|Steve Downie's season has had it ups - scoring 10 points over eight games in January - and downs - a 20-game suspension in September, but he has remained upbeat during the Flyers' playoff run.
Some will look at Philadelphia’s Steve Downie giving away the puck in the third period of Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, leading to Pittsburgh scoring the winning goal, and think it was just another gaffe by a young player regarded as little more than an error.
But don’t think for a second the Flyers have given up on Downie. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Teammates and his coach only have good things to say about Downie, who has developed into a player John Stevens has enough confidence in that despite his costly mistake, it’s likely he’ll be out there in the same fourth-line role he’s played most of the season when the puck drops on Game 3 Tuesday night.
“He’s a good player,” said Stevens. “Hindsight is 20-20. A guy can come in the game and score the game-winning goal and it looks like a great decision, or he can come in and he’s on the ice when you get scored on late in a game. But he’s a great kid. I thought he was having a good game. He did a lot of great things in the game – he cycled the puck, he won puck battles, he was physical. You can look at similar things that happened in the hockey game and didn’t end up in the net and you forget about them.”
Downie has already put Sunday night behind him.
“You definitely need short-term memory,” he said. “You can’t be dwelling on a mistake.”
Downie has made his share of mistakes along the road to the NHL, including his preseason hit on Ottawa’s Dean McAmmond that earned him an excessive 20-game suspension and delayed his NHL debut by two months.
“It’s been a long road this year, but I’ve learned a tremendous amount, and I’m continuing to learn every day,” Downie told NHL.com. “Right now I’m a lot more confident than when I first got here, but there’s still a lot more confidence I have to find. It was a lot for me to learn.”
The Flyers’ first-round pick (No. 29 overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft was supposed to fight for a roster spot to open the season, but instead he started with the Philadelphia Phantoms, the club’s American Hockey League affiliate. He scored 12 points in his first 13 games, earning a two-game promotion. He continued to play well in the minor leagues, totaling five goals and 21 points in 17 games. He’s been with the NHL team since Jan. 4, and in 32 NHL games, had six goals, 12 points and 73 penalty minutes.
His best stretch was an eight-game run between Jan. 8-20, when he played on a line with Mike Richards and Scott Hartnell, posted two goals and eight points, and had at least a point in seven of the eight contests.
His play waned some after that, and he was in and out of the lineup for the rest of the season and into the playoffs. He’s only gotten into five playoff games, where he’s totaled an assist and 10 penalty minutes in just over 6 minutes of ice time per game.
“I think he’s matured,” said Stevens. “He’s a better pro than he was. It’s a process that he has to go through. He got better with the Phantoms and he’s getting better here. He’s more of a consistent worker every day. He’s got more mental focus every day. I think he’s got a better understanding of what it takes to be a good player every day. I think he’s matured as a pro. We felt he could come in and help us.”
“Just try to do the little things that make yourself better,” said Downie. “Ride the bike, do extra stuff on the ice, just try to get better every day.”
That extra effort has been noticed by others.
“Every time he gets in the lineup, he brings a lot to the lineup,” said Sami Kapanen, who has played on the fourth line with Downie. “He has a lot of skill. He’s a nice young player. He’s been playing good.”
“I thought he played a great game,” added Richards. “He did a lot of great offensive things, he was great in the zone. One blip, maybe the puck might have bounced on him or he didn’t get enough wood on it. But I thought he played a great game. I think he knows that.”
Stevens believes that great play will be more of the rule when it comes to Downie, and his late turnover the exception.
“Steve’s a stand-up guy, he knows he made a mistake there,” said Stevens. “There’ll be lots more good days for Steve Downie and he’s going to be a good player in the League."