Archive for March, 2011

Nine Games Left – Concerns?

Posted in Uncategorized on March 26, 2011 by flyersfan44

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to be trying a more positive approach – the anger that often accompanies his post-game losses press conferences has been replaced by an attitude of “it’s a long season and a team is bound to have some poor games” and by giving the team numerous days off the ice instead of practicing them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.

Pronger to Have Surgery, Out 3-4 Weeks; Slump Continues

Posted in Uncategorized on March 14, 2011 by flyersfan44

Looks like defenseman Chris Pronger’s hand is broken after all. He’ll require surgery which will put him out at least 3-4 weeks, which sets up a possible return for the first round of the playoffs. This is certainly disconcerting as the Flyers continue to struggle with complacency, lack of focus, lack of effort, or whatever is causing their current slump. The meltdown against Atlanta on Saturday was unbelievable – blowing a 3-0 lead in the third period and losing 5-4 in overtime. What was once a relatively comfortable lead in the Eastern Conference has all but dissipated, as the Flyers are just barely hanging onto the top spot. Meanwhile, the Caps have won eight in a row, the Penguins keep winning without Crosby and Malkin, and the Bruins have closed in as well. The Flyers have about a dozen games to turn things around and redevelop the winning habits before the playoffs. If they think they’re going to coast into the postseason, they better take another look at what happened to Washington last year in round one. Righting the ship will be that much more difficult without Pronger, as the outstanding defense they had most of the season suddenly looks weak: Sean O’Donnell is struggling and has been for weeks – he looks all of his 39 years, Erik Gustafsson was recalled from the Phantoms, and Nick Boynton will be playing a larger role – he hasn’t played much in the last six weeks coming over from Chicago. On top of that, both goalies Boucher and Bobrovsky are giving up at least one bad goal a game. Every time it happens, I re-live Patrick Kane’s goal in Game 6 last June. Should be an interesting home stretch.

Pronger and Giroux in Heated Discussion

Posted in Uncategorized on March 12, 2011 by flyersfan44

The Inquirer and Daily News both reported that Flyers’ defenseman Chris Pronger and center Claude Giroux were involved in a heated exchange outside the Flyers’ dressing room after Tuesday’s 4-1 vicotry over Edmonton. Giroux had three turnovers in that game and although the Flyers won, they became sloppy after a strong first period, giving up 24 shots and numerous good scoring chances in the second and third periods. Coming on the heels of a four game losing streak, the discussion seems to be part of Pronger’s leadership in calling players out for poor play or lax performance. Several Flyers indicated that the team of late had gotten away from the system, with Mike Richards saying some players were not only not on the same page but not even the same chapter. Jody Shelley indicated that there was some differences in the dressing room that had to be worked out. If part of that is Giroux and other Flyers getting too cute with the puck and committing turnovers, then Pronger’s admonishments should help the situation. This is what you need from a captain and is further evidence that Pronger is the de-facto leader of the team.

Another thought on the losing streak: It started just after Nik Zherdev had a “heart-to-heart” talk with Coach Laviolette and GM Paul Holmgren after being waived for lax play and then reinserted into the lineup. Zherdev had been a turnover machine this season and lax defensively. Was his reinsertion into the lineup a catalyst for other Flyers to become disgruntled by the move and then to let up in their play as well? Interesting that he went back to being a healthy scratch in the midst of the losing streak and, as soon as that happened, the team has had two wins in a row.

Flyers Break Losing Streak but Pronger Not Happy

Posted in Uncategorized on March 9, 2011 by flyersfan44

The Flyers ended their four game losing streak with a 4-1 victory over Edmonton last night, but defenseman Chris Pronger was not very happy after the win. The Flyers came out storming in the first period, outshooting the Oilers 17-1 and taking a 2-0 lead. The rest of the game, however, the Flyers did not look all that good, being outshot 24-10 and giving up numerous in-close scoring opportunities. Pronger commented afterward that there’s winning and then winning in spite of how you play. Pronger is increasingly vocal in the dressing room and appears to be the real captain of the team – holding players accountable for poor play or lax effort.

Hopefully this is just a slump brought on by a long season of being pushed hard and the flu going through the dressing room. However, the let up after the good first period last night is all too familiar from this team that often has difficulty sustaining a 60-minute effort. It makes me wonder if there’s a character flaw among some key players, who have a tendency to be too laid back in their overall approach. Pronger may need to do some serious ass-kicking this month.

Canadiens’ Pacioretty Out After Hit by Bruins’ Chara

Posted in Uncategorized on March 9, 2011 by flyersfan44

Canadiens’ forward Max Pacioretty is out indefinitely with a concussion and broken vertebrae after being hit into a partition along the boards by Bruins’ defenseman Zdeno Chara. With the Bruins trailing 4-0 late in the second period, Pacioretty chased a puck with Chara near the boards by the players bench. As the players approached the boards and with the puck having been chipped past Chara, the 6’9″ defenseman angled Pacioretty into the boards and – watch is left arm – shoves him into the partition. Chara said, of course, that he did not try to injure the Habs’ forward, but it looks like an intentionally dirty hit to me. With the concern over dangerous hits from behind and to the head and the numerous concussions players have had of late, this sort of dirty play should not be tolerated by the league. Chara should get a lengthy suspension if the league is serious about removing dangerous and dirty hits from the game.

Time to Panic? Flyers Blitzed by Rangers, 7-0

Posted in Uncategorized on March 6, 2011 by flyersfan44

It’s definitely a slump. The Flyers were embarrassed in New York this afternoon by the Rangers, who put a 7-0 shellacking on them led by Ryan Callahan’s four goals. This was the Flyers’ worst loss this season and actually their worst in recent memory. Totally out of the game from start to finish. They’ve now dropped four in a row, the PECO Power Play is suffering from a blackout and they’re not scoring much at all.

Is this just a bump in a long road to the playoffs, are they bored because they were well ahead of those trailing them in the standings? Or is this something to be more concerned about as we are heading into the home stretch? Time will tell but it’s time for Coach Laviolette to work some of his magic.