To look at Daniel Carcillo in a Flyers uniform is to see a player who very easily could have fit in with the famed Broad Street Bullies.
But what often is overlooked with those 1970s Flyers championship teams is the same thing that too often is overlooked in Carcillo's game -- the fact that underneath the thick bush of dark hair, pencil-thin mustache and toothless grin is a player who can really play the game.
|Philadelphia Flyers' Daniel Carcillo, left, celebrates after scoring against Minnesota Wild's Niklas Backstrom in the second period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, March 25, 2010, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) |
In his first full season in Philadelphia, Carcillo has 12 goals, 21 points and a plus-4 rating, and he's toned down his penalty minutes from a League-leading 254 last season to a more-manageable 198. More impressively, he's played right wing on a line with skilled players like Mike Richards and Simon Gagne, and in Sunday's win against the Detroit Red Wings, he started the game on a checking line, given the responsibility to play against all-stars like Johan Franzen, Tomas Holmstrom and Pavel Datsyuk.
"Danny's a good, smart, aggressive two-way hockey player," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "He can play with skill, he can be physical, he can agitate, he can fight. He does a lot of things very well for our team."
That's not really something that was said of Carcillo in the past. Acquired by the Flyers at the trade deadline last season, he had 4 assists and a whopping 80 penalty minutes in just 20 games. And in the playoffs, his ill-timed fight with the Penguins' Maxime Talbot
, with the Flyers leading 3-0 in the second period of Game 6 of the teams' first-round playoff series, sparked Pittsburgh to five-straight goals and a series-clinching 5-3 victory.
But Carcillo committed himself in the offseason to being better conditioned and more in control, and it's shown in his play this season. He also earned Laviolette's trust despite a bumpy start -- in Laviolette's first game, Carcillo drew 29 minutes in penalties for punching Washington's Matt Bradley. The Caps turned a nine-minute power play into three goals in an 8-2 rout, and Carcillo was suspended four games for the incident.
Since he returned, however, the player known to teammates as "Car Bomb" rarely has gone off. In 48 games under Laviolette, Carcillo has 11 goals, 18 points, a plus-1 rating, and with only a few slips, he's kept his firecracker temper under control.
That was best exemplified the last time the Flyers played the Toronto Maple Leafs, on March 7. In the first period he didn't respond to cross-checks and punches from Colton Orr, giving the Flyers a four-minute power play in the first period, and he took Dion Phaneuf to the penalty box with him in the second period. In between, he set up Gagne's game-winning goal.
"I think the difference between this year and last year is he knows when to stop," teammate Ian Laperriere
told NHL.com. "I played against him last year and he couldn't stop. This year he's smart about it and that's why he's such an effective player for our team. That's why he's a better player than he was last year."
Carcillo's ice time has risen with his self-control. He's playing an average of 11:16 per game this season, up from 10:16 last season, and 8:11 in last year's playoffs.
"The last couple years he's been one of those guys you hear about how he'll take a stupid penalty," Laperriere said. "This year he's been so much better and he gets rewarded. The coach rewards him and puts him out there in that situation and it's a credit to him."
Carcillo's influence on the team is obvious. Sunday was his first game back after a two-game suspension for cross-checking New Jersey's David Clarkson in the face. The Flyers lost both games without Carcillo, but against the Red Wings his goal 17 seconds into the game sparked a 4-3 victory.
I played against him last year and he couldn't stop. This year he's smart about it and that's why he's such an effective player for our team. That's why he's a better player than he was last year." - Ian Laperriere on Daniel Carcillo
"It was nice to get him back in there and his energy, and get that bang right off the first shift from him," Laviolette said.
Carcillo took a few more hacks and whacks without responding Sunday against the Red Wings, and goaded Holmstrom into joining him in the penalty box in the third period, a trade-off the Flyers gladly took.
It's hard for Carcillo to take the abuse his job entails without responding, but Carcillo said if that's what it takes for the team to win, he's on board.
"Just take a few punches to the head. It'll be worth it in the end," he said after Sunday's win. "It feels great right now."