While being snowed in and stuck on your couch in the Philadelphia area kind of stinks, having 12 hours of Olympic hockey at your disposal kind of softens the blow.
In case you were too busy sleeping in, shoveling out from under another 10 inches of snow, or both, I was able to tune in for all four games (what a way to spend a birthday) and here is a recap with a Flyers angle to each game, if there was one.
The marquee game for most of us was Team USA completely dismantling Slovakia 7-1 in what was the most impressive performance by any team in their opening game.
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The Olympic Men’s Hockey Tournament kicked off with a pair of games Wednesday with both games featuring current Flyers and several former Flyers or Flyers prospects.
The Highlight game saw Sweden defeat the Czech Republic 4-2 in the marquee matchup of Group C teams.
Jake Voracek was the current Flyer in this game and actually played pretty well. I was flipping back and forth between games (there should have been a staggered start time, no?) but spent most of my viewing time on this game and Voracek was noticeable.(Click "Full Story" for more...)
But today will be different. Today I need to go on a bit of a rant because I need to clear up some misconceptions about the Flyers defense – and really, hockey defense in general.
It all started with Craig Berube’s decision to start Andrej Meszaros in the Flyers 2-1 win over Calgary Saturday in place of Erik Gustafsson.
The pair have been pretty much going back and forth all season as the Flyers No. 6 defenseman and at times have played really well – and others they’ve struggled.
But Gustafsson has played really well lately, no doubt. He has played bigger minutes than expected, solidified the third pair with Luke Schenn (who likewise has been excellent, but that’s another blog for another day) and overall contributed to the success of the team.
So, when coach Craig Berube chose Meszaros to replace Gustafsson in the lineup against Calgary, the Flyers Twittersphere exploded in disapproval.
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PHILADELPHIA – It was an emotional night for Flyers Chairman Ed Snider, and usually, when he finds himself experiencing those kinds of nights, he has some stuff to get off his chest.
So it wasn’t a surprise to see him in the locker room after the Flyers impressive 3-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche waiting for the media to gather around to listen to him talk.
Of course, it started with another heartfelt tribute to Keith Allen, the legendary Flyers coach and general manager of the two Stanley Cup teams who is enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Allen died Tuesday at the age of 90 following a long battle with various illnesses.
But from there, Snider talked about the state of the Flyers, the snubbing of Claude Giroux from Team Canada in the Olympics and his disgust for the Olympics in general.
Here then, is Snider’s commentary, because really, trying to put it into a story really doesn’t do it justice. The raw interview is so much better.(Click "Full Story" for video and more...)
PHILADELPHIA – If Buck Brannaman, the inspiration for the book by Nicholas Evans and movie starring Robert Redford, is known as the Horse Whisperer, it’s probably safe to now call Flyers legend Bernie Parent the goalie whisperer.
Ever since he took a few minutes to have a conversation with Steve Mason at the Flyers Wives Carnival a little more than a week ago, Mason has been lights out in goal.
In the five games since, Mason has given up just seven goals and recorded two shutouts and followed them up with a beauty Thursday - a 38-save effort in a 3-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche.
And while critics would say the first shutout against Detroit came against a depleted lineup and the second shutout against Los Angeles came against a Los Angeles Kings team that matched a record for goal-scoring futility that dated back to 1929, there was no way to sluff off his gutsy effort against the Avs.
Fighting through some sort of discomfort that had him taking medication both at the bench and on the ice during timeouts, Mason was brilliant against a pesky and talented Colorado squad.
Not until all-world rookie Nathan McKinnon sneaked a shot past Mason on the short side in the final minutes was he penetrable. And even then, missing out on a chance at his third shutout in five games, Mason rebounded brilliantly and made a heck of a post-to-post save on P.A. Parenteau to deny the tying goal.
He did enough early as well to keep the Flyers in the game after a bit of a sleepy start in the first period, but Mark Streit put the Flyers on the board first with a power play goal – his eighth marker of the season and the eighth consecutive game the Flyers scored with the man advantage – and that proved to be enough for Mason to secure the win.
Michael Raffl also scored, his third goal in four games, as the Flyers (29-23-6, 64 points) stretched their winning streak to three straight games.
Claude Giroux sealed off the victory with an empty-net goal that moved him into the Top 10 in scoring in the NHL.
There’ll be a lot more on this one, so stay tuned to PhiladelphiaFlyers.com for a complete recap, analysis, locker room notes, highlights and postgame video.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email email@example.com
When the NHL schedule came out this season, 20 teams were slated to have a road trip that would have to run the California gauntlet.
Consecutive games in Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose, in any order, is a daunting part of the schedule considering how good the West Coast teams are this season, especially at home.
Of those 20 teams who have to make that sojourn to the left coast, there was only one who was fortunate enough to head home with a winning record prior to Monday.
Now, it’s two.
The Flyers used another third period comeback to defeat the San Jose Sharks 5-2 Monday to join the New Jersey Devils as the only two teams to get two wins on the same trip in California this season.
The comeback was the 10th of the season, which is a franchise record.
However, while other comebacks were dramatic because the play prior to the third period was a little hairy, this time, you could almost sense the comeback was going to happen.
That’s because the Flyers played a good, not great first period, but trailed 2-1. They followed it up with a sensational second period, one where they dominated puck possession, kept the Sharks on their heels for almost the entire 20 minutes and really pressed and pressed to tie the score.
They couldn’t, but it was definitely a momentum sustainer and from there the third period exploded into jaw-dropping offense.
Matt Read scored 1:11 into the period. Michael Raffl followed up 1:18 later to give the Flyers the lead. And before the Sharks could even ask, “What happened,” Claude Giroux scored 1:27 after Raffl, and as Jim Jackson so eloquently said on the television broadcast, “Boom, Boom, Boom,” the Flyers were ahead by two goals.
Giroux, who has been one of the top scorers in the NHL since mid-November, continued to stay red hot, and finished with three points against San Jose.
He finished with two goals and three assists for five points on the trip and now has seven goals and 12 assists for 19 points in 17 games since the calendar flipped to 2014 with six multiple-point games.
Scott Hartnell quietly had another strong outing, playing his best stretch of sustained hockey since his All-Star campaign in 2011-12.
He is averaging a point per-game for the past six weeks with eight goals and 16 assists for 24 points in the past 24 games.
But it wasn’t just Giroux and Hartnell.
Michael Raffl continued to be incredibly reliable, now playing fourth line center and he scored another goal.
His 17 points are tied for 24th in the NHL among rookies, but he only averages more ice time than four of those players ahead of him – and his time is coming on the fourth line and on the penalty kill, which is making his contributions more impressive.
Speaking of impressive, this was the best defensive game the Flyers have played as a team in some time and kudos need to be handed out to all six defensemen, but especially to Luke Schenn, Erik Gustafsson and Andrej Meszaros, three guys who have spent time as healthy scratches this season who are all playing their best hockey of late.
Technically the Flyers (28-23-6, 62 points) didn’t move back into a playoff spot because both Columbus and Detroit have a game in-hand on them, but they are tied in points with the Jackets for third place in the Metropolitan Division, one point behind the second place New York Rangers, and tied with both Columbus and Detroit for the final wild card spot and only two points behind Montreal for the top wild card spot.
NOTES: The Flyers beat the Sharks for the first time since December 21, 2000, snapping a 13-game winless streak against the club, and won in San Jose for the first time since November 5, 1999, which snapped a seven-game winless streak there… The Flyers scored a power play goal (Mark Streit) for the seventh consecutive game. They’ve tallied a power play goal in 13 of the last 16 games and are 25 percent (14-for-56) in that stretch… The Flyers held the Sharks to just 22 shots. San Jose led the NHL in shots per game with an average of 35.2 shots per night heading into the game…The Flyers now have 64 third period goals on the season, which is tied with Chicago for second-most in the NHL and is just two behind league-leading Boston. They have scored 41.6 percent of their goals (64 of 154) in the third period this season… The Flyers forced 27 San Jose giveaways, which is the most they’ve squeezed out of an opponent this season. The previous high was 20 forced at Ottawa on Nov. 12… Steve Mason went 2-1 on the road trip with a 2.02 GAA and a .929 save percentage.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email asanFilippo@comcast-spectacor.com or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers
The questions have certainly swirled since Steve Mason signed his new contract.
Like sharks circling a leaky barrel of chum at seas, the critics have been looking for any and every reason to decry the contract extension as a misread by Flyers management.
Using a three game sample in which he was pulled twice, had very little defense played in front of him and an eyesore 5.28 goals against average and an .853 save percentage in those games the skeptics replaced the batteries in their megaphones and started to squawk.
But you had to know those statistics were not indicative of Mason’s game – certainly not the Mason who has been pretty darn good since coming to Philadelphia.
You had to know, based on his play in the first two months of the season, that Mason could put up polarizing numbers that would certainly bring about more cheers than jeers.
And Mason knew too - which became vividly apparent in the three games since.
Mason rounded off a darn good week of play making 35 saves to shutout the Los Angeles Kings 2-0 Saturday, stealing two points for a Flyers team that really struggled to get shots on net, posting just 13 tying a franchise record for fewest in a game.
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Against some other team, they may not have been the difference. Against the team with the best record in the NHL, they are deadly.
The Flyers established a defensive game that they wanted early, played physical and hung with the Anaheim Ducks all night. Yet, a mistake of awareness and an ill-advised pass would do them in ultimately in a 5-3 loss.
Steve Downie doesn’t stay high, gambles on a pinch, and it leads to a 4-on-2 rush that ends with a pretty connection from the dynamic duo – Ryan Getzlaf to Corey Perry.
Steve Mason never had a prayer.(Click "Full story" for more...)
It looks like Zac Rinaldo is ready to come back.
The Flyers have placed forward Chris Vandevelde on waivers today. If he clears, the Flyers have the option to send him back down to the Adirondack Phantoms.
They could keep him on the active roster even if he clears, but it’s unlikely they would risk losing Vandevelde to another team if there wasn’t another roster move pending.(Click "Full Story" for more...)
PHILADELPHIA – It was hard to tell who got more standing ovations Tuesday night, Steve Mason or President Barack Obama.
When you make 33 saves and pitch the first Flyers shutout at the Wells Fargo Center since March, 2012 (by none other than Ilya Bryzgalov), it’s not hard to compete with the State of the Union address.
Sure the game was 5-0 and wasn’t really close in the end. Sure the Flyers were playing against a Detroit team that more resembled their minor league affiliate than the usually staunch Red Wings squad. It doesn’t matter. When you are trying to snap a four game losing skid as a team, and as a goaltender if you haven’t been up to snuff in recent outings, that kind of effort goes a long way to building confidence not only in yourself, but in those that pull for you game in and game out.
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