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It Still Hurts

A week ago today I woke up excited as anything for a chance to see my favorite sports team force a Game 7 for the most prized trophy in all professional sports. A week later, it still hurts knowing only two more wins were needed to secure an orange parade down Broad Street. I haven’t been able to get myself to write about it, I needed time to think.

There are many reasons why we lost Game 6, but I’ll be ashamed if any Flyers fan truly believes it was all Michael Leighton’s fault for the loss. Were a few of his goals soft? Yes, but our defense also needed to play better in front of him because he made some key saves. Then, is it Jeff Carter’s fault for not being able to lift the puck? No, but that could have made winning Game 6 a lot more probable. It was just frustrating to see our team carry the play for much of the 3rd and the beginning of overtime before letting Patrick Kane get a little shot through to the net. It reminded me a lot of how Team USA tied it up against Canada late in the 3rd after carrying the play for a while, then losing on a simple goal in overtime. It really stung after the game, and even worse when I had to shave the playoff beard the next day.

Pretty soon I will be writing about my ideas on what the Flyers need to do given their current roster and cap situation, and eventually look at plausible free-agents and trades that could improve this team and keep them motivated. I’ll try to write again as soon as possible, because there’s only a few weeks till draft and free-agency starts.

One last thing I will say about this team though. This was one of the most memorable playoff runs that I’ve ever experienced in sports. After watching the ’08 WFC Phillies put it together, I really thought this was our year. The way the Flyers fought through so much adversity and played with their hearts on their sleeves, it reminded me very much of a certain baseball team who had every one of their players ready for their cause. Regardless of the outcome, I’m still proud as ever to be a Philadelphia Flyers fan. I don’t remember having this much fun during a season. I know we did not win it all, but two wins shy of a Cup is a lot better than ending your season in a shootout at home. So many worse things could have happened to this team, yet they fought through it and almost got there. There are a few important decisions that Paul Holmgren will have to make this off-season. The goalie situation is probably the biggest, since they had said before the end of the regular season that finding a true #1 goalie would be their first priority shortly after Leighton went down with an ankle injury. There are a couple of contracts that need negotiating, such as Scott Hartnell and Jeff Carter who may be moved. Daniel Carcillo, Braydon Coburn, Ryan Parent, Danny Syvret and Darroll Powe are restricted free-agents, while Mika Pyorala (remember him?), Michael Leighton, Lukas Krajicek, and Aaron Asham will be unrestricted free-agents.

Lot of work to be done. Look for more soon.

Thanks for the great season Flyers. 2009-2010 will always be remembered.

 
 

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It’s Over

A strange turn of events ended the game with a weird goal on Michael Leighton by Patrick Kane. Flyers lose the Stanley Cup in overtime 4-3 and the series 4-2. Great season, more on the season soon. And then time to move towards getting ready for trades, free agency, and drafts. Still love this team.

 
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Posted by on June 9, 2010 in Playoffs

 

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Back to Chicago

It feels like forever since the Flyers have played a road game. The Flyers have won their two home games, and have made it a best-of-three series from here on out with only one home game left. Tonight the series shifts back to Chicago for another all-important Game 5. The Flyers have arguably taken the momentum in this series after winning the past two games at home pretty decisively. Game 3 ended in overtime, but the Flyers were pressing and close to scoring many times in that third period. The Flyers came out hard in Game 4 and got a big lead early before letting a couple bounces go in at the end to make things interesting. Richards finally got his goal that he needed, so I guess our miracle was answered. Carter also got the empty-netter, which may or may not have an effect on his game tonight. Will he finally start making some better plays? JVR had some nice shifts and played pretty physically. He was key on the play with his assist on the Matt Carle goal, and it was good to see him get involved after sitting for two games. Leighton also had his best game of the series… But they’ll all need to do better.

The Blackhawks finally seemed to play with some desperation at the end of Game 4, and they will definitely continue that tonight. The Flyers can put the Hawks in a terrible position with a win tonight. A win tonight would secure that they only need one more win to win the Stanley Cup, with a home game coming next. There’s a great chance here for the Flyers to take total control of the series. A win in Chicago for the opportunity to win the Cup on home ice… Now that’d be something.

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2010 in Playoffs

 

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Let’s Tie it Up!

Game 4 sure has all the storylines you could want to write about in a hockey game. The goalie duel, the young talent, the chance for the Flyers to take back momentum going to Chicago, Chicago’s chance to put a stranglehold on the series… Tonight is simply big. Each passing day and game makes the next one bigger, and Game 4 is the game in every series were something big can really change the outlook for each team. Don’t expect the Hawks to come out sloppy, because they’re going to do essentially everything in their power to not let this series be tied up. For the Stanley Cup, every game is becoming a must-win, because the situation it puts you in after the first two games is dire.

On Wednesday night… what more can be said about the continued late-game dominance by our guys? The past two games, the Flyers have greatly out-shot the Hawks in the third period and have carried the play. Their conditioning must be paying off because they are wearing the Hawks defenders down and beating them to loose pucks and winning battles along the boards in the third. These games have been tight as anything, and tonight should be more of the same. Claude Giroux was the hero last game, with a great deflection from Matt Carle. The play was similar to the one Carle set up Gagne for in Game 4 of the Boston series, just on the other side of the ice and with a little less movement by the players. I could watch this one all day:

A couple things that bugged me about Wednesday: Officiating and Jeff Carter. Officiating just came down to the call on Carcillo. That really angered me. Carbomb laid what Laviolette called a “clean hockey hit” and was called for “charging”. I was beyond pissed off at that point, but glad that the Hawks couldn’t cash in. Their special teams have been lacking, and the Flyers are starting to click on the powerplay. That needs to continue.

Jeff Carter on the other hand, seems to like shooting the puck into defenders ankles. I don’t know whether he’s still hurting really bad from his injuries or what, but he needs to dump the puck in or get rid of it. Too many turnovers to a great counter-attack team that are waiting to catch you with your pants down is no way to win a game, series, or Stanley Cup. He’s a great shooter, but it really aggravates me when he continuously shoots into the skates/shins of the other team. I won’t go into it now, but I’ve been saying since last year they were going to trade Carter soon. I may not be too far off with that assessment, and it seems a lot of people are coming to that conclusion too. But I won’t go there, we have a series and a big trophy to win first.

Expect JVR to make his return tonight after being benched for two games. Carcillo was not seen on the ice in the third period and overtime, so I see JVR coming into the line-up and reuniting with Asham and Giroux. If that line can get going, it will be a hell of a battle. Speaking of which, Richie and Gags, can we get a goal tonight? Do we need a miracle here for you guys to get on the score sheet?

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2010 in Playoffs

 

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Home Sweet Home

People can argue home-ice is not a factor in the playoffs all they want; in the Finals, it definitely is. The Flyers failed to get a split in the first two games after dropping two one-goal decisions in a row. Tonight they look to avoid that terrible 3-0 hole and change the landscape of the series. Mike Richards needs to do something at the Wachovia Center tonight, whether it is a big hit or goal. He is the kind of guy that feeds off the crowd, and if he can do something big like he did in Game 5 of the Montreal series, this team will get behind him. I really liked Bartulis’ play the other night. The rookie defenseman did not make any huge mistakes that I can recall, and he actually did a good job of eating up some minutes to give our top four a rest. Braydon Coburn played a hell of a game as well, and if he can continue that style of play our top two pairings will continue to be lights-out. Scott Hartnell deserves a mention too because he was a forechecking machine and in that 3rd period burst he simply would not give up and kept getting the puck to his teammates with his strong board play.

The first two games of the series are over, and the Hawks are flying high right now. They’re a young team and could possibly be getting a little too confident. They have not played in Philadelphia yet. I don’t care how loud they say San Jose is, this team hasn’t played a home Final game in 13 years. The fans are ready, the team will be ready, and the Hawks are going to see what a loud building is. I know they’re 7-1 on the road, but that’s the previous three series. This series is the one I’m worried about, and if the Flyers lose tonight, I will be very worried.

No word yet on whether JVR will still be a healthy scratch in lieu of Carbomb. I think Carbomb especially is the kind of guy that will help you at home with some energy and big hits to get the crowd into it. He’s slowly becoming a fan favorite, and I think his efforts will get his team and the crowd up. His strong play along the boards rivals that of JVR who definitely has more potential and talent, but I don’t think he’s ready for this type of game just yet.

Tonight’s game will either swing the momentum in the Flyers favor, or give Chicago every reason to close this thing out. I firmly believe the Flyers will come out fired up and get behind their crowd to victory. This team has come too far to lose three straight to Chicago. Let’s see some production from the Richards line with Carter and Gagne even strength, that line could be the game-changer for us. They need to build on the good forecheck they established in the third period and carry that over into tonight’s game. Niemi won’t be able to stop shots forever.

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2010 in Playoffs

 

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Series Preview: The Finals

If you are not pumped up for this series as a Flyers fan, you must be dead. Tonight is Game 1 for a team that we’ve followed all year through the good and bad, and now they’re so close to capturing Lord Stanley’s Cup. Once again, history will be made since both teams are about to end a Cup drought. 35 years for the Flyers, and 49 for the Blackhawks. The Flyers go into tonight’s game as the series underdog, with much of the media and hockey faithful picking the Blackhawks to win it. If the Blackhawks actually believe that, they’ve got another thing coming because I don’t know where they got this sense of entitlement. Yes, they’re fast and talented and they have some scoring depth, but since when are the Flyers a one-line team? Here are my keys to a Flyers Stanley Cup win:

Hot Goaltending
In every series, goaltending is a key to the game. They can steal you a game and they can lose you one, but this match-up is pretty interesting. Two relative no-names this season have emerged this postseason as playoff-caliber goalies and have put up outstanding numbers in helping their teams reach this point. The question is, which goalie will remain hot in the final push for the Stanley Cup? Will Michael Leighton pitch some more shutouts like he has all year? Will Niemi weather the storm of the Flyers crashing the crease? The Flyers will need some ugly goals to beat Niemi, and I think they plan on doing it just as they’ve done all playoffs; with grit and skill down low in the offensive zone.

Containing the First Line
It’s no secret that Johnathan Toews line with Patrick Kane and Dustin Byfuglien has been a force this postseason. Toews and Kane are arguably one of the most dynamic duos in hockey at this point, and matching their speed and skill be tough. Luckily, we have a pretty good top-four defensive corps that looks to shut them down. Depending on how the series goes, I’m not sure whether we will see Pronger-Carle on this line or Timonen-Coburn. Timonen would be great at stopping Kane and Toews, but it’s not secret that Byfuglien will be in the crease causing problems and will need a bit body guy like Pronger to move him. If we can contain this first line, we force them to use their 2nd and 3rd, which are pretty good as well. However, the second line with Hossa and Sharp can be pretty good but I believe they can be contained with the other pairing. Versteeg on the third line is a guy that we gotta watch out for, but I think up and down our offense is better throughout.

Forward Depth
I’ve surprisingly read a lot of writers saying that the Blackhawks definitely have more forward depth than the Flyers. I’m hard fought to believe that. Really? I understand their top two lines are pretty good, and their third line can hurt you too. Our first two lines boast Mike Richards with Carter and Gagne, and our second line has Danny Briere with Hartnell and Leino. I know these aren’t blockbuster lines, but they’ve been very effective this postseason. If they’re going to match it up that way, I’d say our third line is way better than theirs. Claude Giroux’s line centering Asham and JVR has been great at creating scoring opportunities. Obviously, Claude Giroux has stepped it up this postseason and is a good reason for his line’s success. I think he will be one of the x-factors in this series and take over the game at times. I don’t see their third line matching ours. Our fourth line will be an effective checking line and get our team going, but I expect Madden and Eager to set the tone on their checking line as well.

Who Wants it More?
It’s going to be a tough series and a close one. Both of these teams don’t see each other much at all during the regular season, and the only time they did the Flyers won in dramatic fashion in the waning seconds of the game. If Laviolette can make some adjustments to the Chicago’s speed and style and do what he’s done coaching thus far, the Flyers will be in good position to win. I am a firm believer in my Flyers, and they’ve answered the bell throughout these playoffs. They’ve picked up a lot of fans along the way who left them for dead, and now they just have to execute. I don’t hate Chicago, but I’m sure I will once tonight’s game starts. Our defense is going to have to play stingy, and I think they will. The Flyers are the most physical team Chicago will face in this playoffs, and they’re going to get their bodies banged a lot. Expect some big hits from Mike Richards and such to set the tone. We will wear them down physically, and make this series ours. Shut down their attack, watch their counter-attack, get our forecheck and four lines rolling, and crowd Niemi’s crease. Play like they have all playoffs, we will win.

Prediction: I’ll do it like I’ve done all playoffs… Flyers in 6. They get the split by winning tonight in Chicago, then win their home games and drop Game 5 in Chicago, THEN win it at home and bring the Cup back to the orange-filled Wachovia Center and a parade down Broad Street commences.

GO FLYERS!

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2010 in Playoffs

 

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Last Game of Homestand; Some Line-Up Changes

We all know what happened on Thursday night. Poor back-checking, a lack of coverage, and a lack of fighting for the puck and protecting Michael Leighton ended up in a 5-1 loss for the Flyers. All of the goals he allowed were not his fault, as he was usually beaten on loose pucks around him after he made the initial save and sometimes the second. A couple of those goals were tic-tac-toe passing plays where the Bruins were free wheeling and moving the puck around at will. In light of that poor effort, Scott Hartnell was one of the players who did not see a lot of play time in the 3rd period. Could this be a message from Lavvy?
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