EMINGER RISING, DOWNIE FALLING, OVIE DRIVING
My hockey writing colleague Wayne Fish from the Bucks County Courier was attending his final game at Yankee Stadium in June on the same night as the first round of the NHL Draft.
It was the only game he could get tickets to and since he grew up a Yankees fan, he wasn't going to miss it for the world.
In a bit of a pickle, he came to me for a bit of assistance. He asked that I call him when the Flyers made their first round pick, or if they did anything else of substance.
It was only the third inning when I called him about the R.J. Umberger trade, forcing him to leave the game and head for the parking lot to write from his car.
I called him back when they drafted Luca Sbisa. Then, I called him a third time. I think I said this:
"I can't believe the Flyers just traded a first round pick to Washington for Steve Eminger. He was a healthy scratch for 60 games last season!! What the (sorry, it's a family blog) where they thinking?"
And while the jury is still out on Eminger, I must admit, I'm starting to come around on the deal.
Eminger looks quick, is a right hand shot, which is both rare and coveted in a defenseman, is a smooth skater, is patient with the puck and has a nice hard shot from the point.
It might be enough to make him their, gulp, No. 4 defenseman, paired with Randy Jones, who by default is No. 3.
The defense remains the big question mark for the Flyers, but one thing is for certain, they are certainly fast. And speed can help cover mistakes. Eminger definitely has that part of his game down pat.
His skill was on display against Washington Wednesday night, and he probably had a little extra motivation since he was traded to the Flyers by these same Caps.
“I thought he was a good player," said Flyers coach John Stevens. "It was kind of tough to get an evaluation of him because her played a couple of games and then hadn’t played. Clearly for me that was his best game. He shows a lot of composure on the power play. I didn’t know if he was a power play guy or not but now that I get the chance to see him play, he made a great play on the goal (he slid a beauty of a pass to Joffrey Lupul who lit the lamp). He has poise up top, he has a good shot, he sees the ice. He is a good solid two-way defenseman.”
Eminger is just thrilled to get a chance to peddle his wares in Philadelphia, after being stunted for the last few seasons in Washington.
"This is the first time in my career, going back to junior that I've ever been traded," said Eminger. "I was pretty nervous before the game, but I was prett happy with how things went.
"I'm happy to finally get a chance to play special teams. When you get a chance you have to take advantage of it. You can't be lax, you have to do something."
Eminger is doing something - he's winning the confidence of the coach, and should expect some increased ice time as the season moves on.
"He's a candidate for responsibility," said Stevens. "If you kill penalties, which he did and if you play on the power play, which he did, right away your minutes are going to go up.
Steve Downie will be out of action for a little while after spraining a knee ligament at the end of a fight with Caps' forward Jay Beagle.
Beagle said Downie tried to slew-foot him, and then ended up doing the same thing back accidentaly when he drove Downie to the ice.
"I knew I hurt him right away because as soon as I landed on him he screamed in my ear," said Beagle.
This setback for Downie, probably means Jim Dowd gets a shot to make the team out of training camp again.
Washington superstar Alex Ovechkin wasn't in the lineup Wednesday, getting a game off by the coaching staff. He was also told that he didn't have to take the trip to Philadelphia with his team and could stay back in D.C.
Most players would enjoy the night off. Not Ovie.
Nope, Ovie called Caps prospect goalie Simeon Varlamov and anoter Russian bud, told them he was picking them up in his brand new, $200,000 Mecedes Benz, and was driving to Philly for the game.
He made the near three hour commute, and enjoyed the gam from the press box. Then, he drove home.
He gets "it" more than any other superstar in the league. The NHL can only wish to have several more players with the off ice personality of Ovechkin.
I betcha Sidney Crosby would never do that.