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POSTED ON Wednesday, 04.16.2014 / 5:07 PM
By Anthony SanFilippo - Philadelphia Flyers Inside Reporter / Flyers Inside Out

This year, I wanted to wait until everyone else got their playoff predictions out there.

After looking at every series and coming to my conclusions for the opening round, I looked at my eight winners and thought to myself: “Nobody else is going to have these eight teams winning, are they?

So, just for my own edification, I thought I’d wait and see. I wanted to gather the predictions from national Websites as well as from my local colleagues to see if anyone would match me pick-for-pick.

I couldn’t find one.

Not on TSN. Not on ESPN (yes, they made picks there. Lots of ‘em.) Not on CSNPhilly.com. Not NHL.com. Not the Toronto Globe And Mail. Not my former employer at the Delaware County Times. Nowhere could I find the same eight selections as I am about to unfurl in this space.

That means one of two things:

1. I’m a peerless prognosticator and no one else can match my picking prowess.

2. I’m a dope.

In fairness to everyone else making these picks – and in fairness to me – it’s likely somewhere in the middle. I’ve had years where I was near flawless in doing this and I’ve had years where I’ve been lucky to get a series or two correct.

But that’s what makes the NHL Playoffs so thrilling. Once you get into the tournament, anything can happen.

We saw it first hand in 2010 when as a No. 7 seed, the Flyers hosted the No. 8 seed Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Finals. That was a first in league history.

Then, in 2012, we saw the Los Angeles Kings become the first No. 8 seed to win the Stanley Cup.

Those seedings are no longer applicable, as the playoff format has changed this season, but you can still consider the Division winners No. 1 and No. 2 seeds and the Wild Cards No. 7 and No. 8 seeds for the purpose of comparisons.

So, don’t be surprised if there are a few upsets in the first round – which is why I picked a few.

So, here they are...

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POSTED ON Sunday, 04.13.2014 / 8:39 PM
By Anthony SanFilippo - Philadelphia Flyers Inside Reporter / Flyers Inside Out

Once again, being a popular hockey team in the NHL with a large national following in a great hockey market has had an adverse affect on both the Flyers and New York Rangers.

Obviously a marquee matchup for ratings for the NHL, the league spread out the opening four games of the series enough to force two games on Sundays – the prime viewing time for the NHL on NBC and in doing so made the end of the series – if it proves to be a long one – cram three games into four nights, likely leaving the winner of a possible seven game series pretty spent heading into the second round.

The Flyers-Rangers matchup – the first time the rivals have met in the playoffs since the 1997 Eastern Conference Finals – is the only NHL series scheduled with two games being played on consecutive nights.

It’s a weird setup.

Game 1 will be Thursday at 7 p.m. at Madison Square Garden in New York, but the two teams will then have two days off prior to playing Game 2 on Easter Sunday at Noon, also at the garden.

The scene will shift back to the Wells Fargo Center for Game 3 next Tuesday at 8 p.m. – as a previously scheduled Miley Cyrus concert is moved instead to Monday – but then the teams will again have two days off before Game 4 is played in Philly on Friday April 25 at 7 p.m.

The last three games will be played Sunday, April 27 at Noon back in New York before back-to-back games on Tuesday April 29 and Wednesday April 30 for Games 6 and 7.

Spreading it out might make for good television, but at the same time it stems momentum built from one game to the next until the furious finish at the end.

I understand it’s a marquee matchup and it will bring big ratings and keep the conversation about the series going longer. But I also think it’s a detriment to the players who are trying to win a Stanley Cup and are being forced to play more frequently in the most important games of the series than anyone else while setting up a short turnaround for the winner of the series before moving on to play the winner of Pittsburgh and Columbus.

A disjointed series loses flow for those following the teams closest. Meanwhile, a series like Boston and Detroit is being played every other day – and that’s probably the second-most interesting series to a national audience – which means it will have a more consistent tempo.

I understand that teams make requests as well to have games on certain nights – so this probably isn’t all to blame on the league, or television alone - but I just find it frustrating that the schedule isn’t set up as a level playing field for everyone in the playoffs. It puts built-in adversity into the playoffs for teams just because they play in top markets.

Nevertheless… this is the best time of year for a hockey fan, and it all starts in 72 hours.

To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email asanfilippo@comcast-spectacor.com or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers

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POSTED ON Sunday, 04.13.2014 / 6:08 PM
By Anthony SanFilippo - Philadelphia Flyers Inside Reporter / Flyers Inside Out

The game didn’t matter…. But it sure was fun.

With a handful of regulars scratched in the final game of the season to help them heal up for the playoffs, the Flyers could have just mailed it in and got ready for the playoffs.

But they did no such thing, showing the same resolve they’ve shown all season when they get down in a game.

And although they ultimately didn’t win the final game of the season, losing 6-5 to the Carolina Hurricanes in a shootout, they did fight back from a three-goal deficit to tie the game in the final seconds and earn a point on the last day of the season.

The Flyers finish 42-30-10 with 94 points and will start the playoffs against the New York Rangers, presumably Thursday (the schedule will be out later today) at Madison Square Garden.

Wayne Simmonds had a great game for the Flyers with a pair of goals, including the tying goal with less than 10 seconds remaining. That was his 29th goal of the season, which set a career high. He also finished the season with a career-best 60 points.

Matt Read scored the first goal of the game on a pass from call-up Jason Akeson. It was Read’s 22nd goal of the season and it allowed him to reach the 40-point plateau for the second time in his career.

Kimmo Timonen and Simmonds scored 10 seconds apart in the second period and Sean Couturier added his 13th goal of the season to erase a 4-1 deficit in the middle frame.

Couturier finished the season with 39 points, which is the best of his three-year NHL career.

Claude Giroux assisted on Timonen’s goal. He finished the season with 86 points, third in the NHL in scoring.

Mark Streit also had a pair of assists, finishing the season with 44 points, the top defensive scorer on the Flyers and tied for 14th in the NHL among defensemen.

Cal Heeter played in his first NHL game in goal and despite struggling early in the game, giving up three first period goals, he rebounded nicely and finished the game with 38 saves.

Stay tuned to PhiadelphiaFlyers.com and this blog for more on the game and also the schedule for the playoff series against New York.

To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email asanfilippo@comcast-spectacor.com or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers

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POSTED ON Thursday, 04.10.2014 / 10:46 PM
By Anthony SanFilippo - Philadelphia Flyers Inside Reporter / Flyers Inside Out

The first goal was getting into the playoffs. Check.

The second goal was getting home ice advantage in the first round…. wait… ain’t happening.

Losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 Thursday assured that and now the Flyers will haaavvve to approach the playoffs the hard way – starting on the road in New York, Pittsburgh or Boston.

Not that the Flyers haven’t done things the hard way all season…

(Click "Full Story" for more...)
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POSTED ON Wednesday, 04.09.2014 / 1:03 PM
By Anthony SanFilippo - Philadelphia Flyers Inside Reporter / Flyers Inside Out

I saw the catharsis of Claude Giroux this season.

Handed the captaincy prior to the start of the lockout shortened campaign last year, Giroux accepted the responsibility, even if he didn’t seem incredibly comfortable in his own skin when he had to answer the questions that captains have to answer.

After missing the playoffs, the pressure was intensified on him, especially with a freak hand injury suffered at a summer golf outing limiting him considerably in training camp.

Then there was the whole terrible start, the coaching change, no goals in the first 15 games, and the whispers beginning to circulate that Giroux wasn’t going to be a part of Team Canada at the Olympics.

It was a lot for him to handle, and the question was, would he get a grip on it, or would he let it eat at him and lead to a disappointing season?

You could look at the proclamation that the team would make the playoffs despite a 1-7-0 start as a seminal moment in this season and in his captaincy, and it will be one certainly remembered, written about and will become a part of the fabric of Flyers folklore for generations to come.

Considering the Flyers are just the fourth team since the playoff format was modified in 1993 to start a season with two points or less through eight games to qualify for the playoffs (more on this later) it deserves it’s place in franchise history.

And yet, it wasn’t the moment that I saw the change in Giroux….

He scored his first goal of the season in a win over Edmonton at the Wells Fargo Center on Nov. 9. It wasn’t a majorly important goal in the scheme of the game – it was basically the icing on the cake in the third period – but for Giroux it was huge. He was smiling, on the ice, for the first time all season. You could sense him breathing easier.

After all, there was a players only meeting two nights earlier following a 3-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils and while the contents of that meeting remain private, the captain couldn’t be too happy with his performance to that point.

Just seven assists in 15 games and a minus-11.

At the time, I spoke to a former teammate of Giroux’s who was observing his game.

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 04.08.2014 / 10:30 PM
By Anthony SanFilippo - Philadelphia Flyers Inside Reporter / Flyers Inside Out

Claude Giroux stood in front of his locker at Skate Zone. He had his ball cap on backward, hands on his hips and a look of purpose on his face.

Knowing Claude like I do, I knew he had something he wanted to say. He doesn’t often want to make many proclamations. He’s usually the kind of captain who likes to lead by example rather than with his words.

But on this day, he wanted to talk. There wasn’t anything special about this particular day. The Flyers hadn’t played in four days and wouldn’t play again for three more. I expected it to be another mundane day of practice.

Then Giroux opened his mouth and did something no one expected – he predicted his team would make the playoffs.

The look on the faces of the gathered media was collectively puzzled. Was the captain off his rocker? Or was he just trolling everyone with some nonsensical quote as a lame attempt at rallying his perplexed team.

After all, this Flyers team was destined for the NHL’s trash dumpster. A 1-7-0 start and just 11 goals in eight games – none by Giroux – told you all you needed to know about the kind of team the Flyers were in the opening weeks of the season.

So for Giroux to say what he said, it didn’t really resonate with those charged with documenting the trials and tribulations of a last place team for posterity.

And who could blame them for dismissing Giroux’s comments as the ravings of a captain of a sinking ship with nothing else to say.

Fans had a hard time buying it as well.

Here were some comments on my story back on October 21:





Again, it’s difficult to fault fans for feeling the way they were. It was the worst eight game start in franchise history and there wasn’t a lot of looking up.

Fast forward 169 days.

Giroux, who has had a resurgence worthy of consideration as a finalist for the Hart Trophy as league MVP, scores two goals as the Flyers defeat the Florida Panthers 5-2. It is the team’s 41st win of the season and it’s enough to clinch a playoff berth.

Hey Claude, when you know, you know. Am I right?

The win will probably be overshadowed as just another win in the franchise history that secured a playoff spot. After all, it marked the 37th playoff berth since the Flyers inaugural season in 1967-68. It didn’t have the drama of the 2010 clincher, the shootout win over the Rangers in the final game of the season, but it may have been the most satisfying playoff clincher ever.

Considering where the Flyers were when Giroux made his declarative prediction, and considering everything the team went through this season, starting with a coaching change three games in and ending with a treacherous schedule against the best teams in the NHL in the push for the playoffs, it’d be hard to find another more gratifying.

As for Giroux, he wouldn’t say if his prediction was preplanned, but after saying the following, he winked into the camera.

“Eighty-two games is a lot of games and there were only eight games [at that point] so we had to believe in ourselves,” he said. “When we started to believe how good we were we started to win more games.  [The media] looked at me with crazy eyes when I said it, but it’s good to be in the playoffs.”

Yep, he knew what he was doing. And he knew he had a very good team behind him. They bought into his statement and in less than six months made the prediction come true.

Now, the next journey begins and maybe next time when the captain speaks, people will listen.

To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email asanfilippo@comcast-spectacor.com or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers

 

 

 

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 04.08.2014 / 9:45 AM
By Anthony SanFilippo - Philadelphia Flyers Inside Reporter / Flyers Inside Out

Win and they’re in.

It’s that simple now for the Flyers.

With four games remaining in the season the Flyers need just one win to clinch a playoff berth. There are other ways they can clinch as well, but the simplest form is win one game to guarantee it.

Win one game and their captain, Claude Giroux, makes good on his promise that seemed so ridiculous at 1-7-0 in October.

Win one game and they have as just as good a chance as any of the other 15 teams that are in the post season tournament to be hoisting the Stanley Cup in two months.

That doesn’t mean just win tonight and cruise for the rest of the week. There’s still a legitimate shot at catching the New York Rangers for second place in the Metropolitan Division and earning home ice.

So, every game still matters.

(Click "Full Story" for more...)

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POSTED ON Sunday, 04.06.2014 / 11:54 PM
By Anthony SanFilippo - Philadelphia Flyers Inside Reporter / Flyers Inside Out

PHILADELPHIA – Mark Streit has quietly put together a really nice season for the Flyers.

He’s often forgotten about, often overlooked. And yet, he’s been a key ingredient to the Flyers success this season.

Without much fanfare he picked up three assists Sunday in the Flyers crucial 5-2 win over Buffalo that got them within three points of clinching a playoff berth.

Streit now has nine goals and 29 assists for 38 points, which ties him for sixth overall in scoring on the Flyers and he’s narrowing in on the top 20 scorers among defensemen in the NHL.

And most of his assists come from doing what defenseman should do – getting pucks to the net.

Two of his three assists came that way Sunday.

(Click "Full Story" for more...)
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POSTED ON Saturday, 04.05.2014 / 4:04 PM
By Anthony SanFilippo - Philadelphia Flyers Inside Reporter / Flyers Inside Out

The 12-game grind is over.

And while it ended with a thud – a 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins Saturday – it was more successful than anyone could have hoped for.

Garnering 14 points in those 12 games has to be looked at as a positive, even if the Flyers went 0-2-2 in the past four games.

Keep in mind that three of those four losses came against the two best teams in the NHL. Yes, the Columbus loss may have been disappointing, but the other three can’t be chalked up as bad losses.

The latest, Saturday, was a good effort against the big, bad Bruins. After all, this was a tie game until six minutes to play.

(Click "Full Story" for more...)
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POSTED ON Thursday, 04.03.2014 / 5:06 PM
By Anthony SanFilippo - Philadelphia Flyers Inside Reporter / Flyers Inside Out

PHILADELPHIA – Following the loss to St. Louis, I posted a blog about how the Flyers have been playing as we approach the playoffs and in the process, I used the term “elite” to describe them as a team.

I stand by the use of that adjective even if it caused some consternation on the Interwebs.

I guess the reasoning is there is no true definition for “elite.” And who’s to say what “elite” really is in the NHL from season to season? Is it the top four teams in the league? Is it anyone who has a strong chance of reaching the Stanley Cup Finals? Is it the highest scoring team? Is it the team with the best defense?

There are a lot of variables. And to be honest, I didn’t really think about what the parameters were for my usage of the word. The reason being, having watched as much hockey as I have this season, I was just under the impression that the Flyers are one of the three best teams in the East, have a chance to reach the Finals with the way they are playing (I don’t just say that lightly either, even if they are a longer shot than some other teams) and have shown it by playing strong, if not exceptional hockey, against the other top teams in the league.

But, I was put to task by some fans who felt that I was using the word in far too cavalier a manner. After all, how could I consider a team who hasn’t clinched a playoff spot, who is in third place in their division, and, until recently had a negative goal differential for the season, an elite squad?

It’s a fair question.

(Click "Full Story" for more...)

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SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - BOS 82 54 19 9 261 177 117
2 y - PIT 82 51 24 7 249 207 109
3 x - TBL 82 46 27 9 240 215 101
4 x - MTL 82 46 28 8 215 204 100
5 x - NYR 82 45 31 6 218 193 96
6 x - PHI 82 42 30 10 236 235 94
7 x - CBJ 82 43 32 7 231 216 93
8 x - DET 82 39 28 15 222 230 93
9 WSH 82 38 30 14 235 240 90
10 NJD 82 35 29 18 197 208 88
11 OTT 82 37 31 14 236 265 88
12 TOR 82 38 36 8 231 256 84
13 CAR 82 36 35 11 207 230 83
14 NYI 82 34 37 11 225 267 79
15 FLA 82 29 45 8 196 268 66
16 BUF 82 21 51 10 157 248 52

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
C. Giroux 82 28 58 7 86
J. Voracek 82 23 39 11 62
W. Simmonds 82 29 31 -4 60
S. Hartnell 78 20 32 11 52
M. Streit 82 10 34 3 44
B. Schenn 82 20 21 0 41
M. Read 75 22 18 -4 40
S. Couturier 82 13 26 1 39
V. Lecavalier 69 20 17 -16 37
K. Timonen 77 6 29 5 35
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
S. Mason 33 18 7 .917 2.50
R. Emery 9 12 2 .903 2.96
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