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Flyers End Losing Streak; Still a Long Way to Go

Philadelphia Flyers

The Philadelphia Flyers put an end to their four-game losing streak last night with a 4-2 win over the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets. Much could have been made of the second starts in Philadelphia of former Flyers LW Scott Hartnell and G Sergei Bobrovsky, but the night belonged to the Flyers that are currently on the roster. That is especially true of Jake Vorachek, who is putting together quite an incredible season for himself, as he picked up two more assists last night and continues to lead the league in points. He has now scored at least one point in every game this year except for the two games in which the Flyers were shut out. The Flyers received a stellar effort at the face-off dot from Claude Giroux, who won 23 of 28 faceoff attempts. The Flyers captain also garnered two assists on the night, leading his team to the W side of the standings ledger. Brayden Schenn, Mark Streit, Wayne Simmonds, and Braydon Coburn scored the Flyers goals.

While Philadelphia fans have long seen their team yield goals within five minutes of their team having scored, the Flyers last night did not allow that one occurrence to rob them of victory. The Blue Jackets’ Boone Jenner potted his first goal on the power play two minutes after Schenn had opened the scoring. The Flyers shot 16 pucks at the Columbus net (4 reaching the goal) from there to the Blue Jackets’ 7 (4 reaching the goal). The 16th Flyers shot was both on net and in the net as Streit put his own rebound past Bobrovsky for his 4th goal of the season. He has now scored in consecutive games. The Flyers took the 2-1 lead into the first intermission.

The Flyers scored the only goal of the second period as Wayne Simmonds put away a power play goal, catching the puck in midair, dropping it to the ice and then slamming it home before the Blue Jackets’ goalie could stop his shot. The goal was the first for Simmonds since their last win, the November 8 victory over Colorado.

In the third period, Columbus scored two minutes in as Matt Calvert put away his second goal of the season.  The Flyers did not allow Columbus closing to within one goal rattle them. Instead, they responded just a minute later with their fourth goal. The Flyers took advantage of Bobrovsky having lost his stick and Coburn scored his first goal of the season.

All in all, the Flyers put forth a solid effort and should gain more points in the standings if they model their future games after it and less like the game they played on Wednesday in New York.


  • So, where do the Flyers go from here?The easy answer is “the road,” as seven of their next eight games will be away from the Wells Fargo Center. What is hoped is that with the losing streak snapped, the Flyers can put together a winning streak now and gain ground on the division-leading Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders. It’s still early, but the Flyers are currently six points out of the second wild-card seeding, with two games in hand on the Toronto Maple Leafs. If they can muster the same effort nightly that they have shown the last two games (last night’s win and Thursday’s loss to the Minnesota Wild), maybe they can get themselves into a playoff position by January 1.


  • Will coach Craig Berube continue to ice seven defensemen tomorrow night? 

    He did that last night since he had a healthy roster of blue liners. Carlo Colaiacovo was scratched with the return of Michael Del Zotto to the lineup. Chances are that Berube will not play seven defensemen, instead playing 12 forwards instead of 11. According to reports from Voorhees this morning, it sounds like Luke Schenn and Colaiacovo will be the defensive scratches in the next Flyers game, which both means that Jason Akeson will return to the forwards corps and that the  six defensemen will be Coburn, Del Zotto, Nicklas Grossmann, MacDonald, Nick Schultz, and Streit. 

  • Is Craig Berube going to be the Flyers head coach the rest of this season? 

    That remains to be seen. While GM Ron Hextall was not the person responsible for hiring Berube, there has been no indication (endorsement or a lack thereof) what Hextall thinks of his team’s coach. Of course, that can be said of Hextall’s coaching staff in Lehigh Valley, the assistant coaches and assistant general managers. It *is* known that Hextall was decidedly unhappy with the team’s lack of effort in New York City on Wednesday night, but whether or not Berube bore any of the ire or blame is unknown. The team’s fortunes and Berube’s are most probably closely intertwined. It was thought that the season-starting slump would spell the end of Berube’s time as coach, but the Flyers’ winning of 4 of 5 games in mid- to late October changed that. Of course, this is all speculation but only a year after the prior coach (Peter Laviolete) was replaced 3 games into the season, no prediction regarding  the Flyers and their coach seems too silly.

The Coach/GM Model

Philadelphia Flyers

In the NHL, the operating model consists of an owner or ownership group with a General Manager (GM) in charge of day-to-day hockey team operations and a Head Coach responsible for getting the team ready to play from September camp through the last day of the season or postseason. That is a rather simplified summary, as there are plenty of others involved in the management of the team such as the scouting department, assistant General Managers, directors of player personnel, etc. The two most prominent in the public eye, though, are the Coach and GM. They happen to be the two holding most of the responsibility for what occurs on the ice and in the standings, as well. Of course, there are countless others that work on the business side of NHL clubs, in accounting, promotion and advertising, television and radio agreements, ticket sales, public relations, and more. All can be found in each team’s media guides.

For the purposes of this article, let’s look solely at the relationship between the GM and Coach of the Philadelphia Flyers — and the results  that can come from that relationship.  Namely, which is more responsible for what happens each season? To keep this article from becoming too verbose, I will focus solely on the defense and goaltending. I will also attempt to keep this article-length instead of turning into a manuscript for a book.

The Philadelphia Flyers have made changes over the last 13 months at Coach (October 2013) and GM (May 2014). In 2010, the Flyers made a successful playoff run after nearly missing the playoffs altogether. That team, which changed coaches in December, came within two wins of giving the franchise its third Stanley Cup. Playoff results have been less successful for the Flyers since, with second-round exits in 2011 & 2012, missing the playoffs after a lockout-shortened 2013 season, and a first-round exit this past season, the General Manager was replaced. What has gone wrong?

First and foremost, the effects of losing defenseman Chris Pronger to an eye injury early in the 2011-12 season is still felt as the team has tried to replace him. Former GM Paul Holmgren, now Team President as of May 7 when he was promoted and Ron Hextall named GM in his stead, had a tough task finding the next number one defenseman the Flyers needed. He almost had that replacement when the Flyers signed Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber to an offer sheet in July of 2012, but the Predators matched the offer, retaining Weber on their own roster. Sure, the team still had steady veteran Kimmo Timonen, but having Pronger on the top pairing and Timonen on the second made the Flyers rather secure defensively.

  • Verdict: The coach has no influence upon whom the team loses to injury or gains from trades, signings, or waiver acquisitions. Thus, Laviolette and Berube had to wait for GM Holmgren to address the hole left by Pronger’s absence. Neither the GM or Coach is responsible for losing a player to injury and former GM Holmgren tried to replace Chris Pronger. Like the Edmonton Oilers in 2006 and the Anaheim Ducks in 2009, the Flyers since 2011 have discovered that losing Chris Pronger is quite devastating to on-ice success.

Second, the goalie position, long a tired excuse by the local media for everything that goes wrong with the Flyers, has only recently been settled for the long-term future. That appeared to have been settled before, once Michael Leighton took over in the 2009-10 season, but a back injury took him out of the 2011-12 starting position not long after signing a new contract with the team. Holmgren appeared to have found a savior in Sergei Bobrovsky, as he racked up 28 wins in his first NHL season. However, he stumbled in the first-round series against the Buffalo Sabres. The Flyers ended up using three goalies in the series (Bobrovsky, Brian Boucher, and Michael Leighton), winning it in 7 games. In the second-round sweep at the hands of the Boston Bruins, “Bob” did see mop-up action in Game 1, relief in Game 2 while Boucher had an injured wrist examined before returning to the net, more mop-up work in Game 3, and a start in the series’ Game 4. The goalie roulette performed by then-coach Peter Laviolette was viewed as a goaltending issue and not a coaching one. Team owner Ed Snider remarked, “Either one of the goalies we have has to step up in training camp, or we have to make improvements to make sure it happens. But we are never going to go through the goalie issues we’ve gone through in the last couple of years.” This statement seems to be the catalyst that had the Flyers trade for the rights to soon-to-be-free-agent Ilya Bryzgalov to take over in net. Rather than sticking with the youngster Bobrovsky after one season in 2011-12 as a rather expensive backup to Bryzgalov, the Flyers traded him to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

  • Verdict: The owner, former GM, and former coach all had a hand in abandoning the plan to let Sergei Bobrovsky be the Flyers goaltender for a long time. The coach’s handling of a goalie can force the GM’s hand, as it most probably did here. The owner speaking out after the playoff exit certainly forced the issue in this case. While it probably would have been best to allow Bobrovsky to grow with the team as starter and work with goaltending coach Jeff Reese, the Flyers decided to instead trade away Bobrovsky for three draft picks in June 2012. When the lockout-delayed 2012-13 season finally started in January 2013, Bobrovsky played well enough with his new team to win the Vezina Trophy as league’s best goaltender. This situation was a team effort that resulted in costing the Flyers a solid goalie in Bobrovsky, costing the team a lot of money on the failed Bryzgalov experiment (because they bought him out in June 2013), and a shuffling of other players because cap space had to be made in order to land Bryzgalov.

Just using these two examples is enough to show that there are ways in which a coach can force a GM to address an issue raised by the coach’s use (or misuse) of a player. Also, a GM’s moves can force a coach to adjust his system based on the roster he has been given. The problem that arises is when coaches are unable or unwilling to draw up a game plan based on the players that he has. Coach Peter Laviolette was successful in getting more out of the 2009-10 Flyers’ roster than his predecessor, John Stevens. However, when the team lost Chris Pronger to injury, Laviolette seemed to lose the team. Perhaps he needs a intermediary sort of captain to get his message across to the rest of the roster, as was the case with Flyers captain Keith Primeau under then-coach Ken Hitchcock. After Primeau went down to injury in 2005, “Hitch” eventually lost his team’s ears. The next season, he was fired and replaced with John Stevens. Hitchcock and Laviolette are not known as player-friendly coaches, as Stevens is. It may just be that the loss of their mediator lost them their team and job. Also damaging to Laviolette’s job security was his seeming unwillingness to change his game plan as his roster changed. For example, it appeared that he wanted Braydon Coburn to play like Chris Pronger and/or Matt Carle after they departed. Instead, Coburn should have been used in a strategy that utilized his strengths, mitigated his weaknesses, and was thus most beneficial to the team’s fortunes.

The point here is not to assign blame for past failing so much as to say that a team’s coach, GM, and owner(ship) need to be working closely to make sure they set one another up for success. That has not been apparent in Philadelphia the last five years at least. Next time I look at the Coach/GM model, I will look more closely at coach Craig Berube and GM Ron Hextall. Mistakes made prior to their installations are still felt now but both have professed knowledge of how to fix the obstacles that keep the Flyers from being among the NHL’s elite. For Flyers fans’ sake, let’s hope so.

Hudson Hockey – September 23, 2014

JP, BL, and Silva talk NHL, bad uniforms, and interview WPU’s Kyle Garlasco.

Flyers Pre-Season Starts in Two Months

The Flyers preseason starts two months from today with training camp starting a few weeks before that.  So why should I be excited.  The off-season has been a bore with the BIG move being the signing of RJ Umberger and defense man Nick “I see Nothing” Schultz.

Ho Hum!

Are the Flyers going to be better.  Last season owner Ed Snyder said it was the worst camp ever and they started 4-10-1.  So what happens this year if Coach Berube has a great camp.  Will the Flyers be able to make a run at the cup?

The Flyers could score last season, problem was they couldn’t stop the other teams from scoring.  They were 20th in the league.  The Rangers were 4th in the NHL in defense and a so-so team went all the way to the Cup.

Can the Flyers do the same?  Will having a good camp mean that team defense will be ‘team’ defense.  Can that make the difference.  Probably not much.  Defense is an attitude and the Flyers Defense has none.

Which player does the opposition fear when crossing the blue line?  No one.  Until the Flyers replace the long gone Chris Pronger they will continue to struggle on defense.  Signing goalie Mason was a good move but he will need help in front.

Team defense and a good camp may not be enough for 2014-2015.

NY Rangers Will Win the Stanely Cup!

It’s Prediction Time, Time to go On the Record.

Everyone is taking the Kings to win their second Cup in just a few seasons.

I think everyone is missing why the Ranger are in the Cup in the first place.


They were solid all season and have been even better in the playoffs.  This will keep the in every game and will help them win that one game that they will need to win on the road.

Don;t forget that the Rangers were much better on the road this season than they were at home.


Can’t believe I just wrote that!

Flyers Change, Changing Places

Philadelphia Flyers

Yes, the Philadelphia Flyers season ended last Wednesday at the hands of the New York Rangers, who won the Metropolitan Division Semifinal round by a four games to three count, but they refuse to stay out of the news.  In the week that has passed since, Flyers fans have had to wonder “what if” and watch other teams contend for the Stanley Cup. That has transpired while their favorite team cleaned out their lockers amidst answering questions regarding why their season came to an end in the first round of the playoffs. There were statements made amongst the press and fan base that the Flyers needed to make changes at the top in order for the team to improve at ice level.  Today, that kind of change has come.

The Flyers announced a press conference to be held at 11:30 this morning. Shortly after that announcement, it was reported that the Flyers were going to name General Manager Paul Holmgren as the team’s new President and Assistant GM Ron Hextall as the team’s new GM. Sure enough, at 11:30 we learned that, after seven plus (nearly eight) years as GM, Holmgren will take the Team President post left by Peter Luukko (who vacated the position with his surprising resignation this past December 2) while Hextall will be the General Manager, succeeding Holmgren. There are plenty of questions going forward that really only time can tell. The Flyers are not in a position to address all of the clubs’ issues today, but giving the GM’s office a new face could change the fortunes of the team. Hextall cut his teeth as an executive working under GM’s Bob Clarke and Holmgren in Philadelphia and GM Dean Lombardi in Los Angeles, where they won a Stanley Cup in 2011. That experience means Hextall is prepared for the next step, which he called his “Dream Job,” as General Manager of the Philadelphia Flyers.

After this momentous day, let’s “Question the Flyers.”

  • What immediate issues must Hextall address?
    • The 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Hextall will not have a long wait to put his first stamp on the team with long-lasting consequences. The NHL Draft this year will be held in Philadelphia on June 27-28. The Flyers have been rumored to be trying to acquire the first overall pick in order to make a real splash with the hometown draft crowd. Whether that is true or not, the Flyers have been quite successful in drafting in the first round, even with later first-round picks, and there is no reason to believe this won’t continue with the scouting department remaining the same so far. Also, Holmgren is known for having an eye for young talent. That will benefit the Flyers since he is still with the team.
    • Free Agency: Just days after the NHL Draft, the calendar will turn to July 1. That is the first day NHL squads can attempt to bolster their rosters through the signing of unrestricted free agents. Unfortunately, the Flyers will probably not be able to make many moves via free agency due to the limited cap space they have.
    • Flyers Pending Free Agents: Hextall and his team have to decide whether or not they are bringing back any of the team’s players due to become unrestricted free agents. These players are forwards Steve Downie and Adam Hall, defensemen Kimmo Timonen and Hal Gill, and goalie Ray Emery. Gill is said to be retiring and Timonen is mulling his decision to return to Philadelphia and the NHL for one more season. He could retire from the NHL and play for the Finnish team he co-owns. That would be KalPa of the Liiga (Finnish Elite League). It is thought that Ray Emery will not be brought back and perhaps Cal Heeter will be given the backup goalie position.
    • Pending Restricted Free Agents: Hextall will have his hands full trying to address team needs while having five Restricted Free Agents (RFA’s) to whom the Flyers need to tender qualifying offers in order to keep them. These players are forwards Brayden Schenn, Tye McGinn, and Jason Akeson, defenseman Erik Gustafsson, and goaltender Cal Heeter. Of course, the Flyers could decide not to not make a qualifying offer to any of these players, making them unrestricted free agents. It will probably shock no one when the Flyers qualify all five players.
  • How can Hextall improve this team for next season?
    • The Flyers’ most pressing roster needs appear to be a top left winger, a top defenseman (or two), and a backup goaltender going into the 2014-15 season.
    • Address the lackluster Defensive & Neutral Zones play: The Flyers were stymied by the New York Rangers in the Metropolitan Division Semifinals through an aggressive forecheck. The Rangers did not allow the Flyers much space or time in getting out of their own zone. This often resulted in the Rangers taking over the puck in neutral ice and starting their offense all over again. Also, the Rangers were especially good at moving the puck through the neutral zone against the Flyers and this allowed them to set up in the offensive zone all the more easily. Hextall said today that the Flyers need to get better at even strength. Surely, the neutral and defensive zone inefficiency they experienced against New York is a part of that.
    • Craft a more mobile defense. This will be the toughest item to check off the list. The Flyers forwards have been criticized for the large gaps they leave between themselves and their defense. While that is one issue that causes other teams to pen the Flyers into their own zone, the fact that too often a Flyers defenseman’s only recourse is to throw the puck to center ice, which merely changes *where* their opposition regains control of the puck. Possession still changes hands and that is not a recipe for long-term success, as anyone who has followed hockey for a long time or anyone keeping an eye on advanced statistics (where possession is what is gauged via shot differential) can verify.
    • Craft a more mobile team. Watching the eight teams remaining in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, one can see how quick passing can cut through opposing defenses and allow for movement out of the defensive zone, through the neutral zone, and into the offensive zone. If the Flyers can get their team to be more mobile, they too can be playing in May next season.
    • Shed the reputation of being a puppet for Ed Snider. Snider has a reputation as a meddling owner. The man’s passion for the sport he successfully brought to Philadelphia is unquestioned. Where fans part ways with his philosophy, so it is thought, is in his desire to always win now and override his GM. The poor handling of rookie goalie Sergei Bobrovsky in the 2011 playoffs by coach Laviolette caused Snider to publicly demand that the goalie position be fixed after the Flyers were eliminated in the second round by the eventual Stanley Cup-winning Boston Bruins. That caused Holmgren to trade for the rights to Ilya Bryzgalov on June 7  (due to become a free agent on July 1, 2011) and sign him to a new contract. Whether Holmgren drew up the contract (9 years/$51 million) that would be bought out after just two seasons or not is further speculated. Hextall will have a hard time proving to the Flyers faithful that his moves are his own and that he possesses the autonomy and authority that Team President Holmgren claimed he will have at today’s press conference.
    • Trim the fat. The Flyers have several contracts that prevent them from filling the above needs. I have saved this point for last not because it is least important but because it is the biggest obstacle GM Hextall will face. To use an analogy, his predecessor used a lot of paint to box the team into its current corner. That is, little cap space and usage of No-Trade and No-Movement Clauses will prevent the trading away of contracts that would otherwise be seen as superfluous. The Flyers have a glut of centers and defensemen of 2nd/3rd pairing caliber. To change that they would need players to waive their clauses and/or get creative in trading players that do not have such clauses. The most glaring contract at present is that of veteran center Vincent Lecavalier. Lecavalier is signed for four more years while already 34 years old. It is inevitable that his game will decline even more than it has from his heyday in Tampa. How the Flyers could move that contract has been the subject of much Flyers fan discussion (and consternation, if not outright conflagration!) on Twitter and elsewhere around the Internet. With the recent hire of former Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette in Nashville — and his being coach in Philadelphia being part of the reason for Lecavalier’s signing in the first place, one theory is that Nashville would be a perfect place to send his bloated contract in return for “future considerations” that would be akin to those given to Philadelphia in the Jeremy Roenick trade to Los Angeles in 2005: Zilch. The Flyers fan base has suggested getting rid of players to gain more cap space and thus more buying power on July 1 or trading for defensemen who can pass and skate well, causing teams to have to respect and watch for both. Ron Hextall’s first year could very well be his most challenging just because his predecessor left him with many unmovable parts. Hextall may look a bit disheveled by this time next year just because he will have needed a lot of thinner to cut through the overabundant paint. Here’s hoping he can deliver to the 2014-15 Flyers good fortunes similar to those that he brought when he first appeared as a Philadelphia Flyer in 1986-87.

Happy hockey,
Michael Gross

Follow the Flyers at, on our NEW Facebook page, and Twitter. For the best sports talk listen to great shows on MTR Radio 24/7 and follow us on our FREE apps for your IOS and Android devices.

Game 7: Fan Shakes Early, Handshakes Later

Philadelphia Flyers

The Philadelphia Flyers roared back in answer to the New York Rangers’ 3-2 series lead in the Metropolitan Division Semifinals with a win in Game 6 last night. There was a snarl, an offensive outburst, and a swagger in the Flyers that had largely been missing so far in the playoffs. They captured their goal — forcing a Game 7 in Manhattan — by attacking the game and not sitting back en route to a 5-2 victory.

Instead of falling behind by yielding the first goal yet again, the Flyers chased Rangers starting netminder Henrik Lundqvist after two periods instead of playing catch-up, as they had in Games 1 – 5. Though they are a resilient club (and recorded a franchise-record 11 come from behind wins this regular season when trailing after 2 periods), it is always best and safest to score first and build on a lead rather than come back in a game.

For the second straight game, the Flyers dressed a defenseman who had been scratched for lengthy portions of the season and it affected the game strongly. This time, though, that defenseman was speedy Erik Gustafsson and this time his play resulted in the game-winning goal FOR the Flyers. (Hal Gill with “help” from Braydon Coburn was dressed for Game 5 and their contribution together was a gaffe that led to the Rangers putting that game away.) Gustafsson made some smooth plays, particularly poke checks on the penalty kill, and his fleet feet helped get the Flyers out of jams and into the neutral and offensive zones. Those of us calling for Gustafsson to be dressed feel rather justified today, though even we could not have expected such a performance as he had. The goal he scored in the second period, right after exiting the penalty box, was euphoric to the Philadelphia crowd that knew his penalty was erroneously called because the referee bought the dramatic head-fake by Rangers forward Derek Dorsett. Dorsett “earned” his team a power play but it ultimately backfired, to the sheer joy of the 19,000+ inside the Wells Fargo Center.

What this all means, of course, is that the Flyers and Rangers have a best-of-1 to claim victory in this series. The Flyers have passed the first test in staving off elimination. Can the Rangers follow suit or do the Flyers prove to be so resilient and stubborn so as to refuse to go down? This team has been resilient all season and there is no reason to believe they are toast tonight just because of the venue. In fact, they may have less pressure because they do not have their own fans to please on the road. They can play their game without extra pressure. That said, New York will want to feed off its home crowd as the Flyers did last night. Philadelphia will have to endure that early boost of energy and will its way to getting the first goal for just the third time in the series. Now, let’s Question the Flyers:

  • Is Steve Mason able to steal one more game?
    • Yes.  He has shown he is able to stand tall and play stellar in the playoffs in two of the three games he has worn the orange and black. Mason (4-0-0) has the better record in the second of back-to-back games than Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist (1-3-0). That does not mean a whole lot, though, as with Game 7 one can usually throw trends right out the window. It is a one-game playoff at this point, but it is something that can be used to stymie all the talk of the Rangers being 5-0-0 in Games 7 and Lundqvist being 2-0 in Games 7.
  • Can the Flyers’ special teams pull out another win?
    • The power play and penalty kill have been great boons for the Flyers in the series. They will need to click once more in order for the Flyers to move onto the Metropolitan Division Finals.
  • What do the Flyers need to fix or clean up?
    • Puck handling and puck movement. They were quite sloppy in the first period, being charged with 9 giveaways in the first 20 minutes alone last night, but that did seem to be nerves at work and they got better and settled down as they built their lead. They had eight giveaways over the remaining 40 minutes.
  • Is the forward core “fixed” now?
    • Perhaps. Philadelphia head coach Craig Berube not inserted Gustafsson into his lineup, he jostled his four lines and received great results on the scoreboard. Winger Wayne Simmonds scored his first career NHL playoff hat trick before the 2nd period was over. The Flyers need scoring from other lines when the Rangers are shutting down the Giroux line (different though it was last night with Michael Raffl taking Scott Hartnell’s usual spot) like they have all series.
  • Can the Flyers more effectively limit the Rangers’ pace through the neutral zone?
    • To a degree, yes, but the fact that the Flyers can more easily avoid it by moving the puck up ice from their zone instead of flinging it to center ice and have to endure another Rangers’ move through the neutral zone means the Rangers will have the puck less to do so. Flyers defensemen Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn, Mark Streit, Andrew MacDonald, Erik Gustafsson, and Luke Schenn can all make a good first pass — something lacking in the toolbox of Nicklas Grossmann or his first replacement, Hal Gill. Being able to skate it like Timonen, Coburn, Streit, and Gustafsson means the Rangers have to respect both the pass and skating it out — keeping them more at bay than they would be playing the pass only against the likes of Grossmann and Gill.
  • Can the Flyers score first tonight?
    • Yes. Yes, they can. If they walk into Madison Square Garden tonight with the same swagger they possessed last night, they will get that first goal and then some.
  • What about the Flyers size advantage?
    • That ship has sailed. This series is about the speed and skill guys for the most part and last night’s game showed the Flyers can win with both.
  • Can the Flyers effectively create havoc in front of Rangers goalie Hank Lundqvist?
    • Yes, finally. The Flyers need to get dirty goals like Simmonds scored last night. They have been getting goals like that all season until Games 1 – 5, in general. That appears to have changed. If the Flyers can make Lundqvist’s job tougher via the use of screens and traffic, they will be in better shape than in letting shots go with no Flyer near him.
  • Can the Flyers outplay the Rangers?
    • The Flyers answered this question from last night with an emphatic “Yes” last night. There is no reason to believe that they will go cold tonight when the series is there for the taking.
  • Can Claude Giroux silence his critics?
    • Seeing as most of his critics were beat writers trying to sell sensationalism as news, it’s not a surprise they were singing his praises like a hired bard after Game 6 ended. It’s apparently beneficial to have a short memory as a goalie and as a beat writer and forget the softies you have sitting behind you.

I nearly lost my voice attending last night’s game, being a part of the home crowd. I have not had that much fun or experienced as much intensity in the Wells Fargo Center since the Flyers’ 2010 playoff run. Let’s go, Flyers! We want to see you handshake as winners after we are done shaking in nervousness and antici… pation.

Happy hockey,
Michael Gross

Follow the Flyers at, on our NEW Facebook page, and Twitter. For the best sports talk listen to great shows on MTR Radio 24/7 and follow us on our FREE apps for your IOS and Android devices.


Flyers’ Time for Action Is Now

Philadelphia Flyers

Game 6 of the Metropolitan Division Semifinals between the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers is tonight at 7:30 PM EST. There is more to that simple sentence than its 19 words show on the surface. Tonight, the Flyers have to stave off playoff elimination. They have to answer tough questions not with words, but with their play.

  • Can Philadelphia goaltender Steve Mason steal this series?
    • Mason needs to play like he did in Game 4. The Flyers were outplayed in that game, but Mason played incredibly well. So incredibly that the soft goal he allowed in Game 5 to start the Rangers’ scoring seemed impossible and shocking. The Flyers know he can play a great game and save chances that would be goals on less-acrobatic goalies. He gives them a chance to win every night. Tonight, they need that chance.
  • Can the Flyers more effectively limit the Rangers’ pace through the neutral zone?
    • The Flyers have last change tonight. Coach Craig Berube’s task is to put the best lines out on the ice tonight to counter what the Rangers do.
    • They have to negate what the Rangers do in order to enter the Flyers zone so easily. They also have to body the Rangers and wear them down. That means forwards like Brayden Schenn and Scott Hartnell, known for being physical at times, have to make the Rangers fight for every inch of ice tonight.
  • Can the Flyers score first tonight?
    • The Flyers have scored first once in this series. That was in Game 1 when Andrew MacDonald tallied the first goal. Since then, the Flyers have yielded the first goal in four straight games. That is not a winning team’s plan. They need to strike first tonight if they want to force a Game 7 tomorrow night in New York.
  • So… about size?
    • The Flyers may have worn down Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh, particularly his shoulder, in the five games thus far, but the Flyers seem no more energetic than their opposition.
  • Can the Flyers effectively create havoc in front of Rangers goalie Hank Lundqvist?
    • Not as of yet. Aside from the game-winning goal scored by Jakub Voracek on the power play, the Flyers have too rarely been seen anywhere near the low slot when a shot is taken. The shot-blocking of New York has been tremendous, to say the least, so the Flyers need to make shooting lanes, maybe put a scare into the Rangers via more Mark Streit slap shots, and create havoc near the feet of the Rangers’ netminder.
  • Can Jason Akeson hang with the big club for the playoff run?
    • Akeson should be more smartly in this game. Put him out there against the Rangers bottom line or two and then let him play on the second power play unit. Berube should not expose Akeson to the top two Rangers lines tonight.
  • Can the Flyers outplay the Rangers?
    • They are due. They are overdue, actually. Game 3 was one game where the Flyers really dictated play. They need that sort of effort tonight to be successful with one change: finish. The Flyers need someone to finish.

I am leaving for the game in five minutes. I hope to be able to report for a Game 7 in the next 24 hours. Let’s go, Flyers!

Happy hockey,
Michael Gross

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Facing Elimination: Can Flyers Win 2 in a Row?

The Flyers have been coming from behind all season.  After a 1-7 start they climbed back into the playoff picture to get a #3 seed in the division.  They returned from the Olympic break to play some of the best hockey in the league winning 7 out of 10 games against top level NHL teams.

Since then they have only won 2 games in a row once and that was against two of the weaker non-playoff teams Florida and Buffalo.

To continue their 2013-14 season, the Flyers will need to win two in a row from the Rangers including a game 7 in NYC where their luck has not been the greatest of late.

First things first, they have to win Game 6 at home.  They will need a great game from Goalie Steve Mason and more importantly will need to score. They have only scored more than 2 goals once in 5 games with one of those goals being an open netter at the end of the game.

The Flyers got to the playoff via a balanced scoring attack.  They have 7 players score 20 goals or more.  Only one Flyer has two goals in the series Jakub Voracek.  Captain Claude Giroux leads the team with three points (1 goal) but that is just not good enough.  The team as a whole has not been able to control the puck for more than one or two passes.  They dump the puck into the Rangers zone giving up control of the puck and work really hard to get the puck back before getting a shot blocked and the puck goes the other direction.

Hockey is a game of control.  Control the puck and control the game.  The Flyers need to do this if they are to have any chance at winning the series.  Dump and chase is just not working.  The Flyers, led by the Captain need to control and dominate the Rangers.  Play in their zone and keep them off balance.  It is time to shorten the bench including keeping C Vincent Lecalvier off the ice.  He has continued his struggles on the defensive end of the ice and is a -5 for the first 5 games of the series playing only 11 minutes per game. 

This is simply not good enough.  He is a highly paid veteran who needs to play like it.

As Claude Giroux goes so go the Flyers.  He is supposed to be the Flyers Super Star.  He has been quite average this series and may have all summer to think about how he should have stepped up and taken over this series.  The Rangers are solid on defense but not unbeatable.  He needs to lead and his teammates need to follow.

Can the Flyers win two in a row?

No, well maybe!

Only if Giroux is the superstar all Flyers fans think he is.

Flyers-Rangers Tied at 2 Thanks to Even Steven

Philadelphia Flyers

Steve Mason was a surprise backup goalie for the Philadelphia Flyers for Game 3 of the Metropolitan Division Semifinal series with the New York Rangers, as his health was up in the air until Tuesday morning, the day of the game. He mopped up in that game, facing & stopping three shots in the last 7:15 in relief of starter Ray Emery.

Whatever rust accumulated in the time since Mason’s last start on April 12 until this week, it was not noticeable at all. In Game 4 Friday night, Steve Mason became the first goalie in the series to steal a game, outdueling Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist. That is no snub of Lundqvist, who played very well in his own right, stopping 23 of 25 Flyers shots on goal. Mason stopped 37 of 38 shots on goal fired by the Rangers, some of them quite difficult. The lone goal was scored almost five minutes into the game by Dominic Moore shortly after he exited the penalty box. Moore’s original shot was stopped by Mason, but Moore gathered the rebound up, skated around the back of the net, and deposited the puck in the other side of it just before Mason could get across to stop it.

After that, Mason nailed the door shut on the Rangers as the Flyers would pick up goals from Matt Read at even-strength and Jakub Voracek on the power play. The Flyers were outshot in all 3 periods (16-6, 12-11, & 10-8)  but Mason stood tall and earned the win and 1st star honors.

So… Game 5 is about to start in less than a half hour’s time. Let’s question the Flyers:

  • How can the Flyers improve upon their play so far?
    • The Flyers need to do better in limiting the Rangers cutting through neutral ice still. The Rangers shot differential is largely built upon the ease in which they gain access to the Flyers zone and get shots through.
    • The Rangers have blocked an insane amount of Flyers shots this series — a testament to their dedication to defensive play, reading their opponents, and sticking to their coach’s game plan. The Flyers still need to find a way through the blocks more often like they did on Voracek’s power play tally in the second period of Game 4.
    • The Flyers need to get out of their own zone more often and with the puck on the fly. It is one thing to fling the puck out of the zone — giving the Rangers another chance to enter it — and another to pass or skate the puck out of their zone and gaining both neutral and offensive zone ice with possession. That is how the Flyers can build on their shot totals (whether they are on goal, blocked, or on target). After gaining said ice, they need to make their opportunities count on one of the best goalies in the league.
    • To help with the last point, getting bodies in front of Lundqvist is essential — as I stated in a prior column.

So, get your favorite beverages, snacks, and meals ready because I fully expect Game 5 will be a hard-fought and fun-to-watch game. Unless you are a Flyers or Rangers fan. Then the game will be a stress-inducing three-hour plus affair of heart palpitations and sweat. Just another example of why there is nothing in sport like playoff hockey.

Happy hockey,
Michael Gross

Follow the Flyers at, on our NEW Facebook page, and Twitter. For the best sports talk listen to great shows on MTR Radio 24/7 and follow us on our FREE apps for your IOS and Android devices.

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