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POSTED ON Wednesday, 04.23.2014 / 4:28 PM
By Anthony SanFilippo - Philadelphia Flyers Inside Reporter / Flyers Inside Out

VOORHEES, N.J. – The semi-circle was already formed. Cameramen lining up shoulder to shoulder at the base of the horseshoe; writers, with digital recorders and note pads off to either side.

They were waiting inside the Flyers locker room for the next player to arrive. Considering it was a day off the ice for most of the Flyers and a morning spent in meetings and watching video, it was a guessing game as to who would emerge from behind the door that leads to the private areas of the locker room.

The door opened. Walking through were Claude Giroux – who the media wanted to talk to see if he stood by his prediction of a Game 4 win after Tuesday night – and Steve Mason – who they wanted to know if he would start Game 4.

For a moment it looked like the media was going to have to split up to decide which was a bigger story – the captain’s guarantee, or the possible return of the starting goalie?

Mason saved everyone the gut-wrenching choice and agreed to wait until Giroux was done before he spoke. There were sighs of relief as such choices are not often desired by the men and women tasked with bringing you the latest news.

But the reality is, neither one should be the spotlight story.

(Click "Full Story" for more...)
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 04.22.2014 / 12:44 PM
By Anthony SanFilippo - Philadelphia Flyers Inside Reporter / Flyers Inside Out

PHILADELPHIA – When Vinny Lecavalier took to the ice for the morning skate prior to Game 3 of the Flyers First Round match up with New York, he was back at a familiar spot – second line center.

How long he stays there, remains to be seen, as Lecavalier has been bounced around the Flyers lineup all season, playing on all four lines and playing both as a center and as a wing.

Early in the season, it seemed like the Flyers couldn’t find a good fit for Lecavalier. Now, it seems like he has a unique role – and one that works best for the Flyers.

Lecavalier is a bit of a wild card. He can play in multiple spots in the lineup and serve as a player who can cause matchup problems for the opposition.

(Click "Full Story" for more...)
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POSTED ON Sunday, 04.20.2014 / 4:13 PM
By Anthony SanFilippo - Philadelphia Flyers Inside Reporter / Flyers Inside Out

Jake Voracek sat on the bench. He looked to his left. He looked to his right. And he didn’t like what he was seeing.

He saw mounting frustration.

His team had been whistled for two questionable penalties early on. The Rangers just scored for the second time in the opening 10 minutes on a flubbed shot by Benoit Pouliot.

It’s not the way the Flyers wanted to start this game. Not after losing Game 1. Not with so much on the line in these playoffs.

So, Voracek did what he thought he had to do. He told everyone on the bench to relax. Calm down. There was still plenty of time to go in the game.

Coach Craig Berube was observing his players at this time. He looked down over the bench, wondering if he needed a timeout to get his team refocused.

When he saw Voracek being the calming influence, and the rest of the players responding to him, he knew he didn’t have to.

“The bench was good at that point,” Berube would say later.

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

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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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SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 MTL 6 5 1 0 20 20 10
2 NYI 5 4 1 0 20 15 8
3 OTT 5 4 1 0 14 10 8
4 WSH 5 3 0 2 18 11 8
5 TBL 5 3 1 1 17 10 7
6 DET 5 3 1 1 11 8 7
7 PIT 4 3 1 0 16 10 6
8 CBJ 5 3 2 0 15 12 6
9 NJD 5 3 2 0 17 16 6
10 NYR 6 3 3 0 17 20 6
11 BOS 7 3 4 0 15 17 6
12 TOR 6 2 3 1 15 19 5
13 PHI 5 1 2 2 17 21 4
14 FLA 5 1 2 2 5 11 4
15 CAR 4 0 2 2 10 15 2
16 BUF 6 1 5 0 8 22 2

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
W. Simmonds 5 5 2 3 7
J. Voracek 5 2 5 -2 7
C. Giroux 5 2 5 -3 7
M. Streit 5 1 5 -1 6
B. Schenn 5 1 2 0 3
V. Lecavalier 3 1 2 -1 3
A. MacDonald 5 1 2 -2 3
M. Read 5 0 3 -1 3
M. Del Zotto 5 0 3 -3 3
S. Couturier 5 2 0 -2 2
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Emery 1 0 1 .907 2.73
S. Mason 0 2 1 .865 3.78
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