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Flyers’ Forwards: Team Toughness, Leino, Carter, Versteeg, etc.

Another big part of the Flyers’ off-season will be the re-signing of their forwards. Ville Leino, Dan Carcillo, Darroll Powe, Nikolai Zherdev, and Andreas Nodl will all be free-agents on July 1st, and the Flyers don’t have the cap space to accommodate all of them. Not all of them will be re-signed, especially with guys like Wellwood, Rinaldo, and Holmstrom hoping to crack the Flyers line-up during training camp. The forwards this year were arguably as deep as any other team, but they lacked execution during the second half of the season and could not seem to fully sync for more than a game at a time in the playoffs. There are a lot of options this off-season to fix the team, and many overlook the play of our forwards because of the goalie situation this playoff. But there definitely was something missing from our forward corps this season, so how can they fix it?
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Game 4: Swing-Game

Game 3 was the definitive test to see which team was going to take a hold of the series and control their momentum, but Game 4 tonight will be the swing-game. Up 2-1, the Flyers are facing a Buffalo team that needs a win to avoid going into Philly down 3-1. The Flyers want to win tonight to bring this series closer to an end, but they’ll have to match Buffalo’s work ethic. The Flyers have been one of the best road teams in hockey all year, let’s hope they can finish one out tonight.

A few notes about Game 3:

Nikolai Zherdev finally got a start, and scored the eventual game-winning goal. Nice to see Z get on the score sheet, hopefully he can help create more chances.

Speaking of that goal, it came from Richards and Versteeg; two players many fans have been demanding more of lately. Versteeg made a great play along the boards to force a turnover and found Richards, “Mr. Patience” as Coatesy calls him, who waited a few seconds before finding Zherdev for the easy tap in.

James VanRiemsdyk was once again an absolute BEAST on the ice. The big playoffs we’ve all been calling for seems to be coming to fruition… Let’s hope it continues.

Jeff Carter finally got on the scoreboard with a POWERPLAY GOAL. That smart guy who writes on this site predicted a Carter goal, and what better way than on a struggling powerplay? Let’s see if he can string two strong games together.

The star of the night, Brian Boucher made 35 saves on 37 shots. Albeit one goal he probably should have had, Boosh was a rock in set and kept things steady throughout the game. The defense did a great job of collapsing around him and keeping Buffalo to the perimeter, especially in the last 10 minutes of the 3rd period with Buffalo pressing and a few Buffalo powerplays.

If the Flyers put another effort in like the past few games and can find a way to get their powerplay consistent, they should be able to take this game. They’re the better team than Buffalo, and Miller is starting to get frustrated. Boosh needs to play another strong game to slow down our goalie carousel, and the Flyers need a full 60-minute defensive effort with some help from our scorers. I’ll to try and use my magic and will… maybe Mike Richards can get one tonight? It’d be nice to see our captain get his first of the playoffs tonight.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2011 in Playoffs

 

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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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Game 2 a Must-Win?


*Image courtesy of Flyers official site.
Last night’s loss was a tough one. Losing a close game at home like that to start the series should never feel good, especially when your team carried the play for most of the game. The Flyers get back at it on Saturday though, and this is as much as a “must-win” can be for Game 2 in a series. The Flyers did a lot of things well last night, but there are some things they need to improve on. Once again, Ryan Miller proved to be the great goalie he is, but he was not tested much. The quantity of chances were there, but some of them lacked quality. Miller had too easy of a time in front of his crease with the Flyers not opting to get in his face as much as they should. This directly affected their powerplay being 0% on the night, including a brief 5-on-3 that did not execute.

To put it simply, the Flyers’ powerplay looked like they had some life at times, but still failed to create quality scoring chances on a solid Buffalo penalty kill. The last powerplay of the game with a great chance to tie the game up late in the third went awry, and no chances were created… leaving the Flyers’ comeback seem improbable. The Flyers killed off Buffalo’s only powerplay, and Bobrovsky looked like a good goaltender for most of the game. His one juicy rebound left a perfect scoring opportunity for Buffalo’s Patrick Kaleta, and he buried it. The Flyers out-shot them 35-25, and tied their regular season high with 40 hits in the game. It was just one of those games that we all knew could happen; Miller made the saves he had to and the Flyers couldn’t execute when it came down to the wire.

I’m not sure if the line-up/lines will change at all for tomorrow’s 5 PM puck drop. I would have liked to see Zherdev get in the game last night, his scoring touch could have helped. But I do understand Laviolette’s logic on that one. He had two scoring lines (Briere and Carter’s) and two checking/gritty lines (Richards and Betts’). A balanced defensive and offensive attack to take on Buffalo, but we shall see. Nodl played well last night, but I still would like to see Zherdev play for somebody. The physical game was there last night, but I’d still like to think there can be some improvement made. If they can do a better job of making Miller’s life tough in the crease and get in his face, the goals will come. The one thing that can go wrong is if they think they played a great game last night, then come out tomorrow not hungry for the puck. If that happens, the series will be over sooner than we think.

I still say Flyers in 6, the Sabres stole a close game on the road and kudos to them, but there’s a lot of hockey left. JVR had a great game last night, and I expect him to cash in tomorrow. Maybe Pronger will be back tomorrow? Who knows. Not time to panic Flyers fans, we have a good team. They just have to execute and keep it simple. Let’s Go Flyers!

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2011 in Playoffs

 

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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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Flyers Splashes in FA Signings, Gagne Trade Rumors, Zherdev Signing?

Since last week when I wrote about possible free-agent scenarios, I did not expect what the Flyers have right now. The Flyers acquired young defenseman Andrej Meszaros from the Lightning for a 2nd round pick in 2012, and signed free agent veteran defenseman Sean O’Donnell who just finished a season with the Los Angeles Kings. They also signed veteran gritty forward Jody Shelley to a three-year deal, while being able to re-sign Coburn.

So that was the first day of free agency, and I loved the fact that we got O’Donnell and Meszaros. From this standpoint, they will be playing on the third pairing and are a HUGE upgrade over the likes of Parent/Krajicek/Bartulis. Even if Coburn drops down to that pair and Meszaros moves up, it just made our defense one of the best in the league. The only problem with this signing is Meszaros’ $4 million cap hit per year which may be a tough pill to swallow for some, considering that is more than both Coburn and Carle’s. Then there was the Shelley signing…
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