Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Philadelphia Flyers 5 at Winnipeg Jets 4 (OT) - February 21, 2012

In 2010, I saw two NHL games in Atlanta, and it turned out those would be the last NHL games I would see there as the Thrashers moved to Winnipeg this past off-season. It's great to have another team in Canada, but damn, I miss that Atlanta option, with $15 tickets and 75F weather. Now it costs $75 to sit in the upper deck and 15F outside.

Tickets to the Jets are difficult to obtain on TicketMaster, with only singles left for public consumption after those who win an early-bird lottery get their fill. Back in January both this game and Thursday's Tampa Bay battle went on sale at the same time. I picked up a good seat for the Tampa tilt but by the time I checked on tickets for the Philly affair, there were no reasonable choices left. So I was ticketless when I arrived at the MTS Centre last night about an hour before game time.

There was a line waiting for tickets to be released and I dutifully took my place at the end with about 20 people in front of me. Another gentleman joined the queue behind me and I determined he was also looking for a single. After a couple of minutes of waiting and realizing the line wasn't moving, a guy came in and asked me if this was the line to buy tickets. I replied in the affirmative and then he pulled out a couple and said he was looking to sell. I asked him how much and he said $150 to sit in the first row in the upper deck. Yikes, too much for me, but it turned out he wanted that for both tickets, in other words, face value. He wasn't willing to sell a single so I casually asked the guy behind me if he wanted to buy one. He was no dummy, and we quickly forked over the cash and were given the tickets, which were not of the bland TicketMaster variety but cool season tickets. Sometimes it pays to be at the back of the line.

The seats were actually in the third row, but there were no rows in front of us as that area was reserved for handicapped patrons. The view was not bad as you can see above.

The Game

I normally review the venue but I entered late and spent most of the warmup talking to Sharpy, who would be enjoying his last game on the trip as he had to return to work. So I'll post more details about the MTS Centre after Thursday's game.

These teams had played three times already with Winnipeg taking every game, including an 8-7 encounter late last year. The Jets were tied with Toronto for the final playoff spot in the East, so it was difficult cheering for them, yet I could not root for the abhorrent Flyers either, so I was just hoping for a good game. Boy, did I get it.

The starters were Ondrej Pavelec (above) and Ilya Brzgalov (below), who made some disparaging comments about Winnipeg during the off-season and is consquently rather disliked by the fans here, who chanted Ill-ee-aa! Ill-ee-aa! derisively throughout the evening. If you've been following hockey at all recently, you'll know the Flyers have had goaltending problems for years and this season is no different as Bryzgalov has struggled of late. He hasn't lost his sense of humour though, after the game he said it was nice to be supported by 15,000 people.

The Jets opened the scoring when Dustin Byfuglien (on the left below, with Nik Antropov) blasted a slapshot from the point that beat Bryzgalov cleanly, the first of three power play markers for the Jets.

The Flyers tied the game a few minutes later when Claude Giroux took a pass from Scott Hartnell and backhanded the puck into the open net with Pavelec well out of position.

The second period saw both teams pot two,with Jets' captain Andrew Ladd scoring two just 64 seconds apart while Hartnell and Maxime Talbot tallied for Philadelphia.

The third period saw the Flyers dominate, but a power play marker by Evander Kane (above) that fluttered in off Bryzgalov's glove (a huge gaffe by the goalie) gave the Jets the lead, which they maintained until the last minute. With their net empty, the Flyers attacked and Wayne Simmonds snuck in between Ladd and Byfuglien to take a pass from James van Riemsdyk and beat a startled Pavelec from in close with just 9.7 seconds left. For the second day in a row, we had overtime after a back-and-forth 4-4 game.

The Flyers' domination continued in the extra frame, as they outshot Winnipeg 6-1. With less than a minute to go, Daniel Briere outworked Johnny Oduya and fed a pass to Jaromir Jagr who was open in the slot. Game over as Jagr scored his record-setting 16th OT goal, then performing his trademark salute to top things off.

This was the best NHL game I have seen in a long while, probably because I spend most of my time watching the Leafs, who are simply not that good. The difference was clearly goaltending; Philly is going nowhere in the playoffs if neither of their keepers can elevate their game. Philadelphia peppered Pavelec with 55 shots (most by any team this season) and he made some outstanding stops, including one effort where he dove across the crease to make a backhanded catch that netted him the Highlight of the Night on Sportsnet. The Leafs lost in overtime to the Devils, so having the Jets lose in OT as well was a good outcome as well.


One element of hockey that needs to return to the game is the naming of lines, such as the French Connection that starred in Buffalo in the 1970s. The Jets have the GST line (Glass, Slater, and Thorburn), a strong checking line that brought on chants of "GST! GST!" whenever they were on the ice. For non-Canadians, the GST is our Goods and Services Tax (5% now) and this line does much better, playing about 25% of the time.

I know it's Glass!

Our hotel is about 3 miles from downtown and offers a free shuttle to and from the games, a great deal. With an early 6pm start, Sharpy and I had plenty of time to enjoy a local pub after the game.

The fans here are some of the best and most passionate I have seen, but they expect a penalty every time a Jet is checked and falls down. Guess they are still getting used to the new NHL.

Next Up

As mentioned, the Lightning are here on Thursday in an all-Southeast division battle, which means I have a day off today, which I'm using to catch up on rest as there is no sporting event nearby. Check back Friday for a quick recap of the game and the MTS Centre.



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