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The Globe and Mail

Early results an instant referendum on Flyers' shuffle

One day into the NHL playoffs and already everyone is atwitter about – well, Twitter, which is causing a sensation. Over in New York, the Rangers are all bowing out of the social-media phenomenon for the duration of the playoffs, on the off chance that they light a fire under the opposition – as though that should matter to anyone competing in a sport beyond the age of 12.

On the Left Coast, meanwhile, the Kings sternly warned that they would "address" the issue of their own Twitter feed after an anonymous staff member/wit dared to post a sly dig following L.A.'s 4-2 winner in the playoff opener against the Vancouver Canucks: "To everyone in Canada outside of B.C. – you're welcome."

Actually, it's good the Kings addressed the matter – hopefully by giving the aspiring comedian/offending party a raise.

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Cheekiness of that order needs to be encouraged, not stamped out.

Twitter is, after all, supposed to be irreverent. Twitter is supposed to be cheeky. Twitter may not be for everyone, but for those who care and participate and follow and monitor, it should generate a smile along the way.

The Kings' tweet showed a wonderfully nuanced understanding of how the Canucks are perceived outside of their own manically obsessed market. Nor will the events of the opening game help clear their reputation as divers and whiners, not if centre Ryan Kesler snaps his head back every time he drifts past Jonathan Quick's goal crease – as though he were the injured party in the "accidental" collision that left Quick off balance and out of position on the Canucks' opening goal.

But we digress. It defeats the whole purpose of Twitter if every entry evolves into a bland, boring recitation along the lines of 'Kings up 3-2 late on a goal by Penner.' Bleah. That's what wire service game stories are for.

Twitter, used properly, is the cyberspace equivalent of sitting on a barstool, next to Leno or Seinfeld or David Shoalts, and listen to them rattle off a series of witty one-liners. It obliges you not to take every last single thing literally.

Twitter-gate obscured the larger story on the opening day of the playoffs – which is how the results became an instant referendum on last summer's major Philadelphia Flyers' shuffle.

The two main players that the Flyers ditched, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, were enormously instrumental in the Kings' on-ice triumph over the Canucks (oh that). Meanwhile, two of the principals coming back Philadelphia's way, Jacob Voracek (acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets for Carter) and Braydon Schenn (acquired from the Kings along with Wayne Simmonds for Richards) paid big dividends for the Flyers in their come-from-behind win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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Schenn produced points on the first three Flyers' goals, while Voracek pounced on a loose puck to score the overtime winner.

Meanwhile, Richards and Carter were brought into L.A., largely to enhance the Kings' playoff chances, Richards in the off-season, Carter at the trade deadline from the Blue Jackets. Carter missed the last handful of regular-season games, nursing a bone bruise, but he can be a creative offensive player, and he demonstrated that creativity by bunting a Richards' pass, off his skate, to Dustin Penner, to set up the winning goal.

Richards, by contrast, is measured largely by his intangibles and his will to win. He had a decent start for the Kings this season, but then missed eight games in December with a concussion, and didn't seem right for months afterward. But slowly, recently, he started turning his season around and finished the year on a five-game point-scoring streak.

Generally, players reject the notion that their performances should be evaluated by their scoring production, but that view often misses the larger point. Scoring, or setting up goals, is ultimately what hockey's about. Moreover, it boosts a player's confidence and also has a spillover effect onto the rest of his game when the puck starts going in for him. You can see it in the body language. Most times, the argument you hear from slumping players – 'at least I'm getting the chances' – borders on the fraudulent.

Slumping players tend to press for goals and usually, that development negatively affects the rest of their game. Confident players just let their skills take over – and Richards was that player for L.A. in the opener, somebody who took a few extra shifts on the wing after Kyle Clifford left with an undisclosed injury and hardly left the ice in the latter stages, with the game hanging in the balance.

On paper, Vancouver's greatest edge over the Kings is not in goal or on defence, but in its overall depth up front. If Richards and Carter can bump up their regular-season games to the next level, then that narrows the gap considerably.

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L.A. went to great lengths and expense to add to their experience levels for the playoffs. They – and the Flyers, too – couldn't have expected a better first response.

How would you tweet that in 140 characters or less? The disco band Hot Chocolate had the answer back in 1978, right down to the syntax so popular on Twitter. "Every 1's a winner baby, that's the truth." True, for one night anyway.

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