Blogs > In The Room with Anthony SanFilippo

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

Saturday, December 18, 2010


That's the question of the day today.

Oh, sure, the Flyers will hit a point in the next 4-6 weeks where they'll say, "Boy we really wish we had Chris Pronger right about now," but Saturday wasn't one of those games.

Instead, the Flyers downed the New York Rangers 4-1 behind some pretty solid defensive play.

Andrej Meszaros jumped into Pronger's spot with Matt Carle and the duo didn't miss a beat.

Replacing Meszaros on the back end of the defensive rotation was Oskars Bartulis, playing for the first time since Nov. 1. He was paired with Sean O'Donnell and the duo played well.

The Flyers defensive depth has been a huge part of their resurgence to the top of the NHL standings, and Meszaros and O'Donnell have been a bit unheralded in what they've done for the team.

As for Bartulis, he's been a forgotten man, playing in just his fourth game of the season Saturday, with his other appearances coming when Pronger missed the opening two games of the season recovering from knee surgery and Meszaros served a one-game suspension.

“I thought Oskars [Bartulis] did a terrific job," coach Peter Laviolette said. "He came in and was very aggressive in our system. He played a strong game for us after not playing for a long time. That’s not an easy thing to do. It goes back to what we were talking about being out of the game and getting back in there and all of the sudden everything is live. Games are, but if you’ve been practicing for awhile you don’t get that, but he came in and did a terrific job.

"I thought Mesz [Andrej Meszaros] jumped in and took extra minutes, he played. I thought defensively we were pretty tight. I thought there was a shift or two that I didn’t like, but other than that defensively I thought we were tight.”

Here's the transcript of the Pronger conference call from this morning. I'm betting that unless Pronger is really needed, this recovery will be closer to six weeks than four.

However, if things go awry, we might see him before the All-Star break. He next goes to the doc on Jan. 5.

Flyers Defenseman Chris Pronger conference call transcript:

Q: Can you tell us a little about what they had to do and how you’re feeling?

“I’m feeling all right. I was moving my foot right after they did the surgery; they put a couple screws in the bone to help strengthen it and hopefully allow it to heal faster and give it, as I said, the strength it’s going to need to recover hopefully in a timely fashion.”

Q: Chris, can you tell us how it happened? You blocked a shot. Who took the shot and did you think it was broken right away?

“I don’t know who took it. It might have been [Brian] Gionta, I’m not positive. I kind of remember the play. It was in the midst of my three and a half minute shift toward the end of the second period and I think it was maybe five minutes left in the period. I think it was half way through that shift; I happened to be on one knee in front and the shot came and just hit me in the right spot on my foot, right on my laces on the lace holes; and I think, probably it broke because I wasn’t standing on my skate or applying any pressure on my foot. You know, it just hit me in the right spot and for whatever reason this is what happened.”

Q: You’ve been blocking shots for a long time in your career. Have you ever had anything similar to this, like this happen before? If so, what’s the recovery like for you?

“I had, not to this extent, but a similar injury like this in Anaheim but to my other foot almost in the small spot on a very similar play. It wasn’t a very hard shot, it was right off the draw, a little wrist shot. I went to block the shot, I picked up my skate and opened my foot and it hit me almost on the exact same spot as this one and that broke my foot as well. It hits you in the right spot on your boot.”

Q: How long did you miss with that broken foot?

“It was obviously a little bit different, I didn’t need screws or anything like that. Maybe three and a half weeks. It was a different break; this one I think was a worse break so the timeframe is obviously different.”

Q: Were there other options; I know when [Flyers General Manager] Paul [Holmgren] talked to us he wanted to explore other options to see if surgery was necessary. Were there a couple different options for you?

“Well I needed to meet with the foot specialist and see what he thought. I went in Thursday morning and got a CT scan and a proper x-ray. He was in surgery all day so he didn’t get a chance to see it until later that evening and kind of went though it and had his thoughts and made his notes. We spoke Friday morning to kind of go over it and talk about the break and what he thought would be necessary in order to keep it, not only strong, but allow it the best possible chance to heal properly and to get my back on the ice.”

Q: Jeff Carter had a similar injury last year in the playoffs. He said he came back after four and a half weeks and he wasn’t close to being 100%. Based on that would you err on the side of caution and drag it out to six weeks or seven weeks to make sure you’re 100%?

“I don’t know everybody’s different. His injury, while you may think it’s similar because it’s to the foot, it’s different. He had a plate put in and I had a couple screws. It may sound like it’s not that big of a deal but sometimes it can be. I think it’s a little too easy to compare this, that and the other thing. You’ve got to remember, this happened in the middle of a playoff run which changes the dynamics and dimension of injuries and what you’re willing to put yourself through to get back. Obviously, with the timeframe of the year and where we’re at, we’ve got the luxury of the All-Star break coming up right on the heels of when I could possibly return. There’s a lot of different variables coming in, we’ll just see how it heals and how it progresses.”

Q: Did you weigh the fact that you only have 11 games in the next month as a good sign? Had this been April would you have played through it depending on where you were in the standings?

“Well like I said it depends on a lot of different things. [Carter’s] situation was a little different because we were in the middle of the playoffs. You do what you can to help your team win and you come back. Obviously four and half weeks you’re not 100%. I don’t really know the extent of his foot injury, what he broke and what they had to fix. Everybody’s going to be different, everybody’s body heals differently. We’ll wait and see and see where…I’ve got to get checked up again on January 5th and then again two weeks after that to see how it’s healing and see how it’s calcifying.. I don’t think there’s any easy way for me to tell you when I’ll be back and how it’s going to heal. I don’t have a crystal ball, so it’s kind of a wait-and-see approach. We kind of take it with each kind of, I guess analysis, and each appointment after that.”

Q: Have you broken that foot before?

“Not that spot, no.”

Q: Have you broken it in another spot before?

“I don’t know, to be honest with you because sometimes, you know if you break the outside of your foot or you break your toe or something you just put it in an ice bucket and you keep playing. To be honest with you, I don’t know. I haven’t broken it over there where it’s…obviously when you start with your big toe and that ball of your foot and that side of your feet are such a big part of skating, walking and power movements. The outside of your foot is a lot easier to break and get away with. Most other break would come on my left foot but I wouldn’t be surprised if I went back and looked at medical records and to see that maybe I did break it or maybe it was broken and we didn’t do anything about it, I don’t know. I couldn’t give you a proper answer on that. ”

Q: Chris do you think playing in the All-Star game is a long shot? Or is that something you’ve totally ruled out?

“I’m not too worried about the All-Star game.”

Q: Considering the defensive staff that you have on this team, are you pretty confident that the guys that are there can step up their minutes and play some decent hockey?

“I am. I think this is one of the exact reasons and instances why we made the moves we did in the offseason – to have more depth through our defense corps. When Homer [Holmgren] made these moves he talked about our top four defenseman missed a total of two or four games, something silly that most teams don’t go through. It was just a matter of time; one of us was going to get hurt at some point. It’s a long stretch on last year and a lot of minutes and luck. We got lucky last year. We got guys that were a little banged up but they were able to play through. At some point you’re going to get injuries where you’re not going to be able to play through them. This was one of those cases. I think you’ve seen now, with the depth on our backend, for the most part we’re rolling three sets of [defense]. I might be the high guy with like 22 or 23 minutes and the low guy might be at 17 or 18 minutes. We’re getting a pretty good roll of the bench and that only helps you when you get guys into situations and keeps them sharp. This is an opportunity for Oskars [Bartulis] to get into the lineup and play and get back into the rhythm of playing. He’s obviously sat out a long time and it’s not easy.”

Q: How big are your feet?

“They’re big enough. How’s that for an answer?” (laughs)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


O.K., first thing's first... looks like the Flyers weren't stretching the truth this time about Matt Walker.

Turns out he has injured his other hip now and will need similar surgery to repair the damage. This will likely cost him another six weeks.

Funny how these things always seem to work out for the Flyers though...

As for Jody Shelley, He had some great stuff to say about the suspension. He's as forthright and honest as they come. Here's what he said Monday at practice:

So, the Penguins come into tonight's game riding a 12-game winning streak, and now they'll get Evgeni Malkin back. Don't expect that to mess with the chemistry. The Penguins are very good, and Malkin will make them better.

You might be watching the two best teams in the Eastern Confeence go at it in an entertaining game.

“A little more Christmas cheer, I guess, in December,” Sidney Crosby said about how it feels to play the FLyers with both teams going so well. “No, I don’t feel the difference. It could be December, March or October. It usually feels the same.”

It certainly does for Crosby who has 60 points (26G, 34A) in 35 career regular season games against the Flyers.

By the way, that ratio (1.71 points per game) is third best against the Flyers all-time. The top two?

Mario Lemieux (1.75) and Wayne Gretzky (1.72).

Pretty elite company.

As for the goalies....

Look for Brian Boucher to start again tonight against the Penguins. His numbers in his recent starts have been too good to keep him on the bench. That and Sergei Bobrovsky taking nearly an extra half hour of practice after both Boucher and Michael Leighton left the ice tells you the team is concerned with Bob and feels he has some things he needs to work on.

Don't be surprised if Bob's workload is diminished in the near future to ride a hot Boucher, get Leighton some time and get Bobrovsky to fine-tune his work.

Friday, December 10, 2010


First the news of significance:

Matt Walker was sent to the Phantoms today for a conditioning assignment. He will join goalie Michael Leighton there, who is on an extended conditioning stint of his own.

Walker had surgery to repair a torn labrum and other cleanup in his hip on Oct. 20. He was expected to miss eight-10 weeks. Technically, he's back sooner than that.

This will be the first action since the preseason for the 30-year-old defenseman acquired in the Simon Gagne trade with Tampa Bay.

Now, here's the crazy rule the NHL has in place - someone find the common sense in this one:

Because Walker was not placed on the long-term injury list - as Leighton was - his conditioning assignment can be longer than Leighton's at 14 days maximum.

Leighton was limited to six days, with an additional three after the team petitioned the league for an extension.

Why is it then, that a player who is on long-term injury, presumably because of a more serious injury, is afforded less time to recondition in the minors than a player who was not on long-term injury.

Granted, Walker's surgery was one of the more serious you find in the sport, it's just that the Flyers never put him on the long-term injury list, but technically, couldn't a team who has a player sidelined by a much lesser injury, who it is keeping scratched from the lineup, be sent on a two-week conditioning assignment at the whim of the organization?

Maybe I'm misunderstanding something here - and please, correct me if I am - but it seems foolish that an injury that takes longer to recover from is granted a shorter rehab leash than a lesser one.

Anyway, now that I'm back from my tangent, this means the Flyers will have to make not one, but two roster decisions in the coming two weeks - well, a little more than two weeks because no moves are allowed to be made until after Christmas and Walker's conditioning stint ends on Christmas Eve.

Still, Leighton is due back with the team Monday, and two weeks later a decision will have to be made about Walker - and if he's brought back to the big club, who does he replace?

It's almost as if the Flyers are dragging their feet a bit in anticipation of an injury to an active player - there always is one at this time of year, isn't there?

But, if the Flyers cheat fate, and everyone stays healthy, than the decisions will have to be made.


With a complete off day in Boston Friday, the Flyers were able to do whatever they wanted - some went Christmas shopping, some just enjoyed the town. Others went to the movies to see "The Fighter."

We'll try and get reviews for you tomorrow at the morning practice, but the team was looking forward to a day off on the road to just relax. They'll need it too because it's going to be a ramped up atmosphere at the TD Garden tomorrow as the Flyers return to the scene of the crime for the first time since their historic victory over the Bruins in the Eastern Conference Semifinals last May.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


There's no question Sergei Bobrovsky has been a pleasant surprise for the Flyers this season.

He's stormed onto the scene, won over the hearts of a fan base thirsting for a franchise goalie for more than a decade, and is already getting serious consideration not only for the Calder Trophy as the NHL's rookie of the year, but for the All Star game where he is second in voting behind Montreal's Carey Price - and both are write-in candidates.

And why not have this kind of excitement? After all, the 22-year-old, undrafted rookie from Russia has gone 14-4-3 in 22 starts this season (one no decision) with a goals against average of 2.29 and a save percentage of .922.

All of those totals have him among the league leaders in each category, something the Flyers haven't had since the days of the talented but enigmatic Roman Cechmanek in an era where defense ruled the sport.

As a matter of fact, what Bobrovsky has done so far this season can more equate statistically with Pelle Lindbergh, considering their eras are more similar based on offensive production around the league.

That's certainly worth shouting about, isn't it?

Except, those numbers, while very good, are a little flawed.

Following Wednesday's 5-4 loss to the Sharks in which the Flyers blew a three-goal lead in the third period, and one in which Bobrovsky looked seriously over-matched in the shootout against Logan Couture and Ryane Clowe, I decided to do some number-crunching.

It was actually something I had been thinking about for a few days after noticing that Bobrovsky was one of only two goalies in the NHL (Kari Lehtonen in Dallas was the other) to have started 15 or more games this season without recording a shutout.

My hypothesis was that Bobrovsky hasn't beaten any really good teams this year, and has, in fact struggled mightily against them.

So, to test my theory, I put the numbers to work, and here's what I came up with:

This season, against teams that currently have winning records (as of Dec. 8, 2010) Bobrovsky is 5-4-2. Well, that didn't really justify my theory. It's not a great record, but it's decent enough.

But then I broke down his last 10 starts against winning teams and here's what I found:

Record: 3-4-2
GAA: 3.06
Save Pct: .889

Not really numbers you want to create a parody of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" about now are they?

Here are the breakdowns of the wins:

- A strong effort in Pittsburgh at the end of October, where he stopped 26 of 28 shots against a struggling Penguins team (who has since surpassed the Flyers in the standings, winning 11 straight - which means Tuesday's game at Wells Fargo Center will be a much different measuring stick).

- A comfortable win against the Rangers at home in a game where his team played strong defense in front of him as he only faced 21 shots, stopping 20.

- A dominating performance in Minnesota where the Flyers buried the Wild (6-1) and Bobrovsky only faced 16 shots.

However, in the other seven games, Bob has allowed three goals four times, four goals twice and five goals once.

His best performance, maybe of the season, came in a loss - the overtime game in Washington last month when he stopped 36 of 39 shots fired his way, but you would expect he would be a bit ramped up playing against countrymen Alexander Ovechkin and Alexander Semin for the first time.

Otherwise, he's just been average against the better competition.

Now, I know that some of you are thinking, what's wrong with that? That bludgeoning the bad teams and playing .500 against the good teams will equate to pretty good success over the course of a season.

I don't disagree. But the question here is not about how the Flyers will finish the regular season - they almost certainly will be a top 4 seed in the East - but more so about how the rookie goalie may fare in April and May against good teams when the games really count.

He has proven that he's good enough to dominate the Islanders, Devils, Maple Leafs, Panthers and Hurricanes of the world (9-0-1 against sub-.500 teams) but he hasn't won a big game against a top level opponent since Pittsburgh at the end of October.

Maybe this is something the Flyers have noticed a little bit too, which is why coach Peter Laviolette turned to Brian Boucher for benchmark games against Washington and Montreal a couple weeks back rather than Bobrovsky. Boucher won both, getting the Flyers back to the top of the NHL standings.

And if that's the case, this raises some questions:

1. Is Bobrovsky ready for this NHL grind? His previous high for a season was 35 starts. He has 22 now and it's not even Christmas.

2. Has his team's defensive play fallen off in front of him? Considering how well they were playing just one month ago, maybe it has, which could account for some of the goals (discipline is also a part of the problem there) but with that in mind, wouldn't you feel more comfortable if the goalie could bail out his teammates when they make mistakes in front of him?

3. Has Laviolette put too much pressure on the rookie to be successful too early? There's no question Laviolette is a brilliant coach who often pushes the right buttons. However, it seems that maybe he coaches a little too desperate with a team that doesn't need to have desperation 24/7 any more.
Last season, it was adamant that they had that desperation night in and night out. They were in 29th place in the NHL and needed to make the playoffs. There was no room for ebbs and flows.
This season is different. The Flyers don't expect to be fighting for their playoff lives every night of the season, so the coach may be able to ease off the pedal just a tad. If nothing else, for the goalie's mental state, rest him a bit more. Boucher has been serviceable this season. Throwing him a bone a little more regularly may help Bobrovsky more than can be imagined. Maybe, with Michael Leighton due to return next week, they will do that with a goalie Laviolette has a bit more confidence in than Boucher.

After tonight's jaunt to Toronto, seven of the Flyers next nine games are against winning teams - and not just teams who are barely over .500 either. There's Boston, Pittsburgh, Montreal, Vancouver, Los Angeles and Detroit - all teams with their eyes set on the big, shiny, silver prize in June.

If the Flyers want to keep their eye there too, they'd be wise to protect their young goalie from possibly flaming out way too soon.