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Daily Times beat writer Anthony J. SanFilippo takes you inside the locker rooms of the Philadelphia Flyers and the rest of the NHL.

Friday, April 30, 2010


O.K., so last year went a little better for me when I was perfect in the first round.

Going 5-3 this year isn't great, but I matched all seven experts on ESPN, so I don't feel too bad... or do I?

Anyway, here are the picks for the second round (and yes I know it actually started last night with San Jose taking Game 1 against Detroit. It doesn't matter.)


4. Pittsburgh vs. 8. Montreal - Um, anyone disagree with me about Mike Green now?
Granted, he wasn't alone in messing the Capitals' bed, but he was brutal - on both ends of the ice. Ditto Alexander Semin, Alex Ovechkin, Joe Corvo and the rest of the Capitals (I'd be surprised to see Bruce Boudreau back behind the bench next year.... the Caps could use a little dose of Ken Hitchcock.)
But enough about the Caps. They're done. Jaroslav Halak was a hero for the Canadiens, and as such may have made Carey Price available via trade to the highest bidder (could be the Flyers). But the Canadiens also got some fine efforts from their four tiny forwards - Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta, Mike Cammalleri and Tomas Plekanec.
Yet, as nice a story as they were in Round 1, they advanced more because of Washington's implosion than their own resurgence. That won't happen against Pittsburgh.
Sidney Crosby will continue to prove why he's the MVP of the league and the Pens will cruise past the Canadiens into the Conference Finals - again.
Penguins in Five

No. 6 Boston vs. No. 7 Flyers
This will be an interesting series and will likely be determined by how disciplined the Flyers can play. In 5-on-5 situations, the Flyers should dominate the Bruins. It's on the special teams that Boston thrives.
If the Flyers can avoid the box with greater regularity than they did against New Jersey, it should be an easier series, even without Jeff Carter, Simon Gagne and Ian Laperriere.
If, however, the Flyers are regular visitors to the sin bin, the series will come down to a penalty kill minus it's best shot blocker and the Flyers ability to clear Boston traffic from in front of Brian Boucher.
The B's have an advantage in goal, despite how well Boucher has played, as Tuukka Rask was sensational in the opening series, but the Bruins don't score too often, which could mean a god matchup for the Flyers.
It will be a longer series, but the better team will prevail.
Flyers in Six.

1. San Jose vs. 5. Detroit
Yes. San Jose won Game 1. Yes, they'll win a couple more. Yes, this is the best series of the second round.
But I still believe in Detroit.
They're a team that knows how to win in the playoffs. They're a team that knows how to respond with their backs up against the wall.
They are very-well coached. They are disciplined within their system. They have two dangerous scoring lines and two really good lines of pluggers. Jimmy Howard hasn't been great in the playoffs so far, but neither has Evgeni Nabokov for the Sharks. In this series, goaltending won't be a difference maker. Both just have to survive. The one that outlasts the other will win. It's pretty simple.
As evenly matched as these two teams are (although if Patrick Marleau is out an extended period, the edge goes to Detroit on talent too) I'll take a team that knows how to win over a team still trying to figure it out.
Detroit in 7

2. Chicago vs. 3. Vancouver
Another fine matchup of two like-minded teams that are pretty even across the board. Chicago has a better defensive corps, but the nod in goal goes to the Canucks, so it's a wash. Offensively, the two teams are nearly identical - they both rely heavily on one big scoring line and then get nice secondary support from the rest of the forwards.
I thought Vancouver would be upset in the opening round, but they showed some resolve, even though the Kings pushed them pretty hard. It was an impressive showing.
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks have been my choice to win the West since October, so I can't change now. Still, it'll be a great series.
Call it Chicago in 7


One final note on the voting of Christian Ehrhoff over Mike Green (for fifth place) in my Norris ballot.

I'm not a huge fan of using statistics to measure a guy's worth, but since all my detractors threw stats at me about Green, I thought I'd offer up these comparisons:

Goals allowed by team per 60 minutes player is on ice:
Green 2.36
Ehrhoff 1.87

Goals allowed by team per 60 minutes player is on the bench:
Green 2.03
Ehrhoff 2.49

That means the Caps allow .33 more goals per 60 minutes when Green is on the ice than when he's not while the Canucks give up .62 fewer goals while Ehrhoff is on the ice, meaning Ehrhoff has better defensive numbers.

Want more?

Goals scored by opposition while player is on the ice
Green - 50 (worst per game average on Caps)
Ehrhoff - 41 (2nd best on Vancouver)

Oh, and Green was on the ice for 1170 faceoffs for the Caps this season, only 296 in his own zone, an average of 3.6 per game - his own coaches don't even trust him enough to have him on the ice for key defensive zone draws.

And not that it mattered for the voting, but...

Green was on the ice for 7 of the 10 even strength goals scored by Montreal in the opening round series.

I'm just saying...

Friday, April 23, 2010


It's a bad day to be a hockey writer.

We all look pretty bad today. I mean REALLY bad today. We all look like we don't know the first thing we're talking about when it comes to the sport of hockey.

How else can anyone explain Washington Defenseman Mike Green being a finalist for the Norris Trophy as the sport's best defenseman over Chris Pronger and Niklas Lidstrom, among several others?

Look, the guy is very talented. He's got a ton of offensive skill and one of the hardest slap shots in the NHL. He's a gifted offensive player on a gifted offensive team.

But the terminology used for this award, the one many of my fellow scribes failed to even read, choosing instead to let their picks be dictated by the defensive scoring leaders, reads as follows:

NORRIS TROPHY - ("given to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-around ability in the position")

Any person who chooses to put the word greatest with Green's defensive resume should turn in their Professional Hockey Writers' Card post haste.

There's a reason Green was left off the Canadian Olympic Team. As good as he is at one end of the ice he's certifiably scary at the other end.

Don't believe me? Go back and look at the goals Montreal has scored when he's been on the ice in the playoffs and watch him.

Don't believe me, wait until next week when he and fellow turnover machine Joe Corvo are deers in headlights against the Flyers relentless forecheck.

One of the reasons the Flyers beat Washington in the 2008 playoffs and Pittsburgh did the same to the Caps last season was because they forced Green to make quick decisions in his own end, many of which were bad choices.

That's why Steve Yzerman didn't want him on the Canadian team. He knew Olympic hockey was going to be akin to the NHL playoffs and the opposition was going to be coming en masse in the defensive zone. Relying on Green could have been a Canadian disaster.

Instead, he went with guys like Pronger and Brent Seabrook, far more defensively responsible rearguards than Green.

But, it's becoming painfully obvious that many of my colleagues have grown lazy and decide to vote just for the numbers they see on the leader board and take no consideration into the actual definition of the award.

The top three defensive scorers in the NHL? In order, Green, Duncan Keith, Drew Doughty.

The Norris Finalists?

You guessed it, Green, Keith and Doughty.

Luckily for the hockey writers who vote on this award, Doughty and Keith are both deserving. Not only are they top-tier offensive talents, but they are shutdown defensemen playing big minutes against the opposition's best lines.

But Green? really?

Part of the problem may be that not all of the writers, who before today I thought were a lot more clued in, were able to vote.

I've begun an inquiry into this belief, because I know not all of the beat writers in Philadelphia were afforded the chance to vote this season, whereas in previous seasons they were.

I also know that not all of the Philly writers were given the chance to vote for the Masterton Award, where we have a legitimate candidate this year in Michael Leighton.

I know that because I was one of three writers left off the Masterton list despite having voted in each previous season I've been on the beat.

However, I did vote for all the normal league-wide awards. Here is a copy of my ballot:

(1) NHL Trophies

HART TROPHY ("to the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team") -- Five selections.

1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

2. Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

3. Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks

4. Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks

5. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning

NORRIS TROPHY ("to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position") -- Five selections.

1. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings

2. Chris Pronger, Philadelphia Flyers

3. Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks

4. Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings

5. Christian Ehrhoff, Vancouver Canucks

CALDER TROPHY ("to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition") -- Five selections.
(Note: An eligible player cannot have played more than 25 NHL games in any single preceding season nor in six or more games in each of any two preceding seasons. A player must not have attained his 26th birthday by Sept. 15 of the season in which he is eligible.)

1. Tyler Myers, Buffalo Sabres

2. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins

3. Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings

4. Matt Duchene, Colorado Avalanche

5. John Tavares, New York Islanders

LADY BYNG TROPHY ("to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability") -- Five selections.

1. Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning

2. Brad Richards, Dallas Stars

3. Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings

4. Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa Senators

5. Andrew Brunette, Minnesota Wild

SELKE TROPHY ("to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game") -- Five selections.

1. Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks

2. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins

3. Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings

4. Jarret Stoll, Los Angeles Kings

5. Vernon Fiddler, Phoenix Coyotes

(2) NHL All-Star Team

CENTER -- Three selections.

1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

2. Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks

3. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning

RIGHT WING -- Three selections.

1. Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks

2. Marian Gaborik, New York Rangers

3. Dany Heatley, San Jose Sharks

LEFT WING -- Three selections.

1. Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

2. Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks

3. Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks

DEFENSE -- SIX selections.

1. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings

2. Chris Pronger, Philadelphia Flyers

3. Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks

4. Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings

5. Christian Ehrhoff, Vancouver Canucks

6. Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins

GOALTENDER -- Three selections.

1. Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres

2. Ilya Bryzgalov, Phoenix Coyotes

3. Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils

(3) NHL All-Rookie Team

FORWARD -- Three selections, regardless of position.

1. Matt Duchene, Colorado Avalanche

2. John Tavares, New York Islanders

3. T.J. Galiardi, Colorado Avalanche

DEFENSE -- Two selections.

1. Tyler Myers, Buffalo Sabres

2. Cody Franson, Nashville Predators

GOAL -- One selection.

1. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Both Simon Gagne and Jeff Carter will miss game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the New Jersey Devils with right foot injuries suffered in Tuesday's 4-1 Flyers' win in Game 4 at Wachovia Center.

Gagne blocked a Brian Rolston shot from the point on a Devils' power play in the second period and suffered a fractured toe, although the Flyers still haven't publicly declared that's what the injury actually is.

Gagne didn't return to the game.

Carter took a shot from Chris Pronger off his right foot before scoring his second goal of the game. He took one more shift the rest of the game but spent the rest of the period on the bench.

He said the shot hit him in his shin and he's fine. Turns out that's not true.

Carter is already playing with a surgically implanted screw into his left foot for a fracture near his arch, and now has a problem with the other foot as well.

The loss of two of their top six forwards is a big blow for the Flyers, who hold a 3-1 series lead and are looking to close out the Devils tomorrow night in Game 5 at Prudential Center in Newark.

A team source has indicated that Ville Leino and David Laliberte will be the two forwards inserted into the lineup to replace the injured Flyers.

More to come later from Sports Editor Rob Parent, who is at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J. today providing our Flyers' coverage.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Paul Holmgren wouldn't say anything, reminding the gathered media that "It's the playoffs" so any clues to injuries is verboten.

That doesn't stop us from digging.

I was able to procure from a team source that Simon Gagne did in fact have x-rays taken on his right foot and a fractured toe was discovered.

He will be reevaluated today and will likely be considered day-to-day right up until game time for Game 5 Thursday.

If Gagne can't go, look for Ville Leino to be brought into the lineup and a line shuffling to follow.

Gagne took a slapper from Brian Rolston off his foot on a Devils' power play in the second period. and never returned to the ice.

Jeff Carter also took a puck to the leg, it came from a Chris Pronger slapper and actually ended up in the net for Carter's second goal, but only took one more shift that lasted 33 seconds and didn't play again afterward.

Carter said he's fine and that the puck hit off his shin pad, but that may have been a bit misleading as the puck seemed to hit him higher up the leg in a spot with little or no padding.

Carter is already playing on a fractured foot and will certainly play through this as well.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


After the throng of cameras and microphones had wandered out of the Flyers' locker room following their thrilling 3-2 overtime win over the New Jersey Devils in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Mike Richards was trying to catch his breath.

We stood there talking for a minute about his energy, and how it doesn't come off the ice with him after playoff games are over.

"I'm petty exhausted right now and emotionally it's draining," he told me. "It's nice to get the win because I would be even that much more tired if we had lost. I try to leave it all out there every night. I never want to save anything for the next day, because there may not be a next day."

And he's not joking. Richards has been sensational in the playoffs. Heck, it started in the last game of the season against the Rangers and has been building from there.

He's winning big faceoffs. He's killing penalties. He's scoring goals. He 's leading the team in assists. His six points in three games are, well, Crosby-like.

He's being a leader. And the Flyers are buying in to what he's doing and following.

“That’s certainly what you hope for," Peter Laviolette said. "Mike’s been our best forward for four games straight now. He’s really on both ends of the ice – offensively, defensively, penalty kill – he’s leading by example on the ice. He’s done an excellent job.”

And he has his teammates believing in him too.

“He’s playing amazing,” said Dan Carcillo, the scorer of the game-winning goal. “He’s an elite player in this league and he’s playing like it. He’s our leader. He doesn’t say much off the ice but on the ice it’s hard not to follow him. He’s really doing everything out there.”

Leave all the outspoken stuff to Chris Pronger, whose been the Flyers best defenseman. Richards will take care of how to play on the ice.

"He's got the worst body on the team but he puts his body in front of everything, whether it's a puck or anything," Ian Laperriere said while comparing Richards' physique to his eight-year-old son. "He's one of those all around players. He might not be as flashy as Crosby over on the other side of the state but he's as effective or even more."

Richards is doing it the way Yzerman used to for the Red Wings by letting his play do the talking.

"Everybody was playing that way, not just me," Richards said ever-so-humbly. "If I walked you back into our changing room right now you'd see about a dozen guys sprawled out on the couches. Everybody was working hard, finishing hits and doing what we need to do because it's the best time of the year to play hockey."

Thing is, they wouldn't be doing it if Richards weren't doing it first - just like a captain should.


Just a note or five to all the Devils' fans who took umbrage with my post prior to Game 2 about the atmosphere at Prudential Center:

First of all, I wanted to thank all of you for turning the comments section of my blog into a script from Jersey Shore. Fine family reading.

Secondly, you all complained that I used an old picture from a snow game rather than an actual picture from Game 2. Considering the blog was posted BEFORE the Game, that would be pretty difficult to do. There's an invention known as time-stamping. You should familiarize yourself with it.

Third, while the attendance was marginally better for Game 2 than Game 1 there were still a bunch of empty seats for Game 2. Again, the announced sell out was misleading. It's tickets sold, not tickets used.

Fourth... here's a reading comprehension lesson - don't just skim a story, read the whole thing. I credited the fans as knowledgeable. I just said they weren't passionate. I also wasn't a homer as many suggested, instead saying the best crowds were in Montreal and Washington. Then again, when you have an inferiority complex with Rangers fans to the north and Flyers fans to the south, I guess I shouldn't expect different.

(And by the way, BIG difference between crowds from Game 2 to Game 3... not even close)

Finally, I have noting but complete respect for the Devils as a franchise. I think they are one of the best-run organizations in all of professional sports. I'm sure many true Devils' fans appreciate all that Lou Lamoriello and his staff do to keep them as an elite NHL organization.

Shame those folks from North Jersey weren't the ones reading my blog.

Friday, April 16, 2010


I've seen a lot of debate on line today about the crowd and the atmosphere at the Prudential Center.

As someone who sits in the building for these Flyers-Devils games, I think I can speak on this subject with some authority.

The atmosphere at the Rock stinks.

It's depressing, for the sport of hockey, to have a playoff game with a bevy of unoccupied seats.

The Devils' announced a sell out for Game 1. It was a crock. They may have sold the seats, but the actual numbers in attendance were far less.

There were whole rows of seats empty. There were sections with sporadic attendance the entire game.

Oh, and the fans sit on their hands far too much.

That's not to say Devils' fans in attendance are bad hockey fans, they're just not passionate. There's a big difference.

Walk into Bell Centre in Montreal or the Verizon Center in Washington and you can't hear yourself think... in pre-game warmups.... for a regular season game.

Those fan bases are loud, boisterous, and know how to have a good time at a hockey game. They also give their team a decided home ice advantage.

Not in New Jersey.

Nope. The Rock is dead. There are always a large contingent of Flyers' fans who travel to nearby arenas, but nowhere are they louder than New Jersey. That's because although they might infiltrate Washington or Madison Square Garden in New York, the hometown fans do a fine job of drowning them out.

Not in New Jersey.

And this is nothing new. The Devils have always had a below-bar environment. From their days at the cavernous Meadowlands Arena that had a variety of names - most notably Brendan Byrne Arena - it always seemed the visiting Philadelphians were much more cacophonous.

The Prudential Center is a fine arena. It's a huge upgrade over the Devils' previous home. The seats are comfortable. The amenities are far superior. The concourses are open and spacious.

But, the atmosphere has not changed.

Yes, those were chants for Boucher you heard coming through your television sets, not Devils' fans voicing their displeasure in their team's Game 1 defeat.

So, in my mind, there is no debate. Playoff hockey should have a unique environment. One that is electric, anxiety-driven, and full of raw emotion.

It is practically everywhere else.

Just, not in New Jersey.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


It looks like Oskars Bartulis may have cost himself with that double-minor high-sticking penalty.
According to a source the Daily Times learned the Flyers will re-insert Ryan Parent into the lineup for Game 2 against New Jersey.
Parent had been scratched from Game 1 as he struggled down the stretch with his decision-making with the puck. However, Parent offers more of a defensive presence than either Bartulis or Lukas Krajicek, who skated only 8:20 in Game 1.
Bartulis took a double-minor for high-sticking early in the third period of Game 1 forcing the Flyers to expend a lot of energy killing off two penalties, and allowing the Devils to reclaim momnetum in a game the Flyers were controlling to that point.
The Devils didn't score on that power play, but kept the pressure in the Flyers zone for the remainder of the period and eventually drew closer by getting a goal from Travis Zajac in the final minutes.
Bartulis played 11:27 total in the game.
A peek at tomorrow's notebook:
Brian Boucher ended a streak of nine years and 329 days between playoff wins with his victory in Game 1. It was the third longest streak between postseason victories for a goalie in NHL History.
“Sugar” Jim Henry of the Boston Bruins holds the record of 10 years and 1 day set between 1942 and 1952.
Second all-time also involved a Flyers’ goalie.
Sean Burke went nine years and 347 days between wins from 1988 to 1998. In 1998 he was the goalie for the Flyers in an opening round playoff loss to Buffalo. The Flyers lost that series in five games. Burke had the only win that postseason.


...this is why Chris Pronger was brought to Philadelphia.

To be a difference-maker. To be a physical presence. To bring a whole lot of nasty to the postseason.

Sure it seemed like he was saving it at times during the regular season - you can't be the meanest S.O.B. 82 games a year. But, he still had a Norris Trophy-worthy season and he still was the Flyers' MVP.

The difference is now, when the games matter more than at any other point, he's a great enough player to elevate his game where it needs to be.

Like being in place in front of Martin Brodeur to score a power play goal - somewhere defensemen don't tend to roam.

Like killing off 6:35 of the 10 minutes the Flyers were shorthanded.

Like taking 34 shifts and spending 30:01 on the ice - yes, that's more than half the game.

Like leaning on Zach Parise or Patrik Elias or Travis Zajac or Jamie Langenbrunner or Brian Rolston or Ilya Kovalchuk, or whoever was trying to get at his goalie.

In short, Pronger was a beast. He was the star of the game. He had help - Ian Laperriere, Mike Richards, Simon Gagne and Blair Betts were pretty darn good up front while Matt Carle, Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn were solid on the back end, but make no mistake, this was Pronger's party, and everyone else was lucky to have an invite.

Here's another guarantee - you can count on these types of performances from Pronger as long as the Flyers' are alive and kicking.


Brian Boucher was great in goal again. He stopped 23 of 24 shots and now has allowed just 10 goals in his last six starts and has a save percentage of .935. Stellar.

As for Betts and Laperriere, they saw more ice time in Game 1 (15:15 and 15:53 respectively) than:

Dan Carcillo (11:31)
Claude Giroux (11:38)
Darroll Powe (12:51)
Arron Asham (8:29)
James van Riemsdyk (5:29)
Danny Briere (12:18)

So don't let anyone fool you into believing they're fourth liners. That duo is more important to the Flyers than mostly any pair of forwards you can put together.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Here is the Flyers' playoff schedule vs. the New Jersey Devils:

GAME 1 Wed 4/14 @ New Jersey 7:30 p.m.

GAME 2 Fri 4/16 @ New Jersey 7:30 p.m.

GAME 3 Sun 4/18 @ Philadelphia 6 p.m.

GAME 4 Tue 4/20 @ Philadelphia 7:30 p.m.

*GAME 5 Thu 4/22 @ New Jersey 7:30 p.m.

*GAME 6 Sun 4/25 @ Philadelphia TBD

*GAME 7 Tue 4/27 @ New Jersey 7:30 p.m.

*If necessary

Saturday, April 3, 2010


What did you think of that Jaroslav Halak after the game last night, eh?

This is the same guy that many reports insisted Paul Holmgren chose not to trade for over the summer for a 2nd round pick.

Well the 24-year-old Slovakian goalie, who appears to be the go-to guy for Montreal as they head into the playoffs, stole a game from the Flyers by making 35 saves en route to a 1-0 shutout.

It was a crushing loss for the Flyers, who fell to the No. 8 seed in the East. Meanwhile, it was a huge win for the Habs, who now probably only need three points in their last four games - three of which are against non-playoff teams - to lock up a playoff berth.

Yeah, the game was that important last night.

The Flyers threw everything they had at Halak. It was their most complete effort of the season. And yet, Halak stopped every shot.

He made 35 saves as the Flyers basically played a game of pinball with the puck in the Montreal zone all night and played it very well, but just couldn't get the ball into the "lock" hole.

But there is something more to this performance than Halak.

I spoke with Marc-Antoine Godin, a beat writer for La Presse in Montreal, who followed up my story from earlier this week about the Flyers offseason interest in acquiring a young goalie with NHL experience.

I hinted that it might be Carey Price, but Godin, who did some research on the Montreal end, told me he thinks Halak is the more likely candidate to be moved.

He said the Canadiens still think Price has more value long term and if Halak stays hot, as he is right now, he could garner good value.

Godin also pointed out that the Canadiens have salary cap issues of their own and wouldn't want to take a big money player in return and might ask for either Claude Giroux or James van Riemsdyk in return.

We will have a video discussing this online later this morning, but the fact remains that the Flyers and Canadiens will e talking extensively this summer.

The question though is, would you part with either one of your young and upcoming stars for Halak?

Interesting, especially since his price seemed a lot lower last summer.