Daily Times beat writer Anthony J. SanFilippo takes you inside the locker rooms of the Philadelphia Flyers and the rest of the NHL.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Thursday, January 28, 2010
THESE COULD HURT IN THE END
It's worse when its against the Atlanta Thrashers.
It's worse when you are in a 30-game sprint that may or may not end up with a playoff berth.
Before I get into the game, let me say this... If the Flyers miss the playoffs this season, it very well could cost Paul Holmgren his job.
There won't be any excuses like injuries, or bad coaching to lean on any longer.
If in fact there are no playoffs this season, the problems with this team will probably be exposed as the kind that can't be corrected.
Which means the core of the team will need to be blown up.
Shudder to think....
Anyway, here's what's wrong right now from my perspective:
1. The top two lines are listless. Jeff Carter runs hot and cold. He's really good for a stretch and then disappears just as long. Danny Briere was playing great for awhile, but after jamming his neck against the boards last Saturday against Carolina, he hasn't been the same. Scott Hartnell must be in the witness protection program because he hasn't been seen in a while.
Then there's Mike Richards, who seems to be an offensive threat only on the power play. Simon Gagne is playing with a bit more fire, but hasn't scored in eons, and Darroll Powe is very good for a third line, but not really for a second line.
2. The defense is too thin. Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timonen are fine. Matt Carle had a bad game, but is usaully reliable. Braydon Coburn hasn't been the same since the 2007-08 playoffs when he got hit in the face with a puck.
But the rest of the defense is shaky. Oskars Bartulis has the makeup to be a decent NHLer, but not right now. Ole-Kristian Tollefsen gambles too much and his injuries have limited him from making up for his little mistakes. Even Danny Syvret, who is hurt and Ryan Parent, who had back surgery, are suspect. Sytvret as offensive skill but makes too many mistakes on D. Parent could be a very good shut down defenseman, but can;t stay healthy enough to find out.
3. The goalie needs to be better. Ray Emery wasn't terrible tonight, but he hasn't stolen a game since his return either. I wouldn't be surprised to see Micahel Leighton Saturday against the Isles. Emery could use a rest and Leighton needs to shake off some rust.
4. Every once in a while, this team still thinks it can turn on the jets as needed. That was the case against Atlanta and it didn't work. Peter Laviolette is frustrated. Pronger is disappointed. Messages have been sent. The stakes are well known - and yet it still happens. The Flyers hope it's just a blip on the radar. But, if not, it could again be their undoing.
Some notes from the game:
* The Flyers record now stands at 26-23-3 and 55 points, including a 15-11-2 record at home.
* The Flyers are now 3-2-0 on their six-game homestand and will play the final game of their longest homestand of the season when they take on the New York Islanders on Saturday at 1 pm ET.
* Despite the loss, the Flyers own a 14-2-2-1 record at home against the Thrashers, earning 33 out of a possible 38 points in the all-time series.
* Simon Gagne appeared in his 634th game as a Flyer, surpassing Rod Brind’Amour for 11th place on the Flyers’ all-time games played.
* Arron Asham has 10 points in his last 12 games (3G,7A).
* Rookie James van Riemsdyk has at least a point in four of his last six games and in eight of his last 12 games (11 pts - 5G,6A).
* Dan Carcillo’s goal marked the fourth time this season that a Flyers player has scored on his birthday (Danny Briere on Oct. 6, Chris Pronger on Oct. 10, Claude Giroux on Jan. 12, Dan Carcillo on Jan. 28).
Check back in the morning for video of me and NHL.com senior writer Adam Kimmelman as we break down this loss for the Flyers.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
PENGUINS TAKE A BITE OUT OF FLYERS
But for now, I want to take this time to give you the rundown of an on-ice incident that goes well-beyond gamesmanship and really is about as unsportsmanlike as it gets.
In the third period, with a scrum piling on top of Scott Hartnell, who always seems to be in the middle of such things, Arron Asham skated over to try to pull Matt Cooke off of his teammate.
Asham grabbed Cooke, his gloved hand getting near Cooke's mouth.
Cooke responded by biting down - hard. Asham lost his cool and tried to get at Cooke, but officials kept them apart.
Both went to the penalty box for roughing, and when they came out, Asham tried to lure Cooke into fighting, but Cooke ducked him.
Afterwards, Cooke and teammate Craig Adams joked that if Scott Hartnell didn't bite Kris Letang earlier this season (remember that?) than Cooke didn't bite Asham.
But you should have seen Asham's finger. It was certainly chewed.
Asham didn't have many kind words to say about Cooke, calling him "gutless" "a chicken" and "garbage" among other things.
Look for a blow by blow to be posted on delcotimes.com later tonight and in the print edition tomorrow.
And, look for the final meeting of the season between the two teams - March 27 in Pittsburgh - to be nasty.
Finally, with the Pens having now won 4-out-of-5 games against the Flyers this season, despite Philadelphia outplaying them in at least three, if not four of the games, coach Peter Laviolette was asked why, when the team is doing everything right, they still can't beat Pittsburgh. His response?
"We will when it counts," he said.
Anyone else know deep down these two will meet in the playoffs again this year?
Thursday, January 21, 2010
BREAKING NEWS: RANGERS STINK
But, let me say this: The Rangers are bad. How they've won 24 games is beyond me.
This team has no offense beyond Marian Gaborik, and he spent so much time in the penalty box he left his team, well, punchless.
Aside from their all-world goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who must be the reason the Rangers are even in this playoff mix, the rest of the team is really sub par.
Aside from Gaborik (62 points) Vinny Prospal has 36 points and 27 of them are assists - mostly to Gaborik. No one else breaks the 30-point plateau.
Come on, even Flyers' rookie James van Riemsdyk has 30 points.
The defense has a couple of young, up-and-comers in Michael Del Zotto and Matt Gilroy, but they are very green, and I don't mean Mike.
Marc Staal is their best defenseman, and he's still growing up too.
Here's a not-so-bod prediction - the Islanders, not the Rangers, ar ehte New York playoff representative this season.
Still, well-played defensive and checking game by the Flyers tonight. I don't want to take away the way they've been playing lately.
Now 2-0 on the six game homestand, if they knock off Carolina Saturday, it'll set up a could-be classic against Pittsburgh Sunday.
Here's some notes from the game:
* With the win, the Flyers improve their record to 25-21-3 and 53 points, including a 14-9-2 record at home.
* The win also gives the Flyers five straight wins at home… the last time the Flyers won five straight at home occurred from Dec. 9, 2008 – Jan. 10, 2009 when they won eight straight games at home.
* The Flyers recorded their second straight shutout over the Rangers, after posting a 6-0 victory on Dec. 30… They have now shut out the Rangers for a total of 155:14 of play.
* The last time the Flyers posted back-to-back shutouts over the Rangers was Oct. 20 (5-0 W) and Oct. 22, 1999 (2-0 W), John Vanbiesbrouck posted both shutouts for the Flyers.
* Ray Emery posted an assist on James van Riemsdyk’s goal in tonight’s game, becoming the first Flyers goaltender to record an assist in a game since Martin Biron had an assist vs. NY Rangers on April 12, 2009.
* Chris Pronger has a three-game point streak and has points in eight of his last nine games (11 pts - 2G,9A)… Rookie James van Riemsdyk has a three-game points streak and has at least a point in seven of his last nine games (10 pts - 5G,5A).
* The Flyers improved their record to 8-4-1 against Atlantic Division opponents.
* The Flyers have scored the first goal in 13 of their last 14 contests… They have also scored a goal in the first period in 12 of those contests and have allowed a goal in the first period in just 3 of the 14 games and have held their opponent scoreless in 30 of 49 games on the year.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
UMBERGER - A YOUNG PLAYER WHO GOT IT
It helped that the former Flyer scored two goals, and nearly a third, in his first game back since being traded from Philadelphia to Columbus, but the fact is, I likely would have devoted a good chunk of my space to Umberger because he's such a quality human being who was well-liked during his four years in Philadelphia (I include the season with the Phantoms during the lockout).
The fact that he had a big game only made his prominence in stories more applicable.
So, why dedicate so much space to a former player who is now doing his thing for the opposition?
Because he is everything you want in your locker room and on your hockey team and the Flyers really miss that kind of player.
There is a reputation, deserved or not, that the Flyers younger players, for the most part, are bratty.
Umberger, while he was close with all of them and remains friends with all of them, always seemed a bit more mature, a bit more refined.
When the young Flyers were moving into homes in Voorhees, NJ or transplanting themselves onto the Philadelphia side, Umberger was buying a home for himself and his lovely young wife in secluded Medford, N.J. - near then coach Ken Hitchcock.
He was always a player who was willing to buy into Hitchcock's system, something a lot of young players are not apt to do.
Mike Richards and Jeff Carter speak politely about Hitchcock, but they don't ever say anything glowing about their former coach who rode them very hard.
Patrick Sharp, now starring for the Chicago Blackhawks, also struggled under Hitch as a young player, but learned to appreciate Hitch's lessons after he was traded from Philadelphia.
Simon Gagne grew up from being a pure scorer to one of the best two-way forwards in the NHL under Hitchcock.
So, when Hitchcock had the opportunity to bring Umberger into Columbus, he jumped at the chance.
"R.J. has really grown into the kind of player who I can sit down and talk to and have him get the message across to the other players that I want to get across through him as a leader," Hitchcock said.
He's on pace to have the best year of his career. He has 17 goals and 18 assists for 35 points. That would be third best on the Flyers right now.
But it's so much more than that with him. He gets the fans. He gets the media. He knows how to be communicative. He can express his feelings properly without sweating the small stuff. If he has a bad game and gets criticized for it, he's not going to let the printed words eat away at him. His Teflon personality works.
Here's all you need to know about the guy.
After the game tonight, rather than go immediately to the team bus, he sought me and another writer out and asked us to do him a favor.
He wanted us to let the fans of Philadelphia know that he wanted to come onto the ice to thank them for the way they've treated him, both in the past and tonight, but couldn't because there was an immediate team meeting after game.
"I don't want them to think I'm blowing them off or anything," he said.
He could have simply got on the bus to the airport. He could have popped in his I-pod and drowned out all distractions. He could have just ho-hummed his way through another loss and looked forward to a little nap on his short flight home.
Instead, he wanted to find a way to say thank you to the fans of Philadelphia and made it his mission.
He got to a couple of us. I spread the word through the press box in hopes that all in attendance at this game as well as all those who follow the FLyers from home get to see how genuine Umberger really is.
And who knows, maybe one day when he's a free agent, this organization will bring him back.
Because he always wanted to be a Flyer for the rest of his career. He has a tattoo of the logo to prove it.
And he is a model of what a class act is in the sport of hockey.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
You'll be hearing all about this tomorrow, but tonight Richards had a bit of a blow up with the local writers following a 5-3 loss to the Washington Capitals in D.C.
The crux of the disagreement was surrounding some quotes by Richards in the Jan. 25 edition of the Hockey News in which he is quoted as saying the Philadelphia Media makes things up when times are bad.
The exchange grew heated, so much so that at one point, coach Peter Laviolette had to get between Richards and one reporter (not yours truly) to prevent things from really going awry.
Before I express my opinion on the subject, I'm going to provide a transcription of the interview for all to read so you can begin to formulate your own opinions on the subject.
(NOTE: Two questions concerning the game were asked prior to these questions and have been omitted from this transcription for lack of relevance to the topic).
INQUIRER: A story was published this weekend where you say the Philadelphia media makes stuff up. Can you address that?
RICHARDS: The articles to begin with at the beginning of the year. Things like that.
INQUIRER: Such as?
RICHARDS: The drinking articles and things like that.
INQUIRER: The drinking articles?
RICHARDS: The articles… that’s why I didn’t talk to you for a month.
INQUIRER: I did an article that said that you drank?
INQUIRER: I have no idea what you are talking about. Elaborate please?
RICHARDS: Are you allowed to write something in the paper at any time that I say we didn’t…
INQUIRER: (interrupting) I didn’t.
RICHARDS: You didn’t write an article at the beginning of the year?
INQUIRER: That said you were drinking?
RICHARDS: That we’re out too much and that you asked Lupes (Joffrey Lupul, now with Anaheim) all the questions and everything? Anthony? Weren’t there articles?
DELCO TIMES: There were articles about those events but nothing naming you specifically.
RICHARDS: They said the players were drinking too much. Richards and Carter were out all the time.
INQUIRER: He (Lupul) said that?
RICHARDS: Isn’t that what the article said?
INQUIRER: No. I think that you’re making that up.
RICHARDS: Oh, O.K.
INQUIRER: You’re making it up.
CSNPHILLY.COM: The follow up to that is, do you think there’s a problem between us and you?
RICHARDS: Um.. Probably not. I haven’t even read the (Hockey News) article. I don’t know if I was misquoted or what was said. So, I can’t elaborate on that.
DELCO TIMES: I guess the question that might clear this up is, is this something that was brought up to you by the (Hockey News) writer, or was this something you brought back up again yourself?
RICHARDS: No. I’m not sure in this instance because it was a month-and-a-half ago. But, in the texting it was like, ‘What’s it like playing in Philadelphia?’ I said, ‘The media’s tough sometimes when we’re losing, it’s good what we’re winning.’ I can’t say exactly what I said but…
INQUIRER: (interrupting) You did say in the next sentence that ‘they make stuff up.’
RICHARDS: Oh, O.K.
COURIER POST OF NJ: Do you think you’re treated unfairly by us this season?
RICHARDS: No... Thanks guys. It was a pleasure, as usual.
Following this exchange Richards approached some writers privately to talk further. He was definitely upset. Soon, one of the writers started jawing with him and the two were face-to-face for a second before coach Peter Laviolette stepped between the two and separated them before it escalated any further.
Here's the thing. Is Richards a little too sensitive? Yes. Does he have to stop worrying so much about what is written about him? Yes. Does he need to embrace his captaincy a bit more and use it as a soap box of sorts. Yes.
Yet, I feel for the guy. I really do.
Here's the thing. Put yourself in his shoes. He's a 24-year-old single guy. He's also a handsomely-paid professional athlete. Now ask yourself, if you were him, wouldn't you be enjoying the good life a little bit too? I know I sure would.
Also, imagine you were a professional athlete. Imagine if every day people were writing things about you. Wouldn't you at least be interested in their opinions? Wouldn't you kind of use that as a guideline for the way you carry yourself in front of them? I know I would.
In the same magazine piece, Chris Pronger says this about being a young leader and dealing with the media:
"There's always a learning curve, but it's not always the way you think it's going to be an it's definitely not always going to be the easy way," he said. "The media turned on me pretty quick and I think that's why I had the reputation I had for the first seven, eight, nine years as not media-friendly. They weren't overly nice to me, so I thought, 'I'm not going to help them do their job if they're not nice to me.'
"Learning that lesson comes with the learning curve and maturity. You're going to have situations where things don't always go well and you have to learn how to deal with the bad times just as you have to learn to deal with the good.
"Mike is still a very young player and nobody's going to be perfect all the time. He's a pretty quiet guy who wants to lead by example and let his play be his voice,let his play be the tool that gets guys to buy in to what we're trying to do here. As a young leader with a lot of young players around, sometimes that's difficult.
"Guys are going to make mistakes, whether it's maturity issues, or game experiences. There are all sorts of things you encounter as a 24-year-old and you're going to look back years later and say 'Ahhh' - much like I did. I had to go through the exact same experiences as a young captain with a lot of pressure like Mike.
I can tell all these guys what's going to happen until I'm blue in the face, but they've got to go live it and make their own mistakes. They may heed some advice and not make some of the glaring mistakes I made, but they still have to live their lives and learn from their experiences."
That's a mouthful.
But he's right. Richards has some things to learn, and to be fair to Richards, there has been obvious growth. He still has room to grow, but again, it'll take time.
Where I side with him is that maybe we came on a bit too thick as writers today.
Maybe we made too much of this story in the Hockey News, which, in my opinion, went way overboard in it's description of the stories we all wrote about the Flyers young core of players (there were references to condom machines and Quagmire from the Family Guy).
But, criticism of the approach of the Hockey News story, which was certainly a few months too late on the subject, the post game story became a story only because we put ourselves into the story.
We could have spoken to Mike specifically about the game and let well enough alone. Or, we could have broached the subject a little differently, without ambushing him as we did. Some of the questions, to me, also seemed to be an attempt to goad Richards.
That's not fair. So, to see Richards lose his cool afterward, I can't say it wasn't completely justified.
Does there need to be better understanding between captain and media? Yes. But, was Richards a bit uptight and not answering with the right words, forcing the questioners to poke and prod him on the semantics of his answers without letting him express it properly? I think so too.
Hopefully there can be some resolution here, but at the same time, if Richards decides to not talk to us for awhile again, I can't say I don't understand.
EMERY GETS THE NOD
Emery gets the start in goal today against the Caps, and it makes sense.
Emery has been cleared to play for the last week, and he was a solid, if not spectacular goalie before getting injured.
HE played hurt for awhile, which skewed some of his numbers, but believe me, Emery was as sharp at the start of the season as Michael Leighton has been of late.
So, it's only fair that Emery get a chance to reclaim his spot as the No. 1 goalie.
Peter Laviolette was clearly riding Leighton until he lost, which happened Thursday in Toronto, however, don't expect Leighton to just fade into the abyss.
Unless Emery goes on an equally remarkable streak of 11 straight starts without a loss in regulation, it's likely Leighton will be back in net.
And if Emery struggles, be certain that Laviolette won't hesitate to go back to Leighton quickly.
Emery's start today signifies that the organization still considers him the No. 1 goalie, and rightfully so. He has done nothing wrong to deserve losing that spot.
But, it wouldn't be out of line to say that his grip on that spot is not nearly as firm as it was with Brian Boucher as his primary backup. If Emery stumbles, Leighton has proven he can carry the load and has the confidence not only in himself, but of his teammates and coaches as well.
One little note: Radio broadcaster Tim Saunders has grade 5 laryngitis and can't be the play-by-play man for today's game. Instead, Chris Therien will do play-by-play. Should be a fun broadcast! Good luck Bundy!
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
POWE/BETTS/LEIGHTON - WHO KNEW?
Mike Richards? Jeff Carter? Simon Gagne? Scott Hartnell? Chris Pronger? Ray Emery? Danny Briere?
Any or all would have made perfect sense.
But, if I told you it was Darroll Powe, Blair Betts and Michael Leighton, you would have told me I was "crazier than an (out)house rat."
(Bonus points if you can tell me the movie that line was from.)
Yet, they've been the catalysts for this 8-1-1 run that have vaulted the Flyers from 13th in the conference to seventh and only three points out of fifth.
Powe had a goal and an assist against Dallas Tuesday and Leighton had 27 saves to improve to 8-0-1 as a Flyers starter this season.
Meanwhile, Betts has fueled a penalty kill that has stopped 21 straight power plays and 35 of the last 37.
"I just got back when the team started to get rolling," said Powe, downplaying the coincidence of his return and the Flyers turnaround. "We had to learn a new system and it's just clicking right now."
But, Powe is more important than one would imagine to this roster.
“Well, when you talk about skating and speed, he brings that element in a lot of different areas," coach Peter Laviolette said about Powe. "He brings it on the forecheck, the penalty kill… defensively, he’s solid. When you’re strong down the middle, I think you become a stronger hockey team. So when you add [Blair] Betts and [Darroll] Powe down the middle to [Mike] Richards and [Jeff] Carter, you’ve got a good strength down the middle. Having Darroll back, as well as Blair, has been helpful in a lot of different areas.”
As for Leighton, how do you take the guy out at this point? He's been sensational. I think Laviolette will ride him until the hot streak ends, or until the schedule becomes more demanding, whichever comes first.
All said, the Flyers are playing their best hockey of the season right now, and if they can maintain some semblance of it the rest of the way, maybe the expectations weren't too high at the beginning of the season.
14 different Flyers registered at least one point in this win over Dallas. That's the first time since 12/31/97.
For some good little trivia, here are the 14 players who got a point in that game, an 8-0 win over Vancouver:
Trent Klatt, Rod Brind'Amour, Eric Lindros, Pat Falloon, Luke Richardson, Chris Gratton, John LeClair, Paul Coffey, Colin Forbes, Eric Desjardins, Daniel Lacroix, Janne Niinimaa, Vaclav Prospal and Shjon Podein.
Some other newsy notes:
* With the win, the Flyers currently own a 23-19-3 record and have 49 points, which puts them in seventh place in the Eastern Conference… At Home, they now have a 12-9-2 record.
* The Flyers currently have a four-game winning streak, where they have out scored the opposition by a combined score of 23-10… They have also gone 8-1-1 in their last 10 games, earning 17 out of a possible 20 points in the standings and have averaged 5.75 goals-per game in that span.
* During that span, the Flyers have scored the first goal in all 10 of those contests, in addition to recording a goal in the first period in 8 of those contests (5 of which have been multi-goal periods) the Flyers have allowed a goal in the first period in just 2 of the 10 games and have held them scoreless in 27 of 45 games on the season.
* The Flyers power play has scored a combined nine goals in the last five games, having gone 9-for-17 (52.9%) on the man advantage.
* The Flyers had 14 players record at least a point in tonight’s contest, marking the first time the Flyers have had 14 players or more record a point in game since Dec. 31, 1997 in an 8-0 win at Vancouver.
* Ian Laperriere has recorded at least a point in four of his last five games – 5 points (2G,3A)… He also recorded the first “Gordie Howe Hat Trick” for the Flyers since Mar. 28, 2008 at NJ (Randy Jones - 1G,1A, 1 fighting major)
* Mike Richards has a five-game point streak in which he has six points (3G,3A) and at least a point in eight of last 10 games - 12 points (6G,6A).
* Jeff Carter has recorded at least a point in seven of last 10 games for 11 points (4G,7A).
* Chris Pronger has points in five straight games, posting seven points (1G,7A) in that span, while also recording at least a point in nine of his last 12 games – 12 points (2G,10A).
* Simon Gagne has a five-game assist and point streak, where he has posted six points (1G,5A)… He also has 13 points (5G,8A) in 12 games since his return from injury on Dec. 19.
* Danny Briere has at least a point in seven of his last nine games for 11 points (5G,6A) in that span.
* Rookie James van Riemsdyk has at least a point in four of his last five games, posting seven points (3G,4A).
Thursday, January 7, 2010
ODDS AND ENDS FROM A WIN OVER THE PENS
I admit, I was skeptical about the Flyers recent run of success. Sure they were winning games, but they weren't beating good teams.
And yes, the remaining skeptics will say they played a Penguins team minus three regulars (Sergei Gonchar, Ruslan Fedotenko and Chris Kunitz) but the fact still remains that the Flyers have a gigantic mental block when it comes to their Keystone rivals.
So to jump out to a 2-0 lead in the opening minutes and to answer ever punch the Penguins had with a bigger counterpunch of their own says a lot about where the Flyers are now as opposed to where they were just before Christmas.
Consider this difference:
In the first 35 games, they averaged 2.71 goals per game. In the last eight, they've averaged 4.38.
In those first 35 games they scored four goals or more all of 10 times. In the last eight they've done in six times.
In the first 35 games they were 15-18-2, in the last eight they are 6-1-1.
Notice a difference?
When they score, they win. Pretty simple. And there's a big difference between when they score first and when they don't.
In the 17 games in which the Flyers have allowed the first goal, they are a putrid 3-14-0.
However, in the 26 games in which they're registered the first goal, they are 18-5-3.
It's the most lopsided differential in that statistic in the NHL.
Oh, and in this eight game stretch in which they are 6-1-1 they've scored first in each game. It's a mental thing with this team, it really is.
Other tidbits of note:
The Flyers had eight different players with at least two points:
Jeff Carter (2 goals), Mike Richards (1 goal, 1 assist), Chris Pronger (1 goal, 1 assist), James van Riemsdyk (2 goals), Matt Carle (1 goal, 2 assists), Darroll Powe (2 assists), Arron Asham (2 assists) and Danny Briere (2 assists).
The last time they had eight players with at least two points in a game was Nov. 15, 2006 in a 7-4 win at Anaheim.
The scorers in that game?
Forsberg, Peter C PHI 1 1
Gagne, Simon LW PHI 1 1
Kapanen, Sami RW PHI 2 0
Knuble, Mike RW PHI 1 1
Nedved, Petr C PHI 0 2
Pitkanen, Joni D PHI 0 2
Robitaille, Randy C PHI 0 2
Sanderson, Geoff LW PHI 1 1
- Despite the comfortable win, Oskars Bartulis and Braydon Coburn were still a minus-1. Coburn is now minus-5 in his last three games and Bartulis is a team-worst minus-12.
- Right now the Flyers best offensive player might be Danny Briere. He has benefited the most from Peter Laviolette's system. He has nine points in his last seven games and even though he's a notorious minus player, he's been a plus-5 in that span.
_ on the negative side, Sidney Crosby scored twice and now has 24 goals and 28 assists for 52 points in 30 career regular season games against the Flyers.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
MAGIC NO. 27
No, they weren't talking about Mika Pyorala.
Instead, they were talking about the number of wins the Flyers needed to get in the second half of the season to make the playoffs.
27 out of 41. That might sound like a lot, and considering the position the Flyers had put themselves in after the first 41 games, it will likely take 54 points to qualify for the postseason.
But, look at the schedule. Really look at it. Don't be snookered into the belief that a team like the Tampa Bay Lightning at 16-15-10 is above .500. They aren't. They've played 41 games and won 16. That means they've lost 25. They're a sub-.500 team.
So, with that in mind I offer you this stat: Including tonight, a game which the Flyers defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-2, the Flyers play 28 of their final 41 games against teams that are sub-.500 right now.
Usually the Flyers find themselves in the midst of a brutal schedule down the stretch, but this season, it doesn't seem to be breaking down that way. At no point in the remaining schedule do they play more than two straight games against plus-.500 teams.
So, getting at least 54 points, seems not only attainable, but likely.
Consider the Flyers are 5-1-1 in their last seven games. The five wins, all sub-.500 teams. In the first 41 games, they were 11-5-1 against teams that are currently below .500.
That's not to say this is going to be smooth sailing the rest of the way. THe schedule, while not as top-heavy as far as opponents, is certainly brutal in the way of travel and the number of games in short periods of time.
With the exception of next week when the Flyers play just two games, the Flyers play 11 weeks with either three or four games per week on the schedule.
There's a road trip to Calgary, Edmonton and Minnesota in early February that will likely force the players to pack their mukluks, a trip to Tampa, Florida and Buffalo fresh out of the Olympic break, and five-out of six on the road in nine days in mid-March with stops in New York, Nashville, Dallas, Atlanta and Ottawa.
So it won't be a joyride, but it's a schedule that works for the Flyers, could get them on a nice, little roll, and have them feeling confident heading into the postseason.