Often, when a team or a school has a special event planned around a
sporting event, they'll try to schedule a cupcake or at least non-elite
matchup, so as to maximize the potential for an all-around good
experience for everyone on the home side. You don't schedule the best
team in the league for homecoming weekend, if possible. However, after
deciding to retire Mark Howe's number 2 fixated immediately on March 6,
2012, the evening the Flyers would be playing the team Howe played for
after his days in Philly. The Red Wings are of course more than just a
stop on Howe's career journey. They're the club for whom is father was a
legend of the game, as well as Mark's current employer.
And, they're a perennial Cup contender, currently just one point
behind Vancouver for the top spot in the Western Conference. But Ed
Snider wanted this to be the matchup when Howe's number went up, and as
is often the case, he got what he wanted despite initially being told
no. By the NHL…
Bill Roose of TheWheelDeal blog on Detroit's NHL.com page relays the story as told by Howe:
But next Tuesday’s ceremony was nearly nixed by the league, which
apparently prohibits pre-game events on the ice once the calendar flips
“Ed told me that the league told him ‘no’, but they
really wanted to do this with the Red Wings in town,” said Howe, the
Wings’ director of pro scouting.
As a courtesy, the Flyers put in a call to the Wings’ front office
just to double-check if they were OK with honoring the former player,
which they both share in common.
Of course, the Wings didn’t have
any objection to seeing history when Gordie and Mark Howe becomes just
the second father-son tandem in any professional sport to both have
their numbers retired. Bobby and Brett Hull were the first father and
son to have their jersey numbers retired.
Damn nice of all sides to get the event scheduled for the ideal matchup.
Now, the matchup itself…
boasts the fourth most goals scored per game, but also the fourth best
goals against mark. Their power play and penalty kill each come in at
15th in the league. Pretty consistent, huh?
However, they're currently struggling a bit despite winning two of
their last three. Pulling back further, they've actually lost four of
six, including three in a row from February 21-25. Of course, if those
are your "struggles," your season is going fairly well. The losses came
to Chicago, who is hot as a pistol, Vancouver, and Colorado. And, the
minor skid comes off the heels of a six-game winning streak that
includes the Flyers' visit to Detroit in mid-February.
Injuries are currently an issue though, with goalie Jimmy Howard out
somewhat indefinitely while Pavel Datsyuk, Niklas Lidstrom, Jonathan
Ericsson, and Jakub Kindl all missing time lately. Datsyuk is the team's
leading scorer, Lidstrom its captain and best defenseman, and Ericsson
and Kindl are both defensemen as well. We don't currently have an update
on the latter two, but Datsyuk and Lidstrom are said to be out, per the
team's official twitter account.
That's a considerable break for the Flyers to catch, but there's
still 60 minutes to be played tonight, and the remaining Red Wings are
plenty capable of taking advantage of a team that comes out of the
tunnel thinking they're damaged.
The Flyers have had some well-documented trouble getting out of the
starting gate lately, an embarrassing streak that was finally snapped
against the Capitals on Sunday. But tonight's late start (puck drop is
closer to 7:30) due to the Howe ceremony could wrench them up a bit.
Bryz is back in net tonight, where we're likely to see him far more
often than not the rest of the way. He's responded well to getting
For out of towners, the Howe ceremony will be viewable at CSNPhilly.com. In pre-game skate, the Flyers will all wear a #2 Howe jersey with a special patch. photo by the Flyers