He’s often forgotten about, often overlooked. And yet, he’s been a key ingredient to the Flyers success this season.
Without much fanfare he picked up three assists Sunday in the Flyers crucial 5-2 win over Buffalo that got them within three points of clinching a playoff berth.
Streit now has nine goals and 29 assists for 38 points, which ties him for sixth overall in scoring on the Flyers and he’s narrowing in on the top 20 scorers among defensemen in the NHL.
And most of his assists come from doing what defenseman should do – getting pucks to the net.
Two of his three assists came that way Sunday.
The first was a howitzer from the point that caught iron and caromed right to Matt Read for an easy goal, the second was another laser that Brayden Schenn was able to re-direct into the net by going hard to the front of the net. He also picked up a secondary assist on Zac Rinaldo’s goal.
“I think that early on in the year he was the one guy that started to really…. We talked about it, we wanted our D up in the rush a lot more,” coach Craig Berube said. “It’s funny, one defenseman starts doing it – he’s been doing it for a long time with the Islanders – but once he started getting going up the ice a little bit more, the other defensemen follow. It’s important. It’s really important on breakouts and just the way the game is played with checking and stuff. You need your defensemen involved to create offense and to have good breakouts. It’s one of the biggest areas of our game that’s improved and he makes a huge difference in our game.”
A lot is going to be made about Rinaldo’s night. A goal, a penalty drawn and four penalties taken, including a match penalty for a hit to the head that is an automatic review by the league for possible disciplinary action.
We’ll get to the hit that could cost him some games in a minute, but I want to start with the positives.
He’s really playing well in his new role as the left wing alongside Sean Couturier and Matt Read. It’s a good spot for Rinaldo, who uses his speed and physicality – which is an intimidating factor whether you like him or not – to disrupt the flow of the game for the opposing team.
Playing there against a lot of the game’s better players is going to make for some uncomfortable superstars around the NHL in the playoffs –assuming Rinaldo can stay on the ice.
And that’s the question. Will he be allowed to play his game? Or will he be a victim of his reputation? Or will he continue to feed into that reputation with mistakes like the final one Sunday?
Look, no player should take four penalties in a game. But Rinaldo was whistled for four. Even though Flyers coach Craig Berube said all four were deserved, two of them were questionable.
He was bumped into the goalie on a goaltender interference call and a charging call in the second period that was the completion of a check was borderline as well.
“My first penalty, he kind of pushed me into the goalie,” Rinaldo said. “I never go around a goalie like that but I think he pushed me into the goalie. Second penalty there, he could have called it both ways and could’ve just let me go. I talked to him about it and he said it was on that fine line that I play on. He could have called it either way. He said we were up 4-0 and we didn’t really need that hit and I agreed with him….”
Wait a second. The referee told him he shouldn’t be laying a hit in a 4-0 game? Was that an insinuation that if it was a closer game that he wouldn’t have called it? I hope not, because that’s not kosher.
O.K., back to Zac…
“The [third] penalty, I went in hard to get the puck. He backed up as I was coming in. He’s a big dude… [Mike] Weber is a big guy so he kind of fell and his momentum just carried him back. I talked to the ref about that too. I said I didn’t mean it and he knows I didn’t mean to trip him. It’s just the way the game goes and my stick just caught his momentum going backwards.
“That last one, the proof is in the pudding right there. I shouldn’t have done it. There was no need for it. We were up 4-0. There was no need for that hit but it is what it is. It’s a part of the game.”
That’s where Zac is wrong. It’s not part of the game. You have to be smarter than that. Look, Ruhwedel was following through on a shot, so his head was lower than usual meaning he’s definitely in a more vulnerable position. But that’s when Rinaldo needs to not go for the hit. It’s not like there was an intent to injure, and knowing Rinaldo, he’s definitely not head hunting, but there are times when you go for the hit and times you don’t, and that was a time where a different approach would have been the better choice.
“Yeah that always happens to me,” Rinaldo said. “I get on a good streak then something bad always happens. I deal with it and try not to think about it too much.”
Regardless of what happens though, Rinaldo shouldn’t hang his head too low. Yes, he crossed that imaginary line tonight, but prior to that, there was a lot of good in his game. There’s been a lot of good in his game for some time now.
All he needs to do is pull on the reins a little bit. Sure he’s still going to get calls against him – that’s part of the role he plays. But, he’s also going to get calls in the Flyers favor, so playing on that line is desirable – as long as he doesn’t cross it.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers