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.
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I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but it needs to be reiterated – the shootout is terrible.
Coaches hate it. Players hate it – both shooters and goalies. And either the voices on social media are a 140-character wielding vocal minority, or they are indicative of NHL fans. And if it’s the latter, they hate it too.
Sure it probably sounds like sour grapes, especially appearing on a website of a team that just lost in the shootout for the second game in a row and for the seventh time in 10 tries this year and for a team that has never had a winning record in the shootout.
And it’s fair of you to think that.
But, more than anything, it was a deflating result to two superb hockey games this week.(Click "Full Story" for more...)
PHILADELPHIA – Vinny Lecavalier is a fourth line center in name only.
Sure, putting him there seems to have lit a fire in the veteran forward. There’s no question that the last two games we’ve seen an inspired Lecavalier on the ice for the Flyers.
But, it’s not like he’s been relegated to that odd shift and nothing else.
He’s still on the power play – where he was when he scored Friday against Toronto. And he’s still bouncing up to take shift on the line with Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds – as he did for much of the third period against Boston, in place of Tye McGinn.
And while he was on that line in the third period, it should be noted he was in the middle with Brayden Schenn on the wing.
And then there’s the case where Craig Berube deftly replaced his second defenseman with Lecavalier for the extra attacker during the time out, which ultimately had him in the right position to score the tying goal that secured the all-important point in the standings.
Oh, and in overtime, he was out there taking shifts with Wayne Simmonds.
All in all he had 17:02 in ice time. He led the Flyers with nine shots on goal. Oh, and his first goal of the game was the 400th of his career. Ho Hum.(Click "Full Story" for more...)
PHILADELPHIA – The Bandwagon had been sitting for far too long to be pushed this hard this quick.
You know, it really hadn’t seen the light of day for a couple years. Not since that overtime game-winner against New Jersey in Game 1 of the 2012 Eastern Conference semifinals was it really chugging on all cylinders.
Driving around on the New Jersey Turnpike those two weeks, it traversed many a pothole and got the alignment all out of whack. We couldn’t fix it in time, lost to the Devils, and put it back in the secret garage located in the heart of Delaware County, where it sat dormant for nearly two years.
So, after building up a lot of steam and taking on a lot of new passengers, it should have been expected that it would need a tune up.
The oil light went on against Los Angeles Monday. We ignored it, and drove it to New York City anyway. Stuck in traffic in the Holland Tunnel the “check engine” light blinked on, and yet we soldiered onward. Finally, the battery died outside Madison Square Garden.
We needed a jump.(Click "Full Story" for more...)
PHILADELPHIA – Craig Berube doesn’t like shaking up his lineup. Unlike other coaches, Berube believes that chemistry is established by playing together for an extended period of time.
Sure, there will be changes. Injuries sometimes cause that. Other times, excellent play by a player or two, or substandard play by the team in general will precipitate the juggle.
The Flyers have been pretty much rolling with the same four lines for quite some time, and have done so with more than a modicum of success.
After all, you don’t win five straight games against teams with a combined record of 172-82-38 without that quality of cohesion that is formed by consistency.
But the last couple of games left the Flyers feeling a bit lacking. In each game, they played roughly 20 minutes of good hockey and 40 minutes well below the bar of expectation.
Without much time remaining in the season for combinations to figure it out and with the team still pursuing a playoff berth, Berube decided a shake up was needed.
And it was probably the right time.(Click "Full Story" for more...)
There’s a few ways to look at a loss like the 3-1 defeat the Flyers suffered in New York Wednesday.
The pessimist would look at it as doomsday (which it’s not) with a terrible performance in the most important game of the season (which it wasn’t) and call for a rush to the lifeboats.
An optimist would say, hey, the Flyers still control their own destiny for home ice advantage with two games in hand on the Rangers and with 10 games to go can just as easily get back to where they were a few days ago with a couple wins.
I like to think the reality is somewhere in between.(Click "Full Story" for more...)
One question that I keep getting asked lately is, “What is the Flyers magic number to clinch a playoff spot?”
I wish this was an easy answer.
See, in baseball and basketball, magic numbers are far easier to compute because they are solely based on wins and losses.
In hockey, magic numbers are rooted in wins and losses to an extent, but in reality are based on points earned and points lost – since, in fact, it’s possible to still get a point for losing.
Also, the magic number tends to be more fluid as teams climb in and out of playoff positions and it also changes per team because of an uneven number of games remaining – so a magic number over one team could be higher or lower than another, regardless of standings, based on games remaining.
Because of all of this, I’ve avoided the question completely on Twitter. I mean, how the heck am I going to cram all this info into 140 characters. Ain’t happening.
Nevertheless, I figured I’d provide you with this handy-dandy little chart so you can see what the Flyers need to do to clinch a playoff spot.
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PHILADELPHIA –Hollywood is in the house.
Wait, they played here? Then they were traded unexpectedly on the same day and were later reunited on the same Southern California team and won a Stanley Cup. Now their back?
Who knew? I better tweet that!
O.K., I admit I’m a little bit guilty...
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PHILADELPHIA – It’s rare when opposing coaches get on the bandwagon but when things are going as well as they are for the Flyers, sometimes, they just can’t help themselves.
Enter former coach Ken Hitchcock, who as bench boss of the St. Louis Blues and one of the favorites to be playing for Lord Stanley’s Cup out of the Western Conference is a surefire bet to be a finalist for the Jack Adams Award as NHL coach of the year, weighed in on the state of the Flyers from his perch in St. Louis.
He looks at the way the Flyers play and he sees a “dangerous” team.(Click "Full Story" for more...)
PHILADELPHIA – Michael Raffl has been one of those sneaky good additions for the Philadelphia Flyers.
And now, he’s going to be here for a while longer.
Raffl inked a two-year extension with the Flyers Saturday. His cap hit will be $1.1 million and he will be a member of the Flyers through the 2015-16 season.
Raffl, 25, has made a solid impression on the Flyers with his versatility to play anywhere in the lineup as well as his two-way ability.
Raffl has good speed, an active stick, and can put up points just as easily as he can play a defensive-minded game.
One of the things the Flyers really like about him is he is an excellent penalty killing forward, and works as one of the core four forwards on the Flyers shorthanded unit that is among the best in the NHL.
Offensively, Raffl has contributed nine goals and 12 assists for 21 points in 58 games for the Flyers.
He has played on all four lines this season, and even moved from wing to center with success, adding a scoring punch to the fourth line.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers