Archive for December, 2008

Flyers Not Quite Among the Elite

Posted in Uncategorized on December 31, 2008 by flyersfan44

As we approach the mid-way point of the season, let’s take a look at where teams stand thus far in terms of their status in the League.  We can divide the NHL teams into four categories in terms of their performance so far this season: Elite, Very Good, Mediocre, and Poor.  This is a little arbitrary, but using the total points achieved I think we can get a fairly accurate idea of each team’s status:

Elite: San Jose (60), Boston (60), Detroit (53)

Very Good: Washington (51), NY Rangers (49), Montreal (48), Chicago (47), Philadelphia (47), Calgary (46), Vancouver (43), New Jersey (43), Pittsburgh (42), Anaheim (42)

Mediocre: Buffalo (39), Carolina (39), Colorado (39), Pheonix (39), Edmonton (37), Nashville (37), Florida (37), Columbus (36), Minnesota (36), Los Angeles (36), Toronto (36), Dallas (35)

Poor: St.Louis (31), Tampa Bay (30), Ottawa (29), Atlanta (28), NY Islanders (26)

Certainly teams can move from one category to another as the season unfolds.  For example, Washington’s hot play recently could put them into elite status if that play continues.  My question is, and let’s get some reader opinions on this one, what do the Flyers need to do in order to achieve elite status this season?  I think they have the potential but are not quite there yet.  My take: (1) The Flyers still need to get that consistent effort from everyone.  Some games they just don’t show up.  (2) Tighter coverage in the defensive zone on a consistent basis. (3) I would like to see another forward who can pick up some scoring slack.  Briere’s return should help here, but a trade will have to happen first to clear salary cap space.  Who they let go here could be the most crucial decision for GM Paul Homlgren this season. 

Let’s have your thoughts.

Cheap Shot on Gagne Draws No Penalty – Surprised?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on December 31, 2008 by flyersfan44

Last night’s 3-2 Flyers’ win over Vancouver included an obvious cheap shot just a few seconds into the game on Flyers’ winger Simon Gagne by Canucks’ Kevin Bieska.  Gagne was in a precarious position just a few feet from the boards and facing the boards while making a play on the puck when he was decked from behind by Bieska.  Amazingly, there was no penalty called on the play! No hitting from behind, no boarding, nothing! I sort of remember several Flyers being suspended last season for various (and some marginal, I might add) hits from behind.  Apparently, the NHL crackdown on these sorts of hits does not include when they are committed against the Flyers.  Here is a goon defenseman with a clear cheap shot on one of the league’s leading scorers whose game is finesse and no penalty is called!  I am still seething over this.  The Flyers should complain to the League about this total injustice, and the NHL needs to consider why it continues to look the other way when Flyers are the recipients of these sorts of hits.

Fortunately, captain Mike Richards had the good sense to police this himself, fighting Bieska after it was apparent that no penalty would be called.  Too bad the players have to take this into their own hands as the refs do nothing.  Gagne missed the remainder of the game but it does not appear that the injury is very serious; he should be back within  one or two games.

Prospect James Van Riemsdyk at World Junior Championships

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on December 28, 2008 by flyersfan44

Flyers’ fans may want to keep an eye on the World Junior Hockey Championship now being played in Ottawa, where prospect James Van Riemsdyk, the number two overall pick in the 2007 Entry Draft, was playing for Team USA.  In the opening game, he scored two goals in an 8-2 rout of Germany. 

Jordan Schroeder scores for the U.S. against Germany

Jordan Schroeder scores for the U.S. against Germany

Bumps on the Road

Posted in Uncategorized on December 28, 2008 by flyersfan44

I love this annual post-Christmas road trip the Flyers must take as friggin’ Disney on Ice comes to the Wachovia Center.  I don’t remember the Flyers usually doing particularly well on this trek, which often takes them to the west coast.  This year, the Flyers started off against the hot Chicago Blackhawks the day after Christmas, where they were blown out 5-1.  The next night, they were just as listless in being shut out 3-0 by the Columbus Blue Jackets and former coach Ken Hitchcock.  I had a feeling on Friday morning that things would not go well in Chicago that night.  In reading Sam Carchidi’s story about the upcoming trip in the Inquirer, a couple of quotes seemed to portend a poor result.  Scott Hartnell said, “This time of year, you want to be home definitely. You’ve got all the Christmas decorations and left over food from the holidays and all that kind of good stuff.”  And Joffrey Lupul pretty much made a self-fulfilling prophesy  when he said, “Maybe we won’t have as much energy as usual, but it’s just a game you have to get through.”  Reading those quotes, I thought this was not the best attitude about the road trip and that a loss was on the horizon.  Now, it’s a long season and it’s tough to be up for every game, but one thing that bothers me about this team is the players’ propensity to not show up for a period or entire game from time to time, and a little too often during the course of the season.  Here was a great opportunity for the Flyers to grab first place for the first time this season, but again, here’s two games that seemed like they didn’t feel like playing.  I can point to a few upper-echelon teams whose records indicate that they’re up for almost every game: Boston, Detroit, San Jose.  The Flyers will have to do a better job of focusing and staying motivated throughout the season if they want to join those clubs at the top.

Sidney Crosby Cheap Shot

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on December 21, 2008 by flyersfan44

It should be very interesting to see how the League deals with the cheap shot that Sidney Crosby put on Atlanta Thrashers’ Boris Valabik in a game on December 18.  During a melee, Crosby came up behind Valabik, who was occupied by another Penguin, and threw a couple of low blow punches.  Check the video below to see how it happened.

Interesting that in a rare occasion when Cindy got involved in fisticuffs, it was by throwing cheap shots from behind.  Not surprising, mind you, because although he is a great player in terms of talent, his temperament has not led him to be a great ambassador for the game.  It’s play like this that lessens the respect for Crosby among fans and players.   I have a feeling, however, that no disciplinary action from the League will be forthcoming.  Too bad, since Cindy needs to learn some respect for the game. 

Flyers Crush Crapitals, 7-1, on Hartnell Hat Trick

Posted in Uncategorized on December 20, 2008 by flyersfan44

The Washington Crapitals came to Philadelphia today with the misguided notion that they would extend their five game winning streak.  However, they ran into the juggernaut that is the Flyers, who powered past them, 7-1.  Antero Nittymaki was sensational in goal, stopping 47 shots and the Flyers offense continued to click on all cylinders.  Scott Hartnell scored his second hat trick in five games and became the first player in NHL history to have hats thrown on the ice for two goals.  Jeff Carter, who already had two goals, appeared to score his third on a goalmouth scramble in the third period, but Hartnell actually tapped the puck in for his second of the game.  Later in the period, Hartnell completed his hat trick for real, shooting into an open net after a nice tic-tac-toe passing play left goalie Jose Theodore completely out of position.  Jeff Carter added two assists for four points and Hartnell added one assist for four points as the Flyers poured it on in the third period. 

Washington played well especially in the first period, hitting and winning puck battles along the boards, which led to a Flyers’ record 25 shots allowed in the period.  Although many of the shots were from up high, Nittymaki made some awesome saves and the Flyers escaped the period leading 1-0.  Washington continued their strong play in the second, outshooting the Flyers 14-7, but backed in on Carter for his first goal and allowed him to get behind them for a shorthanded score (the Flyers’ NHL-leading ninth of the season) which gave the Flyers a 3-0 lead after two.  The Flyers took over in the third period, which was marked by the Crapitals’ typically dirty play when they’re behind, notably a hit from behind by Donald Brashear on Darrel Powe as a separate Washington penalty was being whistled.  Brashear did pound Riley Cote twice, although appeared to inexplicably point to the scoreboard after the second fight with the Flyers leading comfortably.  Perhaps he was indicating that he was the #1 fighter in the league, but as evidenced by the stupid hit from behind penalty, he’s in no danger of being ranked first in intelligence.  Flyers’ rookie Josh Gratton pounded Matt Bradley to round out the thumping. 

This team continues to impress on many levels, interestingly able to win games that appear that they should lose.  They roared back from a 5-1 deficit in the third period against Carolina to win 6-5 in a shootout a few games ago and today withstood the early onslaught to win going away.  The Flyers are fun to watch and consider: I think they have another notch or two that they can up their game come playoff time.  I am liking this team!

Antero Nittymaki makes one of his 47 saves.

Antero Nittymaki makes one of his 47 saves.

Logjam at Defense: Problem or Blessing?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 20, 2008 by flyersfan44

After some early-season difficulty, the Flyers’ defense is looking pretty good right now.  Regular pairings are established and the blueliners appear comfortable with each other.  Braydon Coburn – Matt Carle, Kimmo Timonen – Ossi Vaananen, and Luca Sbisa – Andrew Alberts are the regular pairings.  Laase Kukkonen is playing much better than earlier this season and is a reliable fill-in.  The potential difficulty is now that Randy Jones is ready to return from a training camp injury, who sits to make room?  On top of that, his $2.5 million salary will put a salary cap squeeze on the Flyers when Danny Briere returns from his injury.  To complicate things more, injured defenseman Ryan Parent will be returning after Christmas.  That would give the Flyers nine NHL-calibre defensemen.  Too many to carry.  Kukkonen, who cleared waivers earlier this year, would have to go through waivers again in order to be sent down.  Since he is playing better now, he may not clear waivers a second time.  Looks like at least one of the rearguards will need to be traded.  Kukkonen and/or Alberts figure to be the odd men out. That’s too bad, because the team is coming together really well and you hate to change pieces when things are going good.  It would be great if the Flyers could find a way to hold onto all these guys, especially since injuries are always a danger and nine capable defensemen in the system would be a blessing, especially come playoff time.  Remember when Timonen and Coburn both went down with injuries last spring?