Game 29: Red Wings-Philadelphia Enotes

Let’s hope that the Red Wings aren’t battling for their lives in the season’s final week, just to make the playoffs. Because if they are, tonight’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers at JLA is the kind of match that will cause the Detroiters to kick themselves.

A 3-1 lead midway through the second period looked promising, but then it all fell apart, and the Flyers scored five unanswered goals to win, 6-3.

In the third period, the Flyers pumped in three goals in about five minutes, two of them on the power play.

Jimmy Howard again played the role of bewildered net minder as the Red Wings’ four-game winning streak was snapped in perplexing and stunning fashion.

Tomas Tatar scored twice, living up to the praise damned upon him by NBCSN’s Keith Jones in the first intermission.

Johan Franzen scored the other Red Wings goal, blasting a slap shot from the top of the face-off circle past Steve Mason.

The Flyers scored an empty net goal with 59 seconds to play.

Howard let in five goals on 33 shots, again failing to make any significant saves of note.

Let’s hope this one doesn’t come back to haunt.

The Red Wings are 14-8-7.

BOX SCORE

BOTTOM LINE: The Flyers have been playing better as of late, but the Red Wings inexplicably let the momentum totally shift after going ahead 3-1.

THE WINGED WHEELER SAYS: The Flyers weren’t great, but for five minutes in the third period they left the Red Wings shell shocked. These stinkers are going to happen over the course of 82 games, but the timing is discouraging, coming right when you thought the Red Wings had gotten their act together. We’ll see if this is just a speed bump.

Spotlight on the Opponent: Wayne Simmonds

What: Philadelphia at Detroit
When: Wednesday, December 4, 8:00 p.m. (TV: NBCSN)

Wayne Simmonds

Wayne Simmonds would have fit in very nicely with the Philadelphia Flyers’ “Broad Street Bullies” teams of the mid-to-late-1970s.

Simmonds is a Flyer of today—6’2″, 210 pounds of toughness mixed in with some scoring punch, along with some fist punches.

Simmonds is 25 years old but has already played in almost 400 NHL games. He debuted with the LA Kings in 2008 as a 20-year-old.

In those nearly 400 games, which equate to about five full NHL seasons, Simmonds has averaged 17 goals and 102 penalty minutes for every 80 games played.

Those are numbers that would have been perfect complements to scorers like MacLeish, Clarke, Leach, et al, back in the day.

Simmonds is like the Paul Holmgren or Mel Bridgman of today’s Flyers, to invoke the names of two franchise players of the past whose combination of scoring pop and grit helped make those Flyers teams the bane of the NHL.

Simmonds busted out, offensively, in 2011-12 when he pumped in 28 goals in his first season as a Flyer, having been traded by the Kings to Philly in June 2011. The deal netted the Kings Mike Richards.

Simmonds’ nickname is the Wayne Train. He was born in Scarborough, Ontario. Despite growing up close to Toronto, Simmonds, who is of Black Nova Scotia descent, has said he was a fan of the Red Wings as a youngster.

Last month, with the Flyers freefalling, Simmonds’ name popped up in trade rumors, supposedly with the Edmonton Oilers. He read them, but didn’t let the trade talk bother him. Instead, he focused on his current team, not one that he might be traded to.

“We’ve got a good squad in here,” Simmonds was quoted on Delawareonline.com. “ The onus is on us to play. We’ve already had a coaching change. It’s time that the players start owning up to what’s going on here. We’ve got to be responsible.”

Simmonds wears no. 17 for the Flyers.

Game 29: Red Wings-Philadelphia

For old-timers like me, there was nothing quite like Flyers-Red Wings games at the old Olympia Stadium in the 1970s.

In Philadelphia, that was a different story. The Flyers didn’t lose to the Red Wings in the Spectrum between 1971 and 1988.

But in Detroit, the Red Wings seemed to always play the Flyers tough—literally.

The Wings didn’t always win, but the games were usually close. But it was beyond the final score where the Red Wings and the “Broad Street Bullies” made for a dynamic pair, when the game was played at the corner of Grand River and McGraw on the city’s near west side.

Quite frankly, the games were filled with fights and the center line wasn’t the only stuff on the ice that was red, if you get my drift.

The Red Wings, on paper, weren’t supposed to be much of a match for the Flyers in the 1970s. The Flyers emerged as the best of the six expansion teams that entered the league in 1967, a solid organization that drafted well. The front office and coaching were keys to the Flyers’ winning Stanley Cups in 1974 and ’75, and getting to the Finals again in 1976.

The Red Wings, meanwhile, began the decade in “Darkness with Harkness” and ended it with the derisive nickname, The Dead Things.

So on paper, Detroit-Philly should have been a constant mismatch.

In Philadelphia, it usually was. But there must have been something in the water at Olympia, because when the Flyers came to town, you had to buckle up your seat belt.

Guys like Dennis Polonich, Dan Maloney, Dennis Hextall and Reed Larson—to name a few—would typically give the likes of Bob Kelly, Dave Schultz, Jack McIlhargey and Moose Dupont all they could handle.

Red Wings-Flyers

At Olympia against the Flyers, the Red Wings won some games on the scoreboard, and won more than their share of fights on the ice.

Those games were exciting matches, despite the fact that if you couldn’t attend in person, your only outlet was radio. Home games weren’t broadcast on TV in those days.

But that’s OK, because the pulsating voice of Bruce Martyn was enough. Martyn called hockey on WJR and it only took a few seconds after tuning in on the radio for you to get caught up in the drama he was describing two stories below him.

“Larson DRIVES a shot…he SCOOOORES!!!” Martyn would scream, and his voice would crack on “scores.”

When the Flyers came to town, Martyn had to turn boxing announcer half the time.

Those were some grand times, when the Flyers came to Detroit in the 1970s. It was literally a night when you could, as they say, toss the won/lost records out the window.