Check out this sick goal scored by Finland’s Mikael Granlund against Russia in the 2011 World Ice Hockey Championships:
36 years and counting and no Stanley Cup. Don’t even feel like writing about it. Swept by the Bruins; not even in the series; the goalie situation was a joke. How did they go from the dominant team they were in January to this? They don’t know.
Changes over the summer? A few but probably no wholesale changes. A number one goalie is a must – please don’t try to pass off Leighton and Bobrovsky as your 1-2 combination. Several good free agents available or maybe trade for one: Bryzgalov, Nabokov, Voukoun possibilities. Take a look at Nashville’s Anders Lindback – huge at 6’6, young, alot of promise. Bob can be the backup or Leighton if you want Bob to get alot of work with the Phantoms for a season.
Have a nice summer!
This team confounds me. How they can come out as dead as they were in today’s Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals is beyond expalanation. After looking superb and at playoff intensity in Game 7 against Buffalo, you would think they found the level they need to continue to play at. Instead, they started slowly, never really got into the game, and were thoroughly dominated by the Bruins, losing 7-3. They appeared to drop things back a notch or two (or three) and that just can’t happen in the playoffs. Could they get a lead in a game and a series for once instead of having to come from behind? We all know they play better with their backs to the wall, but why? Why can’t they find that desperation and intensity in each game?
Of course, starting goalie Brian Boucher was pulled, so now there will be questions about who’s starting in Game 2. Just stop the carousel and get some stability in net and come back with Boosh. Get the power play untracked – it looked horrible again today and it will need to find a way to score in this series. Also, the Flyers will need to shut down the Lucic-Krecji-Horton line. They killed us today. Finally, the Flyers will need to adjust their system somewhat. Boston was allowed way too much room coming through the neutral zone and around the Flyers’ net. It seems like we tried to out-finesse them today. This series will be won or lost in the trenches and with physical play and close checking – if the Flyers can find that within their puzzling psyche.
The Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup between the Flyers and Bruins should be a good one, mainly because the Bruins will be looking to avenge last year’s loss in the Eastern Semis after holding a three games to none lead – only the third time it has happened in NHL history.
The Flyers head into the series in pretty good shape. Consider: (1) It seems that they’ve figured out the goalie situation. Brian Boucher is the guy. For whatever strange reason, they went to Michael Leighton in Game 6 of the first round and he gave up a couple bad goals. He wasn’t even dressed for Game 7 as Sergei Bobrovsky was the backup and “Leights” wasn’t even in the building. Boosh is the man for better or worse – I’d say better. he’s largely played well this season and bested Ryan Miller in round one.
(2) The Flyers seem to have gotten their playoff legs. They started slowly in the Buffalo series but got better as the series wore on, winning Games 6 and 7. In fact, they played their best game of the season in the deciding game, dominating the Sabres with wave after wave of Orange attack, winning battles for pucks, and allowing few scoring opportunities. Now that they’ve established their playoff persona, it should be easier for them to continue to do the things that a team needs to do to win a series.
(3) Chris Pronger is back. He played over 20 minutes in Game 7 after only a few minutes on the power play in Game 6, and his injured hand appears to be getting stronger. A Chris Pronger who is able to play at 85-90% will be immensely helpful and even necessary as the Flyers seek to advance.
(4) The money players have stepped up. Danny Briere had a great series and the Flyers got the production from Mike Richards, Scott hartnell, and Ville Leino when they’ve needed it. James Van Riemsdyk is coming into his own before our eyes in these playoffs. He was a major force in every game of Round 1 and has grown into the power forward the Flyers expected when they drafted him.
If the goaltending holds up, the defense continues to play tight, and the Flyers get the balanced scoring they’ve had all season, they should be able to take Boston once again. It will be a long series as the teams are fairly evenly matched, but the Flyers’ depth and scoring should carry them in another seven game series.
I was seven for eight in my first round predictions – you’ll have to take my word on that because I didn’t get time to post them before things started. I missed Nashville over Anaheim but had Tampa over Pittsburgh in seven. Here’s my predictions for Round 2:
Flyers over Boston in 7
Washington over Tampa in 7 – Tampa’s 1-2-2 or 1-4 system will give the Caps trouble, but Washington has the goaltending and defensive system plus enough scoring up front to overcome.
Vancouver over Nashville in 5 – The Predators won their first ever playoff series but won’t take the offensively stronger Canucks.
Detroit over San Jose in 7 – I could see this one going either way but will take the rested Red Wings.
With their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Series surprisingly tied at three games each, the Flyers played an outstanding game to oust the fiesty and scrappy Sabres in the seventh game, 5-2. Sabres goalie Ryan Miller had stolen two games with 1-0 shutouts and the Flyers had largely outplayed Buffalo throughout the series yet trailed three games to two going into Game Six in Buffalo. After fighting back from a 3-1 deficit, the Flyers pulled out a 4-3 overtime win to stay alive and wrest control of the series from Buffalo. With momentum off that victory, the Flyers thoroughly dominated the Sabres in Game Seven for the series victory.
The series was marked by organizational disassurance in their goaltending: Playoff starter Sergei Bobrovsky was pulled after giving up a couple poor goals in Game Two. Veteran Brian Boucher played well in games three and four, but gave up a couple bad goals in Game Five. That led the Flyers to surprisingly turn to Michael Leighton to start Game Six. He was yanked after the first period and Boucher returned to get the win in Game Six and Seven.
It was a nasty series, with controversial hits on both sides. A Mike Richards elbow to the head of Patrick Kaleta and a shove from behind on Tim Connolly led Goalie Ryan Miller to wonder if Richards was getting away with “mass murder” after Richards had said the Flyers were getting murdered by the refs. Sabres coach Lindy Ruff criticized Richards for “whining”, then later sounded like he was whining about Richards’ hit on Connolly.
Alot of twists and turns in this series for the Flyers, who again proved their resiliency and refusal to quit after being down, battled back and finally took the series. Onward!
Finally, the 2011 Playoffs are here. Been away from the blog for a bit – I think I was bored like the Flyers were for the last six weeks of the season. OK, we’re tied at one game each with Buffalo. The Flyers should beat the Sabres – they’re the deeper team even without Pronger. However, three concerns make me worried about them going much deeper: (1) Goaltending – Bobrovsky is untested in the playoffs and gave up a bad goal in Game 2 before being pulled. Now do you come back with him or stay with Boucher? Questions already and we’re only two games in. (2) Power Play – It hasn’t been right for too much of the season. 1 for 15 so far in the series. They’re going to have to figure it out to advance very far. (3) Pronger – If he doesn’t come back from the broken hand and be at or close to 100%, there’s no way this will be the year that ends the Cup drought.
Sorry to be pessimistic. I’m cheering them on nevertheless. Now, here’s a video put together by my nephew to get us excited. Great job, Brian!
After a disappointing week in which the Flyers lost shootouts to conference rivals, we can give some thought to whether the Flyers can hold the conference lead and to concerns going into the playoffs.
The Flyers had an excellent opportunity to put some breathing room between themselves and the Pens and Caps but instead allowed both rivals to inch closer to the conference lead. The Penguins, despite the absence of Crosby and Malkin, are only two points behind as are the Capitals. Although the Flyers have games in hand on both, what could have been a fairly comfortable lead is now just a tenuous one.
In Tuesday’s game against Washington, the Flyers were asleep for the first half of the game and spotted the Caps a 3-0 lead on two bad goals allowed by Sergei Bobrovsky. They suddenly woke up half way through the game and scored four straight goals but Brian Boucher (who replaced Bob) allowed a bad tying goal with a few minutes left. The shootout, as usual, did not go the Flyers’ way.
On Thursday, the Flyers struggled to get any offense against tight Pittsburgh checking and the Pens were content to try to force the shootout by repeatedly and annoyingly icing the puck throughout the third period and overtime. The strategy worked as the Flyers dropped the showdown after overtime.
Now both opponents are closing in and the Flyers continue to struggle to find consistency. It’s looking more and more like they will fail to hold the conference lead and perhaps drop as low as fourth or even fifth in the conference by the season’s end. This brings up concerns about the team as we head toward the playoffs. Defenseman Kimmo Timonen said he has “serious concerns” about the state of the team. That’s not good. Meanwhile, coach Laviolette seems to be trying a more positive approach – the anger that often accompanies his post-game losses press conferences has been replaced by an attitude of “it’s a long season and a team is bound to have some poor games” and by giving the team numerous days off the ice instead of practicing them hard. Has he been brainwashed by this team’s lackadaisical mind-set? Or is this calculated strategy and psychology? Whichever, there are a few major concerns about this team as they head into the playoffs:
(1) Goaltending: As usual, we’re wondering if the goaltending will be up to par in the playoffs. Both Boucher and Bobrovsky have good numbers but both have a propensity to allow at least one bad goal a game. This does not bode well for the post-season. Cue visions of Michael Leighton allowing the Cup winning goal in game six last June. It’s looking more and more like Bob will be the starting playoff goalie and the Washington game should make us all frightened. He did bounce back with an excellent game against Pittsburgh, so that’s encouraging, but you still have to be concerned about a rookie and about a tandem that allows bad goals regularly.
(2) Power Play: The Peco Power Play is suffering from a blackout. It’s gotten worse as the season has progressed and is now at about 16%. They’re 0 for their last 14. The Flyers pass too much on the man advantage and work it up high too much. This will absolutely have to improve for the playoffs, because the power play is often the difference in the playoffs. Maybe the Flyers should drop the corporate sponsorship – PECO gives off bad vibes as we all cheer for higher utility bills.
(3) Age/Injuries: Overall they’re a young team, but you have to worry some over key players like Chris Pronger, who’s rehabbing a broken hand, and Sean O’Donnell (39 years of age), who has been struggling the last six weeks. The Flyers have been pretty healthy all year so you worry that key players will go down as the law of averages catches up.
(4) Fragile Confidence: This team has always seemed to have fragile confidence, as one loss begets more losses and one goal allowed with the lead results in scrambled play and sometimes a blown lead. This makes it even more important for them to be on a high note going into the post-season. If they are playing poorly as the season winds down, it could be a quick exit.