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Archive for the ‘Flyers’ Category

The more things change, the more they stay the same

Posted by Chris Shafer On July - 1 - 2010

The Answer Is Always More Depth

You might want to get a good look at defenseman Andrej Meszaros. After all, he will be helping to anchor the Philadelphia blueline for the next four years at a cool $4.00m per year in cap hit.

The Flyers’ gave up their 2nd rounder in 2012, which normally has just about the same value as a 3rd rounder in 2011. That 3rd round pick is ironically what the Flyers’ got for shipping the rights of recently acquired Dan Hamhuis off to the division rival Pittsburgh Penguins. So in the end it looks roughly like we gave up Ryan Parent for Andrej Meszaros. That’s not too shabby right?

Well, Meszaros was the great two-way defenseman that the Flyers were after two years ago. That was before we acquired Matt Carle and eventually Chris Pronger of course. At that point, Meszaros was a 22-year-old who had three incredible seasons with the Ottawa Senators under his belt. When things looked like they were turning downward, Ottawa sent him to Tampa Bay for San Jose’s 1st round pick in 2009, former Flyer Alexandre Picard, and veteran defenseman Filip Kuba.

So how did we get him two years later for a distant 2nd rounder when he would have cost us an arm and a leg as a restricted free-agent?

As fate would have it, right after the Czech-born stud defenseman signed a lucrative contract totaling 6 years at a cap hit of $4.00m per, he found out that it was not so easy to anchor a defense, particularly on a weak team like Tampa Bay, all by himself. He dropped from a guaranteed 35 points to a weak 16 followed by another season where he notched only 17. For a puck-moving defenseman getting loads of powerplay time, this disaster was akin to a total meltdown.

It is still hard to blame Meszaros entirely. His plus/minus rating all those years in Ottawa was respectable enough. The former first round pick from 2004 could certainly play his part defensively and work physically along the boards. In Tampa, he dropped quietly to a minus 4 in his first year but plummeted to a minus 14 last year.

In 2008-09, his top defensive partners were a respectable top four defenseman named Paul Ranger, our throw-away in the Matt Carle trade Steve Eminger, and Lukas Krajicek, who we just picked off waivers only to drop this offseason for his poor performances. This year, he split time with veteran Mattias Ohlund, second overall selection Victor Hedman, and Mike Lundin. Neither defense is spectacular. In fact, those defenses make the Washington Capitals’ defense look NHL-caliber and credible.

At such a young age, it’s almost impossible to expect that Meszaros anchor a terrible blueline. That said, he won’t have to do the anchoring in Philadelphia.

All things out of Holmgren seem to imply that the Flyers are keeping Pronger, Timonen, Carle, Coburn, and the newly added Meszaros to fill out the top 5 despite various rumors that one will be shipped out. If that wasn’t enough, Holmgren went out and got Sean O’Donnell, a rough shut-down defenseman who won a cup with Pronger in Anaheim, to play as the 6th for $1.00m on a one-year deal. That puts Bartulis as the 7th, likely earning only call-up duty.

Pronger -- Carle
Timonen -- Coburn
Meszaros -- O’Donnell

That’s probably fairly easily the best defense in the NHL. We were arguably the best before the Meszaros trade, but now we’re spectacular on the blueline.

Holmgren consistently noted that it was our inability to play our third pairing in the playoffs, which consisted as some disastrous combination of Ryan Parent, Lukas Krajicak, and rookie Oskars Bartulis, that cost us the Stanley Cup. Many people will say it was goaltending due to the weak goals Leighton let in against the Blackhawks. It’s hard to argue that Leighton didn’t appear too sharp, but you could not hope to keep playing four defensemen for entire games at a time with almost no relief. That certainly isn’t any way to prolong the careers of Pronger and Timonen, who as aging veterans are counted on to lead our defense.

The other part of the equation was certainly the Coburn re-signing. After so many rumors involving his apparent desire to get paid handsomely for his troubles, the two sides finally agreed on a two-year deal at $3.20m per season. Eventually, between Coburn, Carle, and Meszaros, the Flyers will push to replace Timonen and Pronger down the road as their contracts expire. It is always good news to have your future lined up and in place before it arrives.

Still No Goalie In Sight

Unless you count Michael Leighton as a goalie, the Flyers are still in a bit of a pickle at the goaltending position. They signed Leighton an expensive deal for someone of his background just before the opening of free agency at two years for $1.55m per season.

It became a little problematic when more talented goaltenders began coming off the boards at bargain prices. Dan Ellis, who would have likely been a better option than Leighton, signed in Tampa Bay at $1.50m a year for two years. Former Flyer Antero Niittymaki, who also would have been a better option than Leighton, signed in San Jose for $2.00m a year on a two-year deal. Our other former goalie, Martin Biron, who would have been a far better option, signed in New York with the Rangers as a back-up for two years and $0.88m a year. The last goalie to come off the boards was Chris Mason, another who many Flyers’ fans were hoping would save their team. He signed for two years at $1.85m each.

Of the respectable starters still available, that leaves only Evgeni Nabokov and Marty Turco. Both were offered minuscule contracts by the Flyers’ organization, and both respectfully declined. Now, with almost no possible starting jobs left on the market but Philadelphia, they may have wished that had accepted Holmgren’s offer.

Unfortunately now for the Flyers, if they want to get one of the goalies, they either have to sign them to an absolute bargain at around Michael Leighton money or be forced to move another piece to sign one of them. It is possible that, if the Flyers manage to get Nabokov or Turco cheap, Boucher could be waived to clear up room.

There are rumors that we are still sifting through the market, but there is also a wide belief that Leighton, Boucher, recently signed young KHL star Sergei Bobrovsky, and veteran Johan Backlund will battle it out for an NHL job.

Even though our team is now pressed up tight against the salary cap, it is important to remember that we are only one day in. There is still an entire summer to toy with things. Still, comments now say Holmgren is pretty much done.

Overall our team is better and deeper than it was before. Our goaltending, however, remains a severe issue. What else is new?

Holmgren finally gets Hamhuis

Posted by Chris Shafer On June - 19 - 2010

Holmgren gets his man

It took quite a while, but Nashville defenseman Dan “Hammer” Hamhuis is on his way to Philadelphia.

The Flyers have officially reunited defenseman Ryan Parent, who they acquired in the Forsberg trade just before sending Nashville’s first back to them in order to ink Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell, with the organization that drafted him. Parent was due for a raise this offseason, and due to a number of seemingly chronic injuries, he was not performing as well as the team would have liked. In return, the Flyers walked away with Hamhuis and a conditional pick in 2011.

Hamhuis, right now, is an unrestricted free agent, but most are confident he will sign. This is the guy that Holmgren has wanted for a long time, and there is a good reason for it. He also happened to be Timonen’s partner back when Timonen was with Nashville.

Why did the Flyers want Hamhuis with Pronger, Timonen, Coburn, and Carle already in the top four? Let’s check the tape.

A former 1st round pick (12th overall) by Nashville in 2001, Hamhuis was raised by the biggest producer of grade-A defenseman in the NHL. Nashville has produced some of the best defensemen in the league for a while now, and Hamhuis was going to be one of the most sought after free-agent defensemen this summer.

Holmgren, never complacent, decided to strike first.

Hamhuis, if signed, becomes the third best defenseman on the team immediately with Coburn on his heels. Carle is back there somewhere as well. At this point though, both Coburn and Hamhuis need new contracts. One has to believe either Carle or Coburn is on the move. The Flyers will need to clear salary to keep Hamhuis, and they still need to find a goalie.

Vancouver, who desperately wanted Hamhuis, might be looking to trade for Coburn now. High-end goaltending prospect Cory Schneider would almost have to be included in that deal even if he likely can’t be the starter in Philadelphia immediately.

There are other directions for the Flyers to go though. Recently Coburn rejected a two-year offer which leaves further speculation on the table, but Holmgren likely would have gone after Hamhuis regardless. The biggest task now is to get him signed and see what else will be moved.

Contract talks begin Monday.

Montreal Saga Over

When Montreal traded Jaroslav Halak for Giroux-esque prospect Lars Eller out of St. Louis, the created drama between the Flyers and Canadiens was officially over. Lars Eller has quite a bit of talent, but in the end, he is effectively a lesser version of Giroux, who the Canadiens wanted for Halak or Price. The Flyers weren’t about to cave, and the Blues were in a much better position to make this trade than the Orange and Black, who have very few bluechip forwards in the prospect pool.

Now we know that neither Halak or Price will be coming to Philly. Right now rumors say that the Flyers are heavily in talks with Los Angeles over either Quick or Bernier. Keep in mind that LA is one of the teams that has always liked Scott Hartnell.

Carter not to be moved

There is a tweet floating around from the man when it comes to hockey rumors, Bob McKenzie, that Carter is not going to be moved by Philadelphia. That’s good enough for me. I didn’t really expect him to be on the block anyway.

Regardless, there are more moves coming.

Guest Post: Hop on the Wagon (If you haven’t already!)

Posted by Roman Zubarev On June - 5 - 2010

By: Joe Gallagher

Hello, Flyers “fans” (that is if you really are one.) I’m Joe Gallagher. I‘m what some may call a bandwagon fan. (Gasp!) I’m not sure if that is a valid generalization. I mean, I do watch roughly 5 regular games a season and always, always (oh wait thanks, 2007) watch the playoff games. Now, whether or not I am a bandwagon fan I suppose is for you to judge. Do I have an unparalleled understanding hockey? No. Do I end every phrase with, “eh?” No. Do I know how icing works? Sort of. Do I have a John LeClair jersey? Yes, but so many of us do. Look, I just love watching playoff hockey. The thrill, the hits, the desperation — they all do it for me. No, I do not live and die with the Flyers game in and game out. But yes, I want them to destroy the Blackhawks. Why? I want the celebration that this city deserves. I want to be a part of something special. Is that too much to ask?

Look, I know what you Flyers lifers are going through. I have been and always will be a Phillies fan. I live and die with them. When they lost the Series last year it hurt. When they won in 2008, I rejoiced like never before. Sure, it’s frustrating seeing people who really didn’t give a damn about them from ‘94 to ‘07 suddenly become their biggest supporters. Heck I used to be able to go to games, grab a couple of dogs, and enjoy some pretty crappy baseball by the likes of Desi Relaford, Rico Brogna, and Turk Wendell — all for like 10 bucks. Now I have to wait for standing room only to open up just to stay within 15 dollars of my old expenses (sans Desi Relaford, Rico Brogna, and Turk Wendell!). The same goes for Villanova basketball. I’ve always been a big fan. I remember watching Gary Buchanan, Michael Bradley, and Derrick Snowden play second, third, or even fourth fiddle in the Big Five to players like Lynn Greer, Jameer Nelson, and Delonte West. Now, I can’t even get into a game at my beloved Pavilion. Instead I’m forced to watch a game here and there at the college hoops death trap of the Wachovia Center. As I gripe about this more and more though, suddenly I realize something: what am I whining about? My teams are winning. There is an excitement surrounding every move they make. The city has embraced them. Seven years ago, there was nothing I wanted more.

So, “real” Flyers fans I urge you: do not gripe about the “curses” of success. Let’s put it this way: how many Flyers are complaining that there are too many people in the city supporting them? None! These “fake” fans are only helping. This whole ordeal has made me realize something that I hope you understand: those people griping about bandwagoners are treading very close to hypocrisy. What real fan doesn’t want his team to be successful, supported, and beloved? Phinally, I’d like to set up one final, real life scenario. The Phillies World Series parade had 5 million people in attendance. Now, I am willing to bet that there are not 5 million people in the city who live and die by the Phils. But you what, there were 5 million people who showed up and made that day one of the most special I can remember. So, to the haters: quit posting on your Facebooks “OMG I like h8 those bandwagoners!!!” and just embrace the moment – otherwise it’ll Fly right on by. And to you “bandwagoners:” forget the haters, you guys are what make championship seasons special. Keep supporting the guys, our guys and let’s help bring home Lord Stanley’s Cup.

You stay gritty Philly, I’m Joe Gallagher.

Chicago vs. Philly – Clash of the Titans

Posted by Chris Shafer On May - 28 - 2010

13 years ago I was a 10-year-old. That was the year we cleaned up the East, beating each team 4-1 on our way to the Stanley Cup Finals. Then we ran into the beginning of the Detroit dynasty. We ran into Brendan Shanahan, Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Larry Murphy, and Nicklas Lidstrom. The end result was a devastating sweep where we only managed six goals in four games.

We’re a long way from 1997. We’re a long way from our incredible run in 2000 and the legend of 2004. We’re different from 2008. This is 2010, and we may have the best team we’ve iced in decades.

Still, talent doesn’t win you a Cup. Yes, we’re the Eastern Conference Champions, but that means nothing unless we can prove we’re better than the Western Conference Champions.

On the other side is a team that dominated the West and cleaned up by sweeping the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Finals. They are young, they are talented, and they want the Cup.

So how do we beat them?

The answer is of course a little tricky. They are basically us. Their team make-up is the same, their talent level is the same, and their desire is the same. How do we beat what basically amounts to ourselves?

We will have to play to the differences. You automatically think of guys like Dustin Byfuglien, who is basically their Hartnell, and Patrick Kane, who is basically their  Briere, and Jonathan Toews, who is basically their Richards, and Marian Hossa, who is basically their Gagne. But looking at their depth they have a Patrick Sharp, who is a lesser version of Carter, and Kris Versteeg, who is a lesser version of Giroux. That leaves Dave Bolland, Troy Brouwer, and Andrew Ladd to fill out their top nine. When compared to Ville Leino, James vanRiemsdyk, and Arron Asham, you can see that the Flyers have the slightly deeper offense.

Our fourth line of Powe, Betts, and Laperriere is one of the most defensively responsible and edgy shut-down lines in the game. Their fourth line is John Madden, basically as good if not better than Betts, along with former Flyer Ben Eager and former Red Wing Tomas Kopecky. In a straight match-up, the Flyers’ fourth line is slightly better.

Then looking at the defense, it will be a battle of Duncan Keith, their do-it-all defenseman who is in much the mold of a Timonen despite being slightly better. Their shut-down defenseman, Brent Seabrook, is talented, but he is still no Pronger. Then you have Brian Campbell, who is a better version of Carle, paired with Niklas Hjalmarsson, who is a weaker version of Coburn.

They also have a solid number five defenseman in Brent Sopel who can jump in and log some minutes, but unless the Flyers start feeling comfortable with Parent, the Blackhawks might be able to spread their defensive minutes more evenly.

Then it comes down to rookie goalie Antti Neimi against Michael Leighton. Neimi has the advantage skill-wise, and he also has a very good defense to help him out. He’s also very quick laterally. He can move to side to side, and the best way to beat him is the same way we beat Halak: get involved in the crease to bang home the junk and get involved in the crease.

Strong defensive teams are nothing new to the Flyers having battled through New Jersey with Brodeur (#2 regular season defense), Boston with Rask (#1 regular season defense), and Montreal with Halak. Likewise, strong offensive teams are nothing new to Chicago having dealt with Vancouver (#2 regular season offense) and San Jose (#4 regular season offense). They also met up with some strong defensemen in Nashville named Shea Weber and Ryan Suter.

The Flyers have a slightly better offensive and a stronger defensive top 4, but this is not going to be easy. The Hawks are filled with some tough, two-way forwards and some solid defensemen just like us.

They’re not as physical as Boston, but they have as strong a defense. Their offense is better than any we’ve faced to this date.

But if we come out playing our game, then they can be beaten.

One thing their offense likes to do is work the transition and cross the blueline. They can also dump and chase, but if they try to skate into the zone on their own power, our defense can hold them. If they do start to dump and chase to make the battles in our zone toss-ups, then they will have to win the battles. They have the talent to do so, and we have the talent to stop them from winning the puck. We have to want it more. We have to beat them in those battles and get pucks out on the break-out cleanly and effectively. We can’t turn the pucks over in our own zone. Like Montreal and New Jersey, this is when they’re the most dangerous.

Offensively we’re going to have to pressure them. Their defense is good and deep, but if we knock them backwards and force turnovers with our high-energy forecheck, we can attack from any possible angle.

It’s still not going to be easy. This series will come down to execution and desire more than skill.

Leighton will have to remain hot, our defense will have to continue to clear his rebounds, and our offense will have to make life miserable for their back-end. We have to get in Niemi’s face and crash the net.

Carter, Gagne, and Laperriere have had a little extra time to rest. Our team has looked pretty good. Boucher will be the back-up on the bench as he returns earlier than expected from his injury.

We have a great opportunity to win this. We can’t just let it slip away.

Thirteen years is a long time to wait.

We need 100% determination and 100% execution. We need everyone to play like Alpha-males.

Off to Chicago!

Posted by Chris Shafer On May - 24 - 2010

Completely worth every inch of the image cut off by restrictions.

We’re going to the Stanley Cup Finals!

Chicago waits, we’re not done yet

Posted by Chris Shafer On May - 23 - 2010

The Flyers are one win away. Just one.

For the third time in this year’s Eastern Conference Finals, Michael Leighton recorded a shut-out.

It feels a lot better to be the team ahead in the series as opposed to the one facing elimination, but you can be sure the Canadiens are not going to go down without a fight. This is the same team that knocked off the first seeded Washington Capitals in the first round and the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round. In both series, the Canadiens were down before taking the each series to game seven and eventually winning.

In elimination games, Jaroslav Halak is 5-0 with a 1.60 GAA and a 0.962 SV%. Those are hardly numbers to scoff at regardless of his numbers against us so far this series.

We are at home for game 5, and we don’t want to send this back to Montreal where they have a chance to bring it back here for game 7. Basically we want to end this tomorrow night on home ice. Laviolette will not let his team sleep on the Canadiens, and that blowout loss in game 3 was probably the best thing that could have happened to the Flyers.

On the other side of a victory, the mighty Chicago Backhawks, our Western Conference carbon copies, are waiting for us after a sweep of the San Jose Sharks. We can’t worry about them now though. First we need to get there.

Some of you may remember the last time the Flyers went to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1997. Since then we’ve lost in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2000, in 2004, and in 2008. The Flyers don’t want to let this end here.

We need the crowd to get into their heads. We need to dominate the game. We need to keep them playing chase-the-puck in their own zone. And we need to get past Halak to kill their resolve.

It won’t be easy, but this is for the right to play in the Stanley Cup Finals. It’s never going to be easy.

We don’t want this to drag out.

Carter or Lappy in for game 4?

Posted by Chris Shafer On May - 21 - 2010

I hope that we all learned a lesson from that game. Even if we had two straight shut-outs to take a 2-0 lead, we can’t throw a party just yet. San Jose or Chicago will have to wait. We have to take the Canadiens out first.

And after a 5-1 win on home ice, they’re pretty cocky.

They have a right to be though. They out-skated us, matched our physicality, beat us to loose pucks, created havoc in our zone, got to rebounds around Leighton while working in front of the net, and stole numerous turnovers. The tables turned quickly.

We cannot have a game like that again, and I’m sure Laviolette’s doing his best to make sure we won’t. Four straight times the Flyers have come out sluggish. They have to be awake for this early Saturday start tomorrow at 3 P.M. They can’t let the Canadiens skate around for a period and hope to make it up later in the game.

Laviolette said himself that he wants to play this series with a lead. He has his team up 2-1 with a crucial game 3 in Montreal staring him down. This is the one team you don’t want to take to seven games. They can beat anyone if you give them the chance.

One thing that needs to be better in particular is the Pronger-Carle pairing. Pronger is sick right now, so there’s a little bit of an excuse there. Still the rest of the team can’t be lulled to sleep or left stupified by the atmosphere at the Bell Centre.

It can’t all be pinned on Pronger’s illness though. We skated like crap. We should have at least competed with them even if Pronger isn’t 100%.

We’ll have to wait and see how the Flyers come out tomorrow.

On another note, it’s possible that either Carter or Laperriere take the ice again for game 4. They both practiced with the team today, but despite a lot of noise, there are plenty of conflicting rumors. Some say it will be Lappy. Others say it will be Carter. We’ll know more right before game time. I think the organization is playing it by ear.

Either will be a boost, but don’t expect Carter to be slotted down the middle right away if it is him. They did have him centering some at practice, but down the middle the Flyers have looked good with the exception of last night.

There you have it. We’ll know just how much fight is left in this team tomorrow; how much they want to control their own fate. Laviolette is angry (use your imagination with the expletives). Pronger and Richards are too. The team felt they were embarrassed, and they all say they don’t want to be embarrassed again.

The crowd will be loud though. Let’s see how much resilience we have. We have shut them up before.

Here’s a little something courtesy of Montreal:

Let’s shove it right back in their face.

Get ready for game 5 regardless. Let’s show them how loud we can get.

Olé! Etc.

Posted by Chris Shafer On May - 17 - 2010

How do you beat the Canadiens?

Well, you battle them for every inch of ice surface. Laviolette came prepared for yesterday in only a day and had his team flying off the handle. They weren’t playing dirty as some Canadiens’ fans and writers might suggest (you can leave that for Montreal’s frustration as they took a few liberties in that game with Leino and Giroux), but really the Flyers were ready to win every little battle to make last night’s game a 6-0 victory.

So how did we do that in game 1?

It should be fairly obvious. They are a skilled, small team with only a few offensive weapons and a defensive strategy to act like a 5-man clog in front of Halak (or Price as we witnessed last night). You need to do exactly what Washington and Pittsburgh didn’t do.

Both contenders couldn’t solve Halak despite outplaying the Canadiens for a heavy chunk of the series for a couple reasons.

Firstly, they could win battles for the puck, but they couldn’t operate their cycle in the dirty areas in the corners, behind the net, and along the end-boards. Last night the Flyers did that.

Secondly, those teams didn’t mess around in front of the net or in high traffic areas. Instead they tried to get shots from the high slot and the perimeter while peppering Halak. Because of this, their shots got blocked or snuffed out by Halak. The Flyers, doing what they normally do, played their game perfectly. They got big bodies in front of Halak and made his life miserable with dirty tip-ins and screens.

Thirdly, those teams tried to go toe-for-toe in a speed/skill game with a quick team with offensive talent. The Flyers have the defensive puck-movers to try this, but why do that when they can just as easily rely on their top four to snuff out any Montreal skating along the boards? Washington and Pittsburgh don’t have nearly the shut-down defensive game to perfectly counter Montreal’s few skilled forwards. Pronger, Timonen, and Coburn have brought something new to Montreal’s doorstep, and they haven’t found an answer yet.

On top of that, Montreal’s coach, Jacques Martin, couldn’t handle such a drastically different style with that much talent. In turn, Laviolette even called a time-out while they were already dominating the Canadiens just to tell the team to not get lulled to sleep. He knew that you had to absolutely crush Montreal to send the message. His message was heard, and the Flyers got the series started off in a lopsided way after chasing the cherished Halak from the pipes.

One of the most important things in this game was to get on Carey Price immediately after chasing Halak. You couldn’t let them get any confidence in their replacement goalie either. The Fyers did stellar work and managed to get in 2 more after Price was put in to relieve Halak.

In game 2, you’re going to see a desperate Montreal team that can only fight back now that their goalies have been solved so easily. The Flyers are going to need to come out and do the same thing that they did last night. Keeping the team fighting as if Montreal can beat them at any moment is the trick that both Washington’s coach and Pittsburgh’s coach could not figure out.

Laviolette will need to keep the team interested. How is he going to do that?

Calling a timeout mid-pummeling to tell them to get a little more fire in their step even while dominating certainly helps. It also doesn’t hurt to treat game 1 like a total fluke. Based on his postgame comments, “Game 2 is going to be a battle. It really is. We’re going to have to be better,” he’s ready to go.

Another important point of this series is to get the first goal and play with a lead. If Montreal can get a lead and sit on it, their trapping game along with a solid goalie might be a problem. The Flyers have shown that they can bounce back against a tough defense and goalie before, but they don’t want to toy with that too much. They want to lead in this series.

One last note before everyone prepares for game 2.

Both Carter and Laperriere were re-evaluated today, and it seems as though both could be ready to go mid-series. Carter as early as game 3, and Laperriere is a wild-card at this point. Though having two of their more important players ready to go is a good problem to have, it is still a problem. Laviolette will have to find a way to incorporate them into the lineup slowly as to not put too much pressure on them as they recover while not screwing up the chemistry.

Any number of lineup changes are possible, but I’m particularly hoping he puts Carter on Richards’ wing in Carcillo’s stead when Carter does return just to see how things go. Right now Carcillo is mainly invisible, and he has been for about 5 or 6 games. It’s not his fault entirely, but it’s definitely something to think about.

Gagne -- Richards -- Carter
Hartnell -- Briere -- Leino
vanRiemsdyk -- Giroux -- Asham
Carcillo -- Betts -- Nodl/Powe/Laperriere

The other issue is Laperriere’s return to the lineup. Nodl and Powe have played very well, and a half-speed Laperriere might not be able to play his physical hitting, defensive game as well. If he does get into the lineup and is good enough to go, you probably bench Nodl first despite his great play so far. You then move Powe, who had prior chemistry with Giroux, back to the Giroux-JVR two-man show line since Asham has been virtually invisible. Giving Giroux and JVR a speedy, edgy defensively sound forward to work with might help them significantly. That would create a lineup like this:

Gagne -- Richards -- Carter
Hartnell -- Briere -- Leino
vanRiemsdyk -- Giroux -- Powe
Carcillo -- Betts -- Laperriere

It’s definitely something to think about heading into games 2, 3, and 4.

Other than all of that series stuff, huge props to the Philadelphia fans in attendance at game 1. The Olé Olé chant being thrown right back at Montreal was priceless. Let’s keep it up for game 2, and hopefully by Wednesday we’ll be shipping up to Montreal with a 2-game series lead.

P.S. I wonder if Montreal beat-writer Mike Boone still thinks we’re NAZIs:

There’s not a franchise in sports I hate more than the Philadelphia Flyers.

Not the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Not the New York Yankees.

Not the Dallas Cowboys or L.A. Lakers.

No, you’d have to have an Olympic Games flashback to 1936 and watch the pride of Hitler’s Germany marching into the Berlin stadium to match the feeling of revulsion I experience every time I see the Flyers play.

Especially against the Canadiens.

It’s a fun, enjoyable read from earlier this season. I highly recommend it.

Olé -- Olé Olé Olé -- Olé -- Olé!

Flyers sign goalie Sergei Bobrovsky

Posted by Chris Shafer On May - 15 - 2010

Midway through the Boston series, I got some very good news. The news of course was that the Flyers had signed Russian goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.

Since I assume most people reading this won’t know much about him, you can consider him the KHL’s version of Vokoun. He has been languishing on one of the worst KHL teams (it was an RSL team his first year) for three seasons.

Bobrovsky’s Metallurg Novokuznetsk finished in last place in goal scoring with 105 total goals in 56 games (1.88) but, thanks to the efforts of their goalie, finished 13th out of 24 teams in goals against with only 159 (2.83 GA/G). Once again his just plain bad team had a little bit of a bright side thanks to their now 21-year-old netminder, who had seen the team through three terrible years back to when they were a part of the RSL before the KHL was even created. To give you a hint, the team didn’t do much better than last place in any of the seasons.

Those disappointing years of course couldn’t be pinned on their star; the one the Flyers happened to steal last week.

In this past season on the worst team in the KHL, Bobrovsky put up a 2.72 GAA and a 0.919 SV% in 35 games played despite a frustrating 9 wins. In 2008-09, he had an even better 2.49 GAA and a 0.927 SV% in 32 games but, thanks in large part to his team, managed only 7 wins. He also played another 32 games over the course of two seasons in the RSL as a teenager accounting for a 2.85 GAA and a 0.901 SV% in the grown-up league.

He definitely has talent despite his team, and his biggest goal was to make it to the NHL.

That should not be too hard for a kid who plays a similar style to the Capitals’ Semyon Varlamov and is often noted to be competing with him for the position of top young Russian goalkeeper.

Oh yeah. Did I mention he’s Russian? A RussianGoalie on the Flyers. Not only are we not known to have any Russians, but since when are we known to have goalies?

Well the Russian thing may be changing with Bobrovsky and defenseman Denis Bodrov in the mix. There are also rumors the Flyers are finally going to manage to get break-out forward Andrei Popov to journey to North America while the KHL battles their own nearly league-wide financial crisis.

The goalie thing may be changing as well. Joacim Eriksson has signed an SEL contract but still holds out hope that the Flyers might give him a shot in the organization this year. If you couldn’t tell by the Philadelphia hoodie he is often seen sporting over in Sweden, he’s just a little excited to make the trip. He likely won’t be in Adirondack next season with Bobrovsky hold the position, but he’s definitely in the Flyers’ long-term plans.

On top of that, goaltending prospects Nicola Riopel of the Moncton Wildcats in the QMJHL and Jacob DeSerres of the Brandon Wheat Kings in the WHL will be competing in the upcoming weeks for a shot at the Memorial Cup, a junior hockey tournament that puts the three CHL champions against a team that is hosting for the title of CHL champion. Mike Richards won one of those back in the day. Claude Giroux came close. It’s kind of a big deal. Also in the mix is Eric Wellwood, surprise break-out forward for the Windsor Spitfires in the OHL. It should be a good chance to get a reading on some of our prospects that will be in the AHL next season.

So things are definitely looking up for the Flyers, and Bobrovsky is going to get his shot. He has all the talent in the world. Here’s the breakdown on our two promising goalie prospects:

Sergei Bobrovsky
Age: 21
Born: 9-20-88
Height: 6’2
Weight: 190
Contract: NHL
Athleticism: Above Average
Glove: Solid
Reflexes: Elite
Rebound Control: Average
Composure: Elite
Positioning: Above Average

Age: 19 – 2007-08 Metallurg Novokuznetsk (RSL): 24 GP – 2.91 GAA – 0.901 SV%
Age: 20 – 2008-09 Metallurg Novokuznetsk (KHL): 32 GP – 2.49 GAA – 0.927 SV%
Age: 21 – 2009-10 Metallurg Novokuznetsk (KHL): 35 GP – 2.72 GAA – 0.919 SV%
Age: 22 – 2010-11 Philadelphia Phantoms (AHL)

Joacim Eriksson
Age: 20
Born: 4-9-90
Height: 6’2
Weight: 187
Contract: SEL
Athleticism: Above Average
Glove: Solid
Reflexes: Above Average
Rebound Control: Solid
Composure: Elite
Positioning: Elite

Age: 17 – 2007-08 Brynas (SWE-J20): 16 GP – 3.31 GAA – 0.875 SV%
Age: 18 – 2008-09 Brynas (SWE-J20): 33 GP – 1.99 GAA – 0.930 SV%
Age: 19 – 2009-10 Leksand (Allsvenskan): 38 GP – 2.40 GAA – 0.926 SV%
Age: 20 – 2010-11 Skelleftea (SEL)

Since there are no YouTube videos of him, here are a few Sergei Bobrovsky saves for those who would like to see him in action:

The Team that Defied the World

Posted by Chris Shafer On May - 15 - 2010

Game 82 of the 2009-10 season: the Philadelphia Flyers earn a seventh seed and a playoff birth after one of the most nerve-wracking regular seasons in recent memory.

12 games and 8 wins later, they’re still in it.

And you’ll absolutely have to excuse my absence of articles during this entire series. You don’t mess with fate.

After all, it wasn’t hard to get caught up in all of this. We weren’t supposed to beat the Devils, and then of course we weren’t supposed to beat the Bruins. People quickly forgot that we were one of the Stanley Cup favorites at the start of the regular season just because we had to fight 82 long games while battling injuries, slumps, and coaching changes.

It’s pretty easy to say you believed in this team all along, but to have an unwavering faith so strong as to believe the Flyers could get this far is to be on par with the hockey gods themselves.

Judging by the violent storm that raged through the hockey area last night, those gods were none too pleased, but that couldn’t possibly stop the thousands partying around the Wach and in bars across the region.

The Flyers defied god.

There’s no other way to put it. They were in the NHL basement and climbed out to just barely earn a playoff birth after being a Cup favorite. They went down 3-0 against the Bruins in the second round only to find themselves in a 3-0 hole in game 7 after battling back.

I’m sure all of Philly knows the score; the fact that game 7 was a microcosm of the entire series.

What people don’t know is that game 7 was a microcosm of this team. Adversity after adversity has been thrown their way, but they keep surviving by the smallest of margins. When all hope is lost they shine the brightest.

So, I think it’s a good time to breakdown the efforts in this series. It’s impossible to write this and think of only a handful of names to mention.

Peter Laviolette: Think we’d be here with John Stevens? I think that timeout in game 7 after falling behind 3-0 was the epitome of Laviolette. He’s not going to let this team fail. He’s going to suck out of them every ounce of energy they can possibly give. He knows what it’s going to take to win a Stanley Cup. It’s not all about timeouts and yelling though. This team believes in him. He may not be the friendly Stevens’ type, but this team is willing to pull out all the stops for him. On top of that, his implementation of a system, possibly far more important than anything else he has brought to this team, has been swept slightly under the rug in favor of his title as “Time-out King.”

Mike Richards: There was a petition this week among Flyers’ fans on to put at end to his captaincy debate once and for all. Mike Richards is our captain, now and forever. The media has constantly attacked him for his attitude when handling them. They claimed that a captain should not act like he has; should not step up to the Philly media that started a war for their own amusement. Not only has Richards been arguably the Flyers’ best postseason player next to Pronger, but his leadership has held this team together when all hope seemed lost time and time again. It’s arguable right now whether it was Gagne’s triumphant return or Richards’ hit on Krejci that turned this series on its head.

Chris Pronger: He has done nothing short of everything we hoped he would do in coming to Philadelphia. His play this series has been just as phenomenal. He may be the best postseason performer in the NHL since the lockout bar none. Throughout the series he was the rock in the back-end, and watching him out-perform the 6’9 Zdeno Chara was a treat. Pronger averaged 30 minutes of ice time a night (Yes, half a game each game), scored two goals, and assisted on four other goals. The impact he has had on this team can’t possibly be over-exaggerated in any way.

Simon Gagne: The man is playing with broken bones. He came back when the Flyers were down 3-0. They haven’t lost since, mostly thanks to Gagne’s 4 goals in 4 games. Yes, two of them were game winners; one in the OT facing a sweep in game 4 and another to close out the series last night. The longest tenured Flyer had to watch his team fall to the Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals two years ago. He wasn’t about to miss this one. He might have the most heart of anyone on the team other than Laperriere.

Danny Briere: How quietly has this man stepped up his game? You barely notice him unless you look at the postseason scoring. 15 points in 12 games; second only to Mike Richards. He leads our team with seven goals. Say what you want about his defensive problems when he’s playing down the middle, but the necessity line of Hartnell -- Briere -- Leino has been a major contributor in the absence of Carter. Briere is the reason.

Claude Giroux: This magical kid does it all. He kills penalties, makes dazzling assists, fights along the boards, and now comes complete with scoring abilities. His 5 goals are tied for second on the team with Richards. How about holding the play in the Bruins’ zone for 20 seconds while the clock slowly ticked down to victory in game 7? Combine the offensive creativity of Peter Forsberg, the defensive play of Simon Gagne, the heart of Mike Richards, and pack them all into 22-year-old, 5’11 frame. That’s Claude Giroux.

Kimmo Timonen/Braydon Coburn: Say what you will about Coburn’s early season, but he has been the man since March. He seems to finally be turning the corner and getting back into his 2007-08 form. If you’re one of the people that want to move him, then shame on you. While Carle has been off and on during his games with Pronger, Coburn and Timonen have been quietly the better pairing on the ice depending on Carle’s decision making any given night. Having two legitimate and deadly pairings is what sets the Flyers apart from every other team in the playoffs this year. These two deserve their due. Coburn in particular was an animal all series long.

Brian Boucher/Michael Leighton: They said it couldn’t be done. They scoffed at Brodeur vs. Boucher. They scoffed at Rask vs. Boucher. Then they scoffed at Rask vs. Leighton when Boucher went down. We would not be here now if it wasn’t for both of them, and though Boucher is done for the year, Leighton seems ready to carry the torch. In his first three playoff games ever, he has a 1.54 GAA and a 0.940 SV%. Boucher finished with a 2.33 GAA and a 0.920 SV%.

Scott Hartnell: He played 81 games this year and was the most undisciplined player for most of them. He was easily the single most yelled at Flyer through TV screens this year, while that distinct honor usually fell to Randy Jones. It was hardly the effort you’d expect out of him given his incredible year last season. When he wasn’t invisible, he was giving up turnovers, falling down, or taking a terrible penalty. It took 90 games before he finally woke up. In games 5, 6, and 7 he has been an absolutely changed man with 2 goals and an assist.

Ville Leino: What do you think of Paul Holmgren’s “trade deadline” now? Yes, we have this kid signed for 2010-11 as well. All those knocks about his effort have been thrown out the window. He’s not the best skater, but his stick-handling and forechecking have been crucial to the “necessity line.”

James vanRiemsdyk: He could not buy a playoff goal regardless of how well he played. It was hard to watch. He did everything he was asked and then some. His first playoff goal to spark the rally in game 7 was easily the biggest goal of this 21-year-old’s entire life.

Every player in this postseason deserves props for their effort. I won’t say anymore here. Just get ready for the Canadiens. I’ll have a breakdown for them coming up soon as well as a post about our new goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. Enjoy this. You witnessed history. This was once in a lifetime.

History was made.

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