The Flyers will play two games in three days against the Columbus Blue Jackets starting tonight. They are one point out of third place in the Metro Division, but also one point away from being out of the playoffs entirely. Getting three points in these two games would be laudable. Getting four — in regulation — would be ideal.
“The feeling is a little bit different than in the past,” Jake Voracek explained. “We are right on the bubble, but everybody knows we play a little bit differently than we did in the past. We play better, and we feel better. We are confident about our group. We just have to approach every game like it’s our last one.”
You’re signed up to get this newsletter in your inbox twice a week during the Flyers season. If you like what you’re reading, tell some friends it’s free to sign up here. We want to know what you think, what we should add, and what you want to read, so send feedback by email or on Twitter ( @EdBarkowitz or @broadstbull). Thank you for reading.
— Ed Barkowitz (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The tweet over the weekend was a little jarring. It was a video of referee Dean Morton telling Montreal alternate captain Brendan Gallagher to, ummm, go do something with himself that was physically impossible. It’s one thing for refs and players to exchange F-bombs during a heated argument, but this seemed to cross a line.
To borrow a line from Douglas C. Neidermeyer in Animal House, decorum prevents us from sharing the tweet here.
But I asked a couple of Flyers veterans if this sort of thing was common. How often does an official suggest a player go f— himself?
“Generally speaking, I don’t like discussing what’s said on the ice. It’s not for children’s ears sometimes,” said the always thoughtful Matt Niskanen, a 13-year NHL vet. “But, it’s happened. Most [referees]? Most times? No. But it’s happened. Things get pretty serious. Players take their jobs seriously. Refs are trying to do their job. Players like to blame refs, and they defend themselves sometimes.”
The Canadiens, and their rather passionate fans, had all sorts of problems with the officiating during Montreal’s overtime loss to Dallas on Saturday. It’s equally obvious that Morton, who played one NHL game in 1989, had had enough with Montreal’s complaining.
Canadiens coach Claude Julien earned a $10,000 fine for this analysis afterward:
“We take responsibility for some of our stuff and when we’re not good I’m going to stand up here and say we weren’t good enough tonight. Well, tonight we had to beat two teams and it was tough.”
Voracek, who is in his 12th NHL season, said that experience matters.
“Depends on if it’s a referee that’s been refereeing for 15-20 years,” he said. “If it’s a new guy, I don’t think that’s right. If it’s a guy who’s been refereeing for a long, long time, he can do that. That’s something you have to consider, too, in my opinion.”
Morton has been an official for nearly 20 years, so check that box. Gallagher has been in the league for eight, so he’s probably heard it before.
James van Riemsdyk, an 11-year vet, had seen the clip over the weekend and diplomatically instructed that it’s important to remember the refs are human, too. “I don’t think they’re trying to necessarily screw anyone over,” he said, before making one other point.
Players, he added, “shouldn’t be able to talk to the refs until you’ve played in the league for at least 2-3 years, either,” he said. “You should just shut up.”
Caught up with Mark Howe last week after Nic Aube-Kubel recorded his first career “Gordie Howe” hat trick against the Capitals.
Asked him what he thought of the unofficial odd little achievement, which is named after his legendary father and bestowed upon a player who records a goal, assist and fighting major in a game.
“There’s a few guys in this sport — and he’s one of them — where they’re synonymous with greatness,” said Mark Howe, one of the all-time Flyers who also is a member of the hockey Hall of Fame. “Even in the locker room, they have something called ‘Gordie Howe tape.’ It’s the old black stuff. Most guys don’t even use it, but a lot of times, there’s one roll sitting around.”
Flyers equipment ace Harry Bricker did indeed have a roll of the double-sided friction tape buried deep inside a storage closet. Not many players use it these days, but it was used to provide extra grip on the hockey stick.
“I don’t know if all of the players know about [my dad],” Mark Howe said, “but those references are all good. It’s all good stuff.”
Tuesday: vs. Columbus, 7 p.m. (NBCSP) - The Blue Jackets are on an 0-2-3 slide and haven’t won in the four games since losing All-Star defenseman Seth Jones.
Thursday: at Columbus, 7 p.m. (NBCSP) - Rookie Elvis Merzlikins has a .928 save percentage.
Saturday: vs. Winnipeg, 1 p.m. (NBCSP) - This will be the earliest game for Winnipeg all season (noon CST).
Monday: Trade deadline, 3 p.m.
Tuesday, Feb. 25: vs. San Jose, 7 p.m. (NBCSP) - The Sharks have so many injuries they look like the poor fish that bit through the electrical cable at the end of Jaws 2.
Friday, Feb. 28: vs. N.Y. Rangers, 7 p.m. (NBCSP) - This is shaping up as a monster weekend now that the red-hot Rangers have joined the playoff fray.
Sunday, March 1: at N.Y. Rangers, noon (NBC) - Sewell, N.J. native Tony DeAngelo has missed the last two games with an upper-body injury, but could be back as soon as Wednesday.
A quirky little trend has emerged that has helped sharp sports bettors earn some extra cash.
The under in the first period has hit in 17 of Columbus’ 20 games since the first of the year. It’s a remarkable run that comes with a major caveat.