Archive for the ‘Flyers’ Category

No Place For Ignorance

Posted: May 2, 2014 in Flyers
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Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban celebrates during Game 1 on Thursday night. (Photo Credit – Elise Amendola/AP)

 

The Montreal Canadiens stunned the Boston Bruins in double overtime of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals 4-3 to take a 1-0 series lead on Friday night at the TD Garden in Boston. The game winning goal came courtesy of a blast from the point from Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban.

The end of Game 1 brought about the beginning of a whole new saga courtesy of some Bruins fans.

But first a quick flashback:

In 2012, the Bruins were eliminated by the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals after Caps forward Joel Ward scored in overtime of Game 7 to send the Capitals to the second round in front of a stunned TD Garden.

In the days that followed, Ward, who is black, was the subject of multiple racist tweets and comments from Bruins fans who were not happy with the result.

That brings us back to 2014. P.K. Subban, who is also black, was the recipient of a flood of racist tweets from angry Bruins fans following Thursday night’s game. He was also hit with a water bottle as the Canadiens celebrated their win. It’s no secret that the Canadiens have long  been the Bruins’ biggest rivals. The rivalry is one of the oldest in the NHL and goes back to the days of the “Original 6” when the NHL first formed back in 1917.

The Bruins and Canadiens have one of the most fierce rivalries in the NHL.

The Bruins and Canadiens have one of the most fierce rivalries in the NHL.

The city of Boston was praised for their resiliency following that tragic bombings during the 2013 Boston Marathon. I have always considered them to be on of the best,  most passionate fan bases in the country. As a member of a fan base that is routinely (and incorrectly) stereotyped when an incident occurs involving one of our fans, I am fully aware that the actions of a few idiots doesn’t accurately portray the entire fan base.

No one can blame Bruins fans for being angry and upset after a loss, especially a loss like that. Having said that, it is still disgusting and completely unnecessary. Being passionate about your team and not liking your rival is one thing. This is way beyond that. This is bullying and total disrespect. I was disgusted when they did this to Joel Ward in 2012 and am even more disgusted that they did it this year to P.K. Subban, whose younger brother Malcolm was drafted by the Bruins.

Now, a lot of those tweets were quickly deleted. Still, A tweet or Facebook post or any other social media post is  like squeezing toothpaste out of a tube; once it’s out it can’t come back in. Several tweets were captured in screenshots before they were deleted.

This picture was one of many signs of support for Subban by Bruins fans.

This picture was one of many signs of support for Subban by Bruins fans.

Fortunately, many more Bruins fans tweeted their disgust at those tweets and many Bruins players, along with Bruins President Cam Neely, expressed their outrage with those tweets. It’s more than understandable that many Bruins fans are embarrassed by those racist tweets, and some even tweeted their support to Subban. That’s right, Bruins fans embracing a Montreal Canadien. Why? because Subban may play for the rivals, but he is a human being.

Many tweets condemning the offensive tweets used quotes when describing those who sent them as fans, and they should. It’s embarrassing when the actions of a few idiots casts a dark cloud over the rest of the fan base.

Listen, there’s nothing wrong with being passionate and there’s nothing wrong with hating your rival. There is, however, something wrong with not understanding that there is a fine line between sports and real-life.

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Be Better Than Mediocre

Posted: April 30, 2014 in Flyers

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The roller coaster ride that was the 2013-14 Philadelphia Flyers season has come to an end following a 2-1 loss in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals to the New York Rangers.

The issues that plagued them throughout the season wound up costing them their season in the end, plain and simple. They couldn’t get over their habit of taking themselves out of the game before they had a chance to get into it and handed the game, and the series, to the Rangers in the second period after coming out attacking in the first. The Rangers, to their credit, took advantage of that and are on their way to the second round.

Which brings us to another season with no Stanley Cup and a disappointing end.

(Photo courtesy of USA Today Images)

The Flyers fell to the Rangers 2-1 in Game 7 on Wednesday night. (Photo courtesy of USA Today Images)

Listen, I want a Stanley Cup in Philadelphia just as much as the next person, if not more. The problem is the Flyers are going about it all wrong.

One of the first things that the Flyers need to evaluate is, not their roster, but those who put that roster together. Obviously Ed Snider is not going anywhere, but his stubbornness and denial that the Flyers are not in a great spot is not helping.

Also, my patience is really running out with Flyers GM Paul Holmgren. He was not the first to do this, but the last few years have been filled with overpaying for players that are either nearing or past their prime, and don’t pan out when they are in Philadelphia. Not to mention, his constant attempts to better the Flyers defense have not been working the way fans had hoped.

The Flyers have good young talent on their team, but they also have players that are on the opposite end of the spectrum as well. What’s worse is that quite a few of the older players have big expensive long-term contracts that tend to leave the Flyers straddling the salary cap.

Bottom line is that this whole spend big on older established talent as opposed to younger upcoming players is not working and needs to change. The defense in particular showed their age all throughout this season, and in the playoffs as well. The turnovers, lack of speed and some poor decision making are going to leave the Flyers in mediocrity for year to come if it does not change.

If that doesn’t change, then it’s time to change who makes those decisions. And yes, I am talking about Paul Holmgren.

What also needs to change is Ed Snider, though that’s much easier said than done. As I mentioned earlier, his stubbornness and reluctance to adapt to today’s NHL is really hurting the team. The Flyers don’t have to completely abandon the “Broad Street Bullies” style of play, but they do need to adapt to the new faster NHL. Ed Snider is going to have to realize that sooner rather than later if he wants another Stanley Cup any time soon, which he certainly does.

I’m not saying he has to be gone from the Flyers, but just tweaking his way of thinking will go a long way.

Perhaps one of the biggest piece of the puzzle moving forward is goaltender Steve Mason.

Perhaps one of the biggest piece of the puzzle moving forward is goaltender Steve Mason.

Fortunately, for all the Flyers have done wrong, they have also done some things right. For example, there were some young faces who spent time with the Phantoms in the AHL and with the Flyers in the NHL who gained valuable experience this season. Also, by signing Steve Mason to a 3-year contract extension, they have some stability in goal, which allows them to focus on other areas in need of improvement, namely the defense.

My hope for next season is to see more younger players and less older, slower players who take up cap space. The future looks bright for this team, but there are still major changes that need to be made.

Until then, it’s time to shave my playoff beard and get ready for another early start to the off-season.

Here’s to better years ahead.

 

 

Same Name, Different Goaltender

Posted: April 25, 2014 in Flyers

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Back in the spring of 2009, the Columbus Blue Jackets took on the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

For many of the Blue Jackets, it was their first trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. One of those young players making their playoff debut was 21-year old goaltender, and Calder Trophy winner, Steve Mason. Ultimately, the inexperience showed and the Blue Jackets were swept by the Red Wings.

That was five years ago.

Fast forward to Spring 2013. By this point, Mason had been relegated to backup, ironically to  former Flyer Sergei Bobrovsky,  and could not seem to find the same success he had back in 2009.

That same year, the Flyers began to realize that the Ilya Bryzgalov experiment was not exactly a success. As their playoff hopes faded away, they traded backup goaltender Michael Leighton and a 2015 third-round pick to the Blue Jackets in exchange for Steve Mason.

At first, it seemed like a backup for backup trade.

However, he change in scenery helped Mason, who many thought won the starting job from Bryzgalov. Mason finished the abbreviated 2013 season with a 4-2 record and the support of the Flyers fan base.

As the regular season neared its end, Mason suffered an injury in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. That injury kept him out of the regular season finale as well as the first three games of the series against the Rangers.

After playing the last 7 minutes of Game 3’s loss  in relief of Ray Emery, Mason got the start in Game 4. In was essentially a must-win game for the Flyers, Mason came up huge, making 36 saves on 37 shots to preserve the 2-1 win for the Flyers and, more importantly, tie the series at 2.

Many were unsure of how Mason would fare given his only playoff experience was in 2009 with Columbus when they were swept out of the first round.

Personally, I was happy to see Mason make his return, and Flyers playoff debut.

The thing is, Mason is not a 21-year old in his second season anymore. He is now 25 and has more to prove after the disappointing end of his tenure in Columbus. For some players, all it takes is a change of scenery.

As the Flyers head back to Madison Square Garden, they bring with them a new confidence with the series now tied. For Steve Mason, it’s another chance to solidify himself as a starter for several years to come.

A Lot On The Line

Posted: April 23, 2014 in Flyers
Photo Credit / Bruce Bennett (Getty Images)

Photo Credit / Bruce Bennett (Getty Images)

 

It was a golden opportunity to take full control of the series. The key word there is “was”, because that opportunity is now gone.

After a disappointing 4-1 loss to the Rangers in Game 3,  the Flyers now trail the best of 7 series 2-1.  What was supposed to be a chance to take a commanding lead in the series is now essentially a must-win game when the Flyers and Rangers return to the Wells Fargo Center ice on Friday night for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

The Flyers top line of Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell and Jakub Voracek was quiet (again), Ray Emery wasn’t good and the officials were just plain terrible.

Things started out fine. The Flyers had the crowd on their side and came out hitting. Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia Flyers reporter Sarah Baicker even tweeted that the Wells Fargo Center was louder than Madison Square Garden was for games 1 and 2 in New York.

Then Ray Emery misplayed the puck as he went to glove it which allowed Derek Stepan to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead.

Fans were hoping that the Flyers would respond with a vengeance and answer with a goal of their own, but unfortunately it was all downhill from there. It was another slow start for the Flyers and more frustration from Flyers fans. Adding to that frustration was the questionable, and sometimes flat-out awful, officiating by the referees. Sometimes referees will keep their whistles down by their sides and sometimes the whistle never get lower than their neck line. This was much more of the latter.

After a Martin St. Louis redirection that Emery couldn’t do anything about gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead, the Flyer finally got on the board late in the first period when Jake Voracek found a streaking Mark Streit who snapped it by Henrik Lundqvist to make it 2-1.

Long story short, that was as close as the Flyers would get. A Dan Girardi blast from the point in the second period made it 3-1 Rangers. New York added an insurance goal halfway through the third period in the form of a  familiar foe when former Flyer Dan Carcillo beat Emery five-hole on a break away to make it 4-1.

Former Flyer Dan Carcillo's third period goal was the final nail in the coffinfor the Flyers in Game 3.

Former Flyer Dan Carcillo’s third period goal was the final nail in the coffin for the Flyers in Game 3.

Ok, here’s the deal.

This was a golden opportunity for the Flyers to gain serious momentum in the series and they let it slip away. Their habit of giving up the early goal reared its ugly head again and it cost the Flyers dearly. It didn’t help that the defensemen looked slow on the counter rush trying to stop the Rangers attack.

The Rangers are a good team at home  and seemingly even better on the road. Beating them is not easy, but it’s doable.

One of the things they need to do is get better shots on goal. The Flyers had 32 shots on goal in Game 3, but had only one goal to show for it. The Rangers had 28 blocked shots in the game, which made difficult for the Flyers to get pucks through to the guys down low in front of the net.

If they can keep the shots low, that makes the Rangers block the shots with their skates instead of their skin pads. Not only is it more painful to block a shot with your skates, which makes it a long night for shot blockers, it creates opportunities for odd bounces and loose pucks for garbage scorers who like to set up in front of the net, like Wayne Simmonds, to pounce on.

The other thing that will help greatly is simply being more disciplined. It’s been said millions of times, but it’s huge, especially in the playoffs. As I said before, and I speak for both teams, the referees were awful in Game 3, and have been pretty bad all series for that matter.

That being said, it’s important to be disciplined enough to not do anything that is even remotely close to a penalty. It’s understandably hard when the refs are calling every little thing, but it can be done.

At any rate, Game 4 is Friday night. After the Game 3 loss, Flyers captain Claude Giroux was adamant that the Flyers would be ready on Friday and will tie the series.

The bottom line is if they want any kind of good chance at winning the series, then they better win Game 4.

 

Red White and Blah

Posted: February 21, 2014 in Flyers

anothersilverforusamen Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics Women's Ice Hockey Canada vs USA gold medal game

The US Men’s and Women’s Ice Hockey Team both fell to Canada for the second straight Winter Olympics.

Aside from the fact that both teams fell to Canada, both teams’ gold medal droughts continue. The women’ s team has not won gold since the 1998 games, which were the first to feature women’s ice hockey. The men’s team has not won Olympic gold since the 1980 games in Lake Placid, New York.

And as if losing wasn’t bad enough, they way the men’s team and women’s team lost was extra salt in the wound.

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The women’s team led Canada 2-0 with just under four minutes left in the third period when Canada battled back to cut the score to  2-1. After the US narrowly missed sealing the game and the gold medal (and by narrowly I mean an inch to the right), Canada’s Marie-Philip Poulin tied the game with less than a minute remaining.

Poulin struck again in overtime when she scored after Canada went on the power play to win the game 3-2 and in the process their third straight gold medal. The US would settle for the silver medal and, while the medals themselves weigh about a pound each, those medals felt like they weighed a ton each for the US women. Many tears of sadness and disbelief were flowing, as were tears of joy for the Canadians.

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The next day the American and Canadian men took to the ice in a semi-final match-up. Canada’s Jamie Benn (of the Dallas Stars) re-directed a shot past Jonathan Quick (of the LA Kings) early in the second period, which wound up being the lone goal of the game. Meanwhile, the Americans were unable to put the puck past Carey Price, despite peppering the Montreal Canadiens’ goaltender with 31 shots.

Simply put, in that game on that day, Canada was the better team. The US could not put together quality scoring chances in the offensive zone and a lot of the shots they did put on goal were into the maple leaf on Carey Price’s jersey, making it easy for Price to make the saves. To the Canadians’ credit, they did a great job of shutting down opportunities for the Americans.

The Americans also spent too much time in the defensive zone. Even though Jonathan Quick was spectacular today, he faced 37 shots. As good of a goalie as Quick is, he can only do so much when he doesn’t have much help from his defenders.

As the women continue to try to move on from their disappointment and the men prepare for their bronze medal game tomorrow against Finland, who lost to Sweden in the other semi-final game, American fans are once again left wondering. How does the women’s team blow a 2-0 lead with less than four minutes left? How does the men’s team play so well leading up to the semi-finals and then get outplayed considerably by a far from perfect Canadian team?

At any rate, it will be four more years of bragging rights for the Canadians. Also, as per the rules of a friendly bet  between Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and US President Barack Obama, Obama owes Harper two cases of beer (one for the men’s game and another for the women’s game).

As for Team USA, the two disappointing losses means that Sochi 2014 adds to the list of Olympics that have come to a disappointing and early end. This will be something that will continue to eat at them as they work towards the 2018 games. If nothing else, this should serve as motivation to never let this happen again.

One thing is for sure, the four-year wait for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea will be an extremely long one for USA Hockey.

As far as the 2014 US Men’s and Women’s hockey teams go, one can only wonder “What if?”

Walking Together Forever

Posted: February 14, 2014 in Flyers

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Heading into Game 6 of the 1974 Stanley Cup Finals in Philadelphia, the Flyers held a 3 games to 2 lead over the favored Boston Bruins in the series. Before the game, Flyers head coach Fred Shero, who was never the type of coach who would give big “rah-rah” pre-game speeches, simply had the following written on a chalk board as the players came into the locker room:

“Win together today and we walk together forever.”

Aside from being one of my all-time favorite sports quotes, this quote came to mind as the Men’s Ice Hockey tournament got underway on Wednesday at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The Americans have the opportunity to make this a truly historical Olympic games for them on multiple levels.

Team USA, which is coming off of a heartbreaking overtime loss to Canada in the gold medal game back in 2010, is in Group A this time around. Also in Group A are Slovakia, Slovenia and host country Russia. After cruising past Slovakia 7-1 in their opening game, the US faces Russia tomorrow afternoon, which can be seen live at 7:30 am and will probably be aired again later in the day.

Any time people talk USA Hockey, three words will almost always come up: “Miracle on Ice”. That is, as many people know, in reference to the 1980 American team that upset the heavily favored Soviet Red Army team in the semi-finals of that year’s Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York.

Let me take a second to put that upset into perspective.

This was a group of college kids and amateurs (Team USA) facing off against a team made  up of guys who basically did four things: eat, sleep, breathe and play hockey (Team USSR). Keep in mind it was not until eighteen years later in 1998 that NHL players were allowed to participate in the Olympics. Not to mention the last time the US and Soviet Union met in an exhibition match, the Soviets crushed the Americans 10-3.

Team USA captain Mike Eruzione’s goal midway through the third period wound up being the game-winning goal as the United States upset the heavily favored Soviets. 34 years later, this is still widely regarded as the greatest, and defining, moment in American hockey history. With the win the US advanced to the gold medal game where they beat Finland to win the gold medal.

That was the last time the United States won men’s ice hockey gold at the Olympics.

This 2014 US hockey team has a chance to cement themselves into the history books. In an interview conducted with Amy Robach, US captain Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter, whose father Bob Suter was a member of the 1980 Olympic team, both spoke about tomorrow’s showdown against the Russians. Suter mentioned how his father told him to win gold “so people will stop talking about us.”

Truthfully it is hard not to compare any US team with the 1980 team. That being said, it’s hard not to be excited about the team’s chances in Sochi this year. Personally, I have four teams in mind that I think are legitimate gold medal threats: USA, Canada, Russia and Sweden (with Finland being my “dark horse” team).

So far the US has looked the most impressive in their opening games. It’s not just because they won 7-1, but the team started to gel more and more as the game progressed and looked very complete as the game ended.

There is no question that no team has more pressure on them that host country Russia. Any time the host country of the Winter Olympics is a hockey powerhouse, in this case Russia, the pressure on them to win gold increases ten-fold. Four years ago it was on Canada and this time around the pressure is  on the Russians. There is also a ton of pressure on Canada, the defending gold medalists, to repeat as well.

However, as much pressure as the Canadians have on them, so too do the Americans. They have not won gold in 34 years and in their last three Olympics have won two silver medals with a disappointing eighth-place finish at the 2006 Olympics in between.

An American victory over the Russians tomorrow, which would be the first on Soviet/Russian soil, would be a huge first step towards a gold medal, which would be the first since 1980.

And, if the Americans win the gold medal in Sochi, they, like the 1974/75 Flyers and the 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team, will walk together forever.

#FireHolmgren

Posted: October 18, 2013 in Flyers

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This season’s Flyers team has been absolutely brutal to watch.

Through the first 8 games of the season they are a disappointing 1-7-0 and are at the bottom of the new Metropolitan Division. A start like this is far from what was expected of this team. Their 1-7-0 start also cost head coach Peter Laviolette his job.

Many fans, including this one, agree that it is time to bring in a new general manager to replace Paul Holmgren. Not all of Holmgren’s moves have been terrible, but his misses have greatly outweighed his hits. Granted, Ed Snider can also be blamed for Ilya Bryzgalov and his 9-year, $51 million contract as well.

Think about the Flyers seasons since 2006 (Holmgren replaced Bob Clarke as general manager):

2006-2007: Finished 22-48-12, missed playoffs (Not Holmgren’s fault).

2007-2008: Lost in Eastern Conference Finals to the Pittsburgh Penguins (4-1).

2008-2009: Lost in Conference Quarter-Finals to Pittsburgh Penguins (4-2).

2009-2010: Lost in Stanley Cup Finals to Chicago Blackhawks (4-2).

2010-2011: Lost in Conference Semi-Finals to Boston Bruins (4-0).

2011-2012: Lost in Conference Semi-Finals to New Jersey Devils (4-1).

2012-2013: Missed playoffs (NHL Lockout shortened season to 48 games).

Now the 2009-2010 season was one of the most unforgettable seasons in the 2000′s and easily the greatest season of Paul Holmgren’s tenure as general manager.

Having said that, it has been pretty much all downhill after that for the Flyers. After being eliminated in the conference semi-finals two years in a row, they stumbled out of the gate and missed the playoffs in a lockout-shortened season that was only 48 games long.

The point is, it is time for a new general manager. Of course it is up to Flyers owner Ed Snider, who has a great relationship with Holmgren, to make that decision. It’s one of those things where Ed Snider has to put his beloved Flyers ahead of his personal friendship with Holmgren.

Now just to be clear, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Ed Snider. After all, he took a huge gamble when he brought the Flyers to Philadelphia. When the NHL expanded from 6 teams to 12, Ed Snider believed that hockey could succeed in Philadelphia, which at the time was, not only not a market for hockey. It was also a city that had a bad history when it came to hockey (The Philadelphia Quakers only lasted for a few seasons in the 30′s before folding).

Ed Snider brought hockey to Philadelphia anyway, and I think it is pretty safe to say that Philadelphia is indeed a hockey town. I can’t thank Ed Snider enough for that.

Thank you Mr. Snider.

But there is one problem. The Flyers Stanley Cup drought is nearing 40 years (38 to be exact). If Ed Snider wants another Stanley Cup as soon as he can, which he certainly does, then he will do what ever he can to make that happen. Sometimes that means hiring and firing people who are good friends of his.

There is no doubt that Ed Snider has a lot of trust in his general manager. But after seeing the regression of the team over the last 3 seasons and early this season, how much trust will he have in Paul Holmgren at the end of the season when Holmgren’s contract expires?

Until it happens, you will be seeing #FireHolmgren on Facebook, Twitter and even other social media.

We’ll see what happens this summer during the off-season…