Hockey is the ultimate team game, yet the first two games between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers underscored how important one man can be to a club.
No, I'm not talking about
And I'm not addressing the Flyers' loss of emerging star blueliner
This is a study in how the loss of one man,
His absence sent a ripple effect through the lineup that certainly played a part in the Flyers' dire situation. Finding out as the team prepared to leave for Pittsburgh that Timonen would be lost for the series due to the discovery of a blood clot in his left ankle played a role on a mental level. As
Well, not quite.
Timonen is, as coach
Of course, athletes in the moment don't scrutinize their situation in those terms. They simply go out and perform to the best of their abilities. Still, after the game, Richards opined that, at the very least, lack of familiarity with a new partner on the blueline for the powerplay "is going to have an effect." And the effect ran much deeper than on the powerplay. The even-strength blueline pairings became a jigsaw puzzle for Stevens due to the loss of his main man Timonen.
First, Stevens reunited Coburn with
Then Coburn went down in Game Two and all Stevens could do was ask his already compromised crew to do more. All performed admirably, especially Hatcher, who logged over 28 minutes of ice-time -- turning back the clock 10 years when his knees were sturdy. Veteran warriors Smith and Modry likewise battled hard, but by the end of the third period on Sunday night, they looked weary.
So, while the series started with Modry in for Timonen, the story -- and the impact -- was far greater than that. Unfortunately for the Flyers, that won't change in Timonen's case and it only gets more complex if Coburn is unavailable as the series shifts to Philadelphia for Games Three and Four on Tuesday and Thursday nights.
Stevens will find it impossible to complete the puzzle if his most important pieces are lost. For his team, they'll have to overcome the very real specter that you can't fully compete when incomplete -- not against a team the caliber of the Penguins. Not at this time of year.