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Back in Action, Season Opener This Thursday

Just when I was getting ready to start updating on a regular basis again, I moved and my computer was broke. Finally have it fixed and settling in now, so let’s get ready to talk some Flyers hockey!

Since my hiatus a lot has happened in Flyerdom. Injury news, a whole pre-season of hockey action, and some tryout contracts.

  • Michael Leighton is hurt with a back injury, out for at least a month.
  • Lappy is hurt with post-concussion syndrome, out indefinitely.
  • Bill Guerin was offered a tryout contract at the start of pre-season much to the delight of many Flyers fans. When final roster cuts were announced today, Bill Guerin was on the list.
  • Flyers finished the pre-season 5-2-1, having the first four games end in shootouts.
  • Let’s start with the injuries. Lappy’s case is very unfortunate but it really is important for him to stay off the rink. I’m sure we’d all rather him be healthy than risk him causing more damage. His veteran presence will be missed in both the locker room and on the ice but for the time being he should definitely be out of action. Leighton’s case is really aggravating to me considering we rushed to sign Leighton before free agency and he apparently was experiencing some back pain this summer, yet nothing was done to prepare for a possible injured goalie. Backlund is on the Phantoms since he’s coming off hip surgery and has to clear waivers. This paves the way for Boosh to return to being the starter and Russian rookie sensation (try saying that 4 times fast) Sergei Bobrovsky. For now Boosh is going to be getting the workload, but don’t be surprised to see Bobrovsky(Bob) come in and play a game or two before the end of the month.

    When the announcement of Bill Guerin’s tryout contract finally got to me, I was pretty ecstatic to be honest. Guerin is a great veteran forward who is what a team who is close to winning really wants. He didn’t have a stellar pre-season however, and he was let go. I think if we had more cap space this could definitely have happened regardless of his play, but we are simply strapped for cash at this moment.

    I’ll be back with a game preview before the game on Thursday when the Flyers hope to ruin the homecoming of Pittsburgh’s new stadium.

     
     

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    Leighton Re-signed; What’s Going to Happen at Midnight?!

    Today Michael Leighton was re-signed on the eve of NHL free agency. He received a two-year deal, totaling $3.1 million dollars. His cap hit will minimal, but it’s definitely a raise over his abysmal salary last year. Many Flyers fans are shaking their heads in disgust, yet some are happy with the news. That being said, Holmgren is not done. They still have plans to sign another defenseman or goaltender between midnight tonight and tomorrow night. I expect them to further another offer to Nabokov and Hamhuis just in case they change their mind, but I also expect them to go further. Anton Volchenkov has been a name floating around for the past week or so, and I would not be surprised if the Flyers could get him. He’d be a great 3rd pairing guy and a penalty killer if Lavvy felt the need to. His price would not be too high, either. Goalies on the list include the likes of former Flyguys Biron and Nitty, and other names such as Mason and Turco. I for one do not really have an idea of what exactly is going to happen. I’d love to have Nabokov for a season or two with Leighton as the back-up and Boosh being waived or as the third goalie. I don’t expect that, so I’d be happy with another goalie fighting with Leighton for that number one spot… Nitty or Mason please. NOT TURCO.

    Tonight you will probably see Aaron Asham walk and not be re-signed, which is sad because I really like Asham. However, he’s going to want a raise and deservedly so, and the Flyers do not have enough wiggle room since they’re already trying to sign Coburn, Carcillo
    and Powe to their RFA tenders. Krajicek is without a doubt gone, I should not even have to write that.

    So tomorrow will be the big day, but I expect to hear some happenings early this morning after midnight. Last year we signed Lappy and Boosh and Emery around this time, but I’m not sure if we will be signing that many this year.

     
     

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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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    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 Get the Split! Carbomb’s Return? UPDATE: JVR and Parent out, Bartulis and Carcillo In

    Tonight the Flyers hope to overcome the 6-5 loss on Saturday night. With one more game left before a couple home games, this one is pretty important. Grab the momentum and go home with a chance to take them both and go up big is something this team would love to do. Saturday nights game was a back and forth track meet with little to no defensive play. Both teams came out firing on all cylinders offensively and looked to score goals, yet the first lines of each respective teams were not the ones doing it. The bottom lines provided most of the scoring and the defensive coverage was pretty terrible. Tonight will be a tighter game, and the Flyers need to do a little more of getting the puck in deep and laying the body to nullify Chicago’s speed a bit. Leighton was yanked in the second period after allowing 5 goals but he will start tonight. Boosh didn’t know where his post was on the goal in the third period that ultimately lost us the game. Ryan Parent clocked less than a minute of ice-time after being on the ice for Chicago’s first goal after we went up 1-0 in the first. He was benched obviously for his lackluster play, and I don’t blame Lavvy. The coverage in our own zone was just lost and they skated around us and scored.

    Speaking of Parent, word on the street is that he will be benched tonight. We will be playing only five defenseman, because a certain forward is making his way back into the line-up.

    Dan Carcillo will return for the first time since Game 3 of the Montreal series when he was scratched in lieu of Jeff Carter’s return to the line-up. Look for him to play some minutes with the checking line with Betts and Lappy but also don’t be surprised if he gets some time on Richie or Giroux’s line. Hopefully his homage of growing a Broad Street Bullies era mustache will pay off for the Finals, because we need some toughness out there. If he can lay some nice checks, keep his cool and bait some players into taking penalties, it will be just as effective as scoring goals. It’s only a matter of playing tight defensively tonight and coming out strong like they did in the first period. I can see us winning this game if they play like I know they can play.

    Image courtesy of the Philly Phour

    UPDATE:

    Okay so I jumped the gun on this one with the early reports. It appears that Ryan Parent will indeed sit out, but so will JVR so Carcillo and Bartulis will play. I know JVR is a good player, but he hasn’t been doing anything spectacular with the time he’s had since his goal in Game 7 of the Boston series. I think a benching will give us a chance to get Carcillo out there for some energy, and the lines will look a lot deeper tonight with a goal scorer and a guy that can bang on each line. Bartulis in my opinion, is going to turn out way better than Parent ever will so I think he will be used sparingly, but should do alright in his role rotating in with our main four guys.

     
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    Posted by on May 31, 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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    How We Got Here

    The Flyers are in the Stanley Cup Finals. The FLYERS are in the Stanley Cup Finals. Not Pittsburgh, not New Jersey, not Washington, not Boston, not Buffalo, not any of the top-seeded Eastern Conference teams. The 7th seeded Philadelphia Flyers have made it all the way and now only four wins separate them from their first Stanley Cup in 35 years. With a long 82 games season and three grueling rounds of NHL playoff action, it is easy to look past exactly what got us here. Here’s a look at some main events leading up to this wonderful playoff run:
    Read the rest of this entry »

     
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    Posted by on May 28, 2010 in Playoffs

     

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