Thursday, May 8, 2008

Unexpected injury jilts series before it begins

Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen will likely miss the Eastern Conference finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins because of a blood clot in his ankle.

Philadelphia general manager Paul Holmgren said Timonen was hit with a shot in Game 4 against Montreal.

Blood clots are not a fun thing, we don't have to be a doctor to tell you that. Someone we know recently got a random blog clot in her leg and it damn near immoblized an otherwise healthy person. So first of all, all the best to Kimmo Timonen, hopefully this hurdle can be managed and have no long-term negative effects on him.

But looking at this from a hockey perspective, as this hockey blog does, this is a terrible blow for Philadelphia. Timonen has been the Flyer #1 defenseman all year, drawing the matchup of the other team's top target (they planned on using him against Evgeni Malkin's line).

Timonen has no goals but 6 assists in 12 playoff games and was a +5 (against said top lines) and lead all Flyers in ice-time with 24:55 a game. He was a steadying influence on emerging youngster partner Braydon Coburn and Timonen did well neutralizing players like Alex Ovechkin (who had but1 goal and 0 assists in seven games at even-strength when Timonen was on the ice, which he often was).

Personnel wise, a huge loss; the Flyers are now going to have decisions on who they pair Coburn with and who now will try to stop the two headed monster of Dupuis/Crosby/Hossa and Malone/Malkin/Sykora. Guys like Jaroslav Modry and Randy Jones might be playing a little more out of their element. And a guy like Rory Fitzpatrick or youngster Ryan Parent may have to step into the lineup against the strong cycling lower lines, lead by Jordan Staal and Gary Roberts.

Injuries like this it seems can not be predicted or avoided. A simple blocking of a shot well over a week ago (one that didn't much phase him then) has taken out one of the most critical players in this series. As difficult as it is, we have empathy for Philadelphia; after all this could have been Sergei Gonchar or someone as crucial to the Pens as Timonen was for them.

In the end, hockey is hockey and all you can do is rally around the flag and go play. The kneejerk reaction from the fans is generally that the Flyers are finished and this series is over before it has begun. We couldn't disagree more. Hockey is the ultimate team sport and "will" often beats "skill" as the saying goes. If the Flyers come together and focus on playing even harder than they would have, and a guy like Jones or Parent or Modry steps up and gives a Grade A effort, this is only a speedbump in the road.

Likewise, not that we expect it, but if the Pens don't give their maximum effort and dog it, thinking that the Flyers have quit just because an important player of the opposition is out, well they won't win.

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