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What Went Wrong in 2011

Coming off an exceptional Stanely Cup Final run in 2010 that left them two wins short of glory, the Philadelphia Flyers were poised to make a return with a deeper defensive corps and experience from a deep run on their side. In the first half of the season, the Flyers were among the best in the league, actually holding down the top spot in the league for some time. They were beating some of the best teams in the league, and some of them pretty handily. They were getting strong defensive play, surprise goaltending from their rookie goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, and Claude Giroux, Ville Leino, and Danny Briere were continuing their hot streak after an amazing playoff run. Fast forward to the end of March, and the Flyers still have a chance to lock up the #1 seed even after coasting through the second half of the season. After failing to beat some teams who were out of the playoff picture along with some divisional opponents, the Flyers finished the season as the #2 seed to face the seventh seeded red-hot Buffalo Sabres. This match-up had the hottest team from the first half of the season (Philly) playing the arguably hottest team in the second half (Buffalo). After a few games of musical goalies and physicality, the Flyers emerged victorious in a Game 7 demolishing of the Sabres. The Flyers apparently righted the ship, and were playing good hockey again. Until of course, they were utterly dominated (albeit Game 2) and got swept in the second round by a hungry and focused Boston Bruins team. So why did this team come up VERY short of its intended goal?
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Game 3 in Buffalo

The scene of the series shifts from Philly to Buffalo tonight. After a crazy, penalty-filled 5-4 win over the Sabres on Saturday, both teams will be looking to establish some momentum in the series. 1-1 series ties are often dangerous considering they take home-ice away from the higher-seeded team. I don’t think we will see as many powerplays as we saw on Saturday, and for the Flyers sake I hope we don’t. Their powerplay struck only one out of nine times, although some of their setups did look improved from previous games. Another emerging storyline is the Flyers’ goaltending… surprise! Bobrovsky was pulled in the first period after allowing three goals, the third being what most fans would call “soft”. Boucher came in and calmed everything down in relief, letting only one goal in to seal the Flyers victory. Apparently Michael Leighton will be backing up Boosh tonight. Bobs will be sitting in the press box to watch the game for the first time all year.

Once again, James VanRiemsdyk was a force on the ice and is developing into a big presence on the ice. Hopefully my prediction holds through the rest of the series/playoffs. Claude Giroux has also stepped his game up, and his back-checking has been amazing in hindering Buffalo crossing the Flyers’ blue line. Carcillo even got rewarded with a gritty goal, and that’s the kind that will win this series. Tonight should not be as high scoring as Saturday, and hopefully the Flyers can get a lead and protect it. Buffalo should feel good they got the split on the road, but they also should have some doubt growing now after letting five goals on their prized goaltender and supposedly good defense that helped them remain so hot down the stretch of the regular season.

Nodl suffered a cut under his eye during the game and will not play tonight per the Flyers twitter. This leaves Zherdev, Holmstrom, or Shelley to fill in for him. I’m hoping that Zherdev finally gets a chance to play, but we shall see. Pronger apparently particpated in the team skate this morning, so his return should be coming soon. I’m thinking Game 5. Carter has been snake-bitten lately in the first two games of this series and I think he’s finally going to put one in tonight to put down all of the doubters regarding his playoff capability. Richards should also find the scoresheet tonight, he’s way overdue and the internet fans are getting anxious. Regardless that he’s a great defensive forward as well, people get pissed when he does not produce a plethora of goals.

So in my eyes, Carter and Richie should have big games tonight, Boucher should get the start, and Zherdev should get a shot to play. Look for JVR to be crashign the crease again, and maybe Giroux can give us another dazzling goal. Game 3 is usually the game that sets the tone for the rest of the series. If the Flyers win tonight, all the pressure is on Buffalo to win Game 4 before going back to a possible series-ending game in Philly. If the Sabres win tonight, the Flyers have to hope to get Game 4 to take back home-ice. Should be a wild one tonight. LET’S GO FLYERS!

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2011 in Playoffs

 

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Penguins Come to Philly

Thursday night’s loss to the Lightning was an emotional one for Flyers fans as they saw former Flyer fan-favorite Simon Gagne return to South Philadelphia wearing some different colors than his traditional orange and black garb. In the 3-2 loss, we were finally pleased to see Nikolai Zherdev get on the stat sheet with a nice rush with crisp passing by Giroux and JVR to find a streaking Zherdev for an easy tap-in. Brian Boucher got the start and played a great game up until he let in a pretty soft goal that turned out to be the game winner. The 4th line continues to be an effective checking line even without Lappy, and the powerplay is still struggling. The Flyers will hope to rectify that tonight when the Pens come to town for their first meeting in Philadelphia this season.

Sergei Bobrovsky will get the start tonight after going 2-0 in his first two starts. The Penguins have a bit more of a gameplan now after seeing Bobs in their home opener, so let’s hope our Russian friend can keep the puck out of the net tonight.

Scott Hartnell has been very quiet this season. Between stupid penalties, stirring the pot, and points… I feel like Scott Hartnell hasn’t even played a game for us this season (minus the Blues game in which he racked up 21 of his total 23 PIM this season with fighting majors). Danny B is still on his A-game offensively, and Leino is still finding his stride after recovering from his off-season hip surgery. If we can get Scotty and Ville going on the same burner they were on in the playoffs, that line will once again be extremely dangerous. I have been unimpressed as a whole with Carbomb’s play this season. He is -3 and has 2 PIM, and has generally been ineffective playing with top tier forwards in Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. I feel that if he doesn’t pick it up, he should be bumped down to the 4th line in favor of possibly having JVR move to the first line. Call Nodl up to play on the third line, scratch Carcillo to light a fire under his ass or simply scratch the $1.1 million dollar man Jody Shelley. I’ve actually been pleased with Shelley’s play so far and he has laid some nice checks and seems to be a competent hockey player. Defensively, I’ve seen him body players and get the puck. That’s really all I can ask for from a 4th line enforcer winger, so that has been going well. Matt Walker is injured and may require surgery, but if his move to the LTIR frees up some more cap space, so be it.

Tonight’s Prediction
Look for Claude “The Magician” Giroux to get back on the scoresheet tonight with a goal and an assist. The kid is simply too good and this year is the year I finally believe he will get enough ice-time to be the NHL star that we all know he can be. I’d also like to see Richie get his first goal of the year, and tonight may be the night. He always seems to bring his best when playing against the Penguins, and nothing would be better to start off the season 2-0 against the division. Let’s go Flyers! Face-off at 6 PM to accommodate the Phillies starting at 8. Go Phils too!

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2010 in Flyers Talk and Other

 

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How to Beat the Salary Cap?

Late last week, the Flyers signed former NHL forward Nikolai Zherdev. As speculated in my previous post and pretty much everywhere in the hockey blogger community, Zherdev would be getting a small contract from a club who was willing to take a gamble on the young forward. The Flyers were rumored to be in the front-running for it, and they landed a one-year deal supposedly worth $2 million. Not a bad price to pay for a guy that could pan out to being quite an offensive force out there with a roster that already has the talent we do. Of course, with this signing comes the inevitable question of where do we go from here?

In this day’s NHL, you can be over your salary cap by up to 10% during the off-season, but must trim it down before the season starts. Using CapGeek.com as my source (they’re pretty reliable), I’ve noticed that the Flyers are bit over $1 million in cap space. $1,422,263 to be exact. I’m sure we will be shedding Bartulis’ contract by putting him down in the AHL this year and that would free up $600,000. But what up the other $822,263? Dropping Cote would cut $550,000… but that would still leave us at $322,263 to free up before opening night. This is where my previous angst of the Shelley signing comes into play. We would be about $500,000 under the cap granted we sent down Bartulis and Cote and did not sign Shelley. Also, the Meszaros contract is quite big at $4 million a year; even if I do think he has an upside.

This cap hell has led many to speculate that somebody has to be traded, and it’s true. Someone has to be traded in order to get prospects or cheap players back and create more salary room. Pundits have been throwing Simon Gagne around as he has apparently attracted interest from the Kings, but no deals have been made. Talks have been going on, and they will be just that, talks. As long as the Ilya Kovalchuk Show goes on and we wait for him to be signed with a team willing to overpay him for his services, Gagne will remain a second option for a team that needs a scoring winger. Scott Hartnell’s name has been flying under the radar, along with Jeff Carter. Hartnell’s contract and NTC would get in the way, but the Kings apparently had interest in him a few months ago. Carter’s move makes the most sense because we won’t be able to sign him for the pay raise next year, considering Giroux is up for a contract extension next year. Trade Carter for some prospects and/or some picks, and you have $5 million to work with for emergency cap space, and maybe even another goalie signing. Turco or Esche maybe? Another veteran presence to battle with Leighton for a spot would be great.

Even so, I’ll be back soon with another post.

 
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Posted by on July 13, 2010 in Flyers Talk and Other

 

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Last Home Game

The Wachovia Center has seen its fair share of great games this season, with the Flyers playing pretty well at home overall. Tonight will be the last game played at the Wachovia Center for the 2009-2010 season, and it is the most important. The Stanley Cup will be in Philly tonight for the first time since 1987, and we don’t want to see it on the ice tonight. You can read other blogs for a recap of Game 5, because there’s not much else to say except the Flyers got flat-out outplayed for a majority of the game, and couldn’t settle down for long periods of time. Tonight will be different, I am sure of it.

There is no way the Flyers or their fans will let this team go down at home with the Cup on the line. We will have last change tonight with the advantage of setting up our defensive and offensive match-ups, so that’s another advantage besides our boisterous crowd. Joel Quenneville broke up his original line combinations on Sunday night and it helped Chicago spread their talent out. The Flyers also moved switched Jeff Carter and Claude Giroux on their respective lines, which I’ve been screaming for all series. Giroux needs more ice-time to be fully effective, and Carter has been fully ineffective. Let him center JVR and Asham and let them strut their stuff. Richards and Gagne need an effective player that can help them out and not shoot the puck into opposing players’ shin pads.

Michael Leighton should get the start tonight, I don’t think we could see it any other way. Boosh is still not 100%, regardless of what he has said. Tonight will be one of the last tests this team that has overcome so much adversity will face this season. Will they tie up the series and force the fabled Game 7 for the Stanley Cup that every team dreams as when he’s playing with his friends? Will they lose at home and end this amazing ride? I don’t think so. This team has consistently showed up when they’ve needed to most, but that’s not to say they usually don’t show up. Chris Pronger was a -5 last game, but who cares? I said it before after Game 3 in Montreal, Chris Pronger does not play two bad games in a row. He didn’t even have a bad game last time, his +/- was a reflection of a lack of team defense.

The last game of the season was the biggest game of the year.

The four elimination games in the Boston series were the biggest games of the year.

Game 4 in Montreal was the biggest game of the year, and then Game 5 was.

Games 3 and 4 in Philly were the biggest games of the year, and then Game 5 in Chicago was.

As we go further, there is more on the line and the games get bigger. Tonight will be no different; the biggest game of the year.

Let’s do it at home.

Image courtesy of Zimbio.com

 
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Posted by on June 9, 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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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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