments, Emery seemed to brag about making sure that Holtby “didn’t really have much of a choice” about the fight. In an additional embarrassment, the Philadelphia media named Emery the game’s third star, presumably for the fight and not his .733 save percentage.
But while the Emery fight got all the attention, it wasn’t the Flyers’ most costly of the evening. They lost Vincent Lecavalier and Steve Downie to injuries sustained in fights — the former to a facial injury that could sideline him for weeks, and the latter to a broken orbital bone that had him reportedly leaving the rink on a stretcher.
If the Flyers organization was bothered by Emery’s antics, it didn’t show it. Instead, it gave him the start Saturday night against the Devils, and was rewarded with a 1-0 win. It was the first shutout of the season for the Flyers, and probably one of the easiest any team will get to enjoy. The Devils couldn’t manage more than six shots in any period and put up just 14 on the night.
It was almost as if the New Jersey players were afraid to get anywhere near Emery. I can’t imagine why.