Easy quiz: What do Danny Briere, Dan Carcillo, Jeff Carter, Michal Handzus, Mike Richards, Patrick Sharp and Justin Williams have in common?
Obvious answer: They are all former Philadelphia Flyers who are currently involved in the third round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
(There’ll be another quiz later.)
Mutterings around the City of Brotherly Love range from anger at the Flyers’ management for getting rid of players who are now doing what everyone in town wants (playing for a Stanley Cup) to the more realistic view that while these guys are doing well, the current version of the Flyers is just a piece or two away from seriously competing for hockey’s Promised Land.
The Los Angeles Kings’ Jeff Carter is arguably the MVP of the playoffs so far. The Kings are playing the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks for the Western Conference Championship. After losing game one to the Blackhawks 3-1 they made a remarkable comeback in game two.
Trailing 2-0 with less than two minutes remaining in the second period, the Kings scored six – that’s right, six – unanswered goals to defeat the Blackhawks 6-2. Jeff Carter scored three of those goals and assisted on another.
In game three, which the Kings won 4-3, Carter scored another goal and had two more assists. In the Kings’ 5-2 win in game four, Carter added another assist. Four games into the third round of the Playoffs Carter has registered 8 goals and 12 assists for 20 points.
While that’s the best performance of the former Flyers, Carter’s teammates Richards and Williams have contributed significantly. The Blackhawks’s Handzus and Sharp are Chicago mainstays and the Montreal Canadiens’ Briere, one of the league’s best post-season players, has, over his 16-year NHL career (six with the Flyers), amassed 116 points (53 goals, 63 assists) in 122 games so far, a rate of almost a point a game. Remarkable. Impressive. You choose the adjective.
And that brings us to the Rangers’ Danny Carcillo.
During his eight-year NHL career Carcillo could best be described as a player who made it not because of his skill but because of his enforcer role. He’s got some skills to be sure, but in the three years he played for the Flyers – and reportedly when he played elsewhere – he had the reputation of taking stupid penalties.
Those who covered him on a daily basis in Philadelphia said he had very little upside and what he did have was offset by his lack of judgment and control when it came to taking questionable and ill-timed penalties.
That tendency reached its peak in the third game between the Rangers and the Canadiens last week. When linesman Scott Driscoll restrained Carcillo so he wouldn’t return to a fight that two players were engaging in, Carcillo resisted Driscoll and, in the NHL’s language, “applied force to the official.” That means he pushed him, from my viewing twice, the second of which involved his elbow. He was suspended for 10 games, which is an automatic punishment for this type of behavior.
What’s most interesting is that everyone who spoke about it on the NBCSN broadcast said that the Rangers were better off without him.
So now to the second part of this quiz.
When Carter played for the Flyers he was probably the least popular starter on the team, a real disappointment to many. Carcillo, on the other hand, almost always got cheered for his physical play even when it was ill-timed and damaging to the squad.
The question: What could the Philly fans have been thinking? We all know the answer: This town loves fighting and the rough side of hockey. The reality is, however, that the skill side is what wins games and, ultimately, Stanley Cups.