Archive for April, 2009

Round Two Predictions

Posted in Uncategorized on April 30, 2009 by flyersfan44

Before I make my predictions for the Conference Semifinals, let me gloat just a little that I was seven for eight in the first round series picks.  OK, here we go:

Bruins vs. Hurricanes: If Cam Ward gets hot, anything can happen, but I don’t see Carolina having the depth that the Bruins have. Tim Thomas is a pretty good goalie, too…Bruins in five.

Capitals vs. Penguins: The matchup the League wanted, Crosby vs. Ovechkin. This should be a great series and could go either way.  Pittsburgh gets the edge in goal, although the rookie Varlamov is playing well for Washington. The Caps will have to check the way they did against the Rangers and take away the middle of the ice. If they do this, I could see them winning. However, Crosby and Malkin are tough to contain and the Pens have decent depth up front.  Their defense is big and could make it difficult for Alex and Company to roam unfettered in front. Then again, their defense isn’t particularly mobile, so maybe the Russians skate circles around them…Pittsburgh’s forwards and goaltending should be enough to get them to the conference finals…Penguins in seven.

Red Wings vs. Ducks: The Ducks surprised me and they may give Detroit a series, but the powerhouse should prevail…Red Wings in six.

Canucks vs. Blackhawks: I think this will be a really good series. The Hawks are up-and-coming and have some good forwards beyond Kane and Toews. The Sedin brothers along with Mats Sundin will provide the Canucks with scoring and experience.  That along with Luongo in goal should give a slight edge to Vancouver…Canucks in seven.

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Game Sevens: Capitals Dump Rangers; Devils Ousted by Hurricanes

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 29, 2009 by flyersfan44

Two great game sevens in the Eastern Quarterfinals resulted in the ouster of the Rangers and Devils.  The Capitals, led byAlex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, and Sergei Fedorov (who scored the winner with about five minutes left), defeated the Rangers 3-2.  What would Ronald Reagan say?  In the nation’s capital, the fans wear red and cheer for three Russians who lead the team.  Unthinkable! That’s OK, they beat the Rangers, sending them and their nonsense antics home for the summer.  Caps’ fans seated behind the Rangers’ bench survived game seven unscathed, as there was no water bottle squirting by coach John Tortorella in this one.  Several fans wore plastic ponchos just in case. Fedorov put a great shot over Henrik Lundqvist’s shoulder as Rangers’ defenseman Wade Redden (signed last summer as a free agent) screened Lundqvist. What an expensive way to lose a game seven. 

The Carolina Hurricanes scored two goals in the last minutes of the game against the best goalie in the world to defeat the Devils 4-3.  I was depressed about the end of the Flyers’ season until I started thinking about how much it must suck to be a Devils’ fan right now.  Tough one, Brodeur.

So, we have the entire New York market out of the playoffs after round one – good riddance –  and the League got the second round matchup it wanted: Crosby vs. Ovechkin.  Should be a great series. I hope the Capitals win soundly.  The Penguins are the most unsportsmanlike team in the league, whining and diving to draw penalties, and starting fights as soon as they fall behind in a game.  Cindy Crosby is a miserable player – just doesn’t look like he enjoys himself. Ovechkin has fun and is highly entertaining. 

I must point out that I was seven for eight in my round one picks, missing only the Ducks over the Sharks.  Yes, I had the Flyers losing and the  ‘Canes beating the Devils.  I’ll have my round two picks shortly.

Flyers Blow Game Six; Penguins Win Series 4-2

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on April 26, 2009 by flyersfan44

It was an uncomfortably warm 87 degrees in Philadelphia on Saturday and among the things that evaporated in the unseasonably warm weather was the Flyers’ 3-0 lead over the Penguins in game six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Four minutes into the second period, the Flyers had built what appeared to be a solid lead on goals by Mike Knuble, Joffrey Lupul, and Danny Briere. Fans were pumped that the series looked to be going back to Pittsburgh for a deciding game seven. But hold on, as they have struggled to do all season, the Flyers could not play a full 60 minute game, easing up with the lead and allowing the Penguins to put 20 shots on net in the second period and to bang home some  garbage goals from in close to tie the game.   A laser shot just inside the post by Sergei Gonchar in the third period gave the Pens the lead and fittingly the Flyers’ nemesis Cindy Crosby sealed it with an empty netter. 

It was fitting that the Flyers season ended as it had gone all year, with the Flyers losing focus (check my post about a game against the Canadiens for a typical example), allowing too many shots, and failing to play a full 60-minute game.  Whether this is from coaching or lack of maturity, it is a critical problem that needs to be corrected. 

I don’t think we can blame Marty Biron, who played well through the series and couldn’t be faulted on any of the goals in game six.  I would point out that Jeff Carter looked awful in the series, scoring only one goal, and inexplicably appeared to be floating at times even in Saturday’s game.  How a player floats through a crucial playoff game is beyond me. Not sure if he was hurt, but his lack of intensity makes me angry.  He has a habit of playing in a nonchalant manner at times, demonstrated by his miss of an open net in game two. He failed to bear down from in close allowing Fleury to get a pad on his shot and failing to score a goal that likely would have put the game away for the Flyers and tied the series at one game each.  Faceoffs continued to be a problem with the Flyers losing too many draws.  Interesting how the issues that were identified all season long ended up having a major impact on why the Flyers lost this series.

Once again, the Flyers put together a solid season with over 40 wins, but they once again could not get to that level of 50 wins and a Stanley Cup. It’s 34 years now. 

The season starts to slip away from Marty Biron and the Flyers.

The season starts to slip away from Marty Biron and the Flyers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Former Flyer Mark Eaton scores as Richards and Timonen watch helplessly.

Former Flyer Mark Eaton scores as Richards and Timonen watch helplessly.

Flyers Shut Out Pens in Game Five; Bringing it Back Home!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on April 24, 2009 by flyersfan44

The Flyers played an awesome game on Thursday night in Pittsburgh, shutting out the Penguins and forcing a sixth game in Philadelphia.  After being outplayed in the first period, the Flyers settled in and smothered the Pens with tight defense and great goaltending from Marty Biron for a 3-0 victory.  Aaron Asham’s second period laser from the top of the circle found the top corner of the net right under the crossbar after a nifty drop pass from Dan Carcillo and a Cindy Crosby turnover at center ice for the only goal the Flyers needed.  Insurance goals from stellar rookie Claude Giroux and veteran Mike Knuble in the third period sealed the win.  The Flyers finally ended up on the right side of a disputed goal when Evgeni Malkin’s score in the second was waived off after the replay ruled that he had kicked it in. About time the powers that be ruled a disputed goal correctly.  Biron made a number of sensational saves especially in the first period and the Flyers checked tightly and knocked pucks away from the Pens all night.

Now it’s time for game six in Philadelphia on Saturday. You gotta know that the Pens wanted no part of coming back to the hostile Wachovia Center.  Guaranteed it will be loud there!  An awesome win but only one game.  However, if we take game six it all comes down to one game.

Goalie Marty Biron stops Evgeni Malkin on the way to his shut out.

Goalie Marty Biron stops Evgeni Malkin on the way to his shut out.

Flyers' winger Scott Hartnell celebrates Mike Knuble's third-period goal.

Flyers' winger Scott Hartnell celebrates Mike Knuble's third-period goal.

Fleury Steals Game Four; Flyers Down, 3-1

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on April 22, 2009 by flyersfan44

Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was sensational on Tuesday night, stopping just about everything that the Flyers could throw at him and leading the Penguins to a 3-1 victory in game four.  Although the Flyers outplayed the Penguins, outshooting them 46-26 and dominating the play for most of the game, they couldn’t solve Fleury.  Can’t blame the refs in this one as the Flyers were 0 for 8 on the power play.  Crosby’s goal that gave the Pens a 1-0 lead was a fluke, maybe it could have been waived off, but when you put 46 shots on net and have eight power plays, you have to be able to score.  The frustrating thing is that the Flyers clearly outplayed the Pens in two of the games they lost and could (should?) be up three games to one.  But that’s what a great goalie does for a team in the playoffs and although Biron has played well, maybe he hasn’t played to the level of Fleury and right now, that’s the difference.

Fleury stops chance by Flyers' Scott Hartnell

Fleury stops chance by Flyers' Scott Hartnell

Claude Giroux Shines as Flyers Drop Penguins, 6-3

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on April 20, 2009 by flyersfan44

The Flyers came out roaring in front of the usually raucous Wachovia Center crowd on Sunday afternoon, scoring on their first two shots and going on to a scintillating 6-3 victory in game three.  In what was one of the best playoff games I’ve seen, rookie Claude Giroux starred with a Gordie Howe Hat Trick (a goal, an assist, and a fight) and the Flyers and Pens pounded each other for sixty minutes of intense hockey. 

Jeff Carter swooped in and scored on a backhand shot to open the scoring and Mike Richards scored a power play goal to make it 2-0 before the game was barely five minutes old.  The Pens tied it after an obvious goalie interference penalty was overlooked on Rob Scuderi’s goal 13 seconds into the second period. Four minutes later, however, Giroux took an awesome feed from Danny Briere in front and tapped home an open-netter.  Midway through the second, Giroux made star defenseman Sergei Gonchar look ordinary when he stripped him of the puck behind the net, froze him with a sharp turn, then skated behind the net and threaded a pass in front to Simon Gagne for a one-timer into the net.  Perhaps more embarrassing for the Penguins was giving up the first ever goal by a player from Alabama, as rookie Jared Ross scored three minutes into the third.  Sergei Malkin’s second of the game got the few misguided Pengiuns fans in the building briefly excited before Gagne’s second of the game into an empty net sealed the win. 

The lopsided officiating continued in the Penguins favor, with several phantom calls against the Flyers and numerous elbows and other cheap shots by the skunks from the Steel City overlooked.  Jordan Staal connected on more elbows than shots on net and Chris Kunitz left his feet and went at Flyers’ defenseman Kimmo Timonen’s head early in the game.  The Pens have been targeting Timonen all series and the refs let it go as he evidently does not warrant the protection afforded Cindy Crosby and other stars.  I thought the Flyers-Montreal series in last year’s playoffs was ridiculous in terms of the refs favoring the Canadiens, but the first three games of this series have been worse.  Looks like the Flyers will have to beat the refs as well as the Penguins if they want to win this series. 

The Flyers still need to win game four at home. If they do, it’s a whole new series.

No, it's over here, Fleury. Rookie Claude Giroux scores in Game Three.

No, it's over here, Fleury. Rookie Claude Giroux scores in Game Three.

Flyers Go Down 2-0 in National Ballet League Playoffs

Posted in Uncategorized on April 18, 2009 by flyersfan44
Bill Guerin celebrates his winning goal in overtime.

Bill Guerin celebrates his winning goal in overtime.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Flyers played really well in last night’s game two but fell in overtime, 3-2.  With a 2-1 lead late in the game, the Flyers came so close to putting the game away when Jeff Carter had an open half of the net from a few feet away but was robbed by a great save by Marc Andre Fleury.  Had Carter shot the puck more to the near side of the net rather than to the center, Fleury would have had no chance.  The Flyers played an excellent defensive game, backchecking and cutting off the passing lanes. This is the style of hockey that allowed them to shut down the Pens 3-1 on March 22 and the game they have to play to beat them. 

It was a highly entertaining game but it was marred by the referees playing a significant role in the outcome.  We knew going in that the refs, no doubt under direction from the League, would look to favor the Penguins by calling anything close to obstruction.  However, some of the calls last night were ridiculous as the refs were duped by what now should be the Penguins’ well-known immature, unsportsmanlike tactics of trying to draw penalties.  A one-handed tap on the glove of a Penguins’ skater by Matt Carle resulted in a slashing penalty when the player (I forget who it was) took his hand off his stick and shook it as if to say “Ouch, that hurt.”  As soon as he did that, there was a call.  Worse, with the Flyers holding a 2-1 lead late in the third, Jeff Carter was called for hooking Jordan Staal. Carter’s stick rode up Stall’s side and Stall raised his arm as if to indicate the stick was under it. Take a look at the replay to see if a hook really happened. To make a marginal call like that in the third period of a one-goal game is unconscionable.  Of course, the Pens’ tied it on Malkin’s power play goal – assist to the ref.  If that wasn’t bad enough, things got ridiculous in overtime.  Mike Knuble, fighting for position in front with the enormous Brooks Orpik, pushed off on Orpik from behind. Employing the typical Pittsburgh “Go down whenever you’re touched” philosophy, Orpik falls (dives) forward, drawing a cross-checking penalty.  That the refs fall for these tactics is an indication that they are either incredibly naive or they are looking to give the Pens’ any advantage possible.  This is the NHL playoffs! Pushing for position against a bigger player in front should not result in a call! I took harder hits than that playing in street hockey leagues  without penalties being called.  Granted, it was in Northeast Philly, but c’mon, there’s supposed to be physical play in the NHL playoffs.  A call like that in overtime is truly unbelievable.  Wait, there’s more! With the Flyers already killing Knuble’s penalty, Claude Giroux is whistled for slashing when he comes down on a Penguin’s stick and it breaks.  A little harder to blame the ref here since this is supposed to be an automatic call, but that rule has to be changed. These new sticks are twigs and they snap too easily – oh, what’s that? – yes, we can’t have anyone hitting someone else’s stick with their own; that’s just not very nice in the new NHL.

Needless to say, the Pens’ scored on the TWO-MAN ADVANTAGE IN OVERTIME!!! and the Flyers are down, two games to none.  A fantastic game decided by the referees. That’s a shame for the Flyers but perhaps more of a shame for the League and fans of ice hockey.

Can you tell the difference?

2008 Pennsylvania State Diving Champs

2008 Pennsylvania State Diving Champs

2009 Pennsylvania State Diving Champs

2009 Pennsylvania State Diving Champs