PRONGER'S FEELING MORE LIKE HIS OLD SELF
During his rehabilitation from hand surgery, Pronger was surly at times, refused to speak publicly at others, was frustrated on the ice, and almost always had his right hand hidden so no one could see it, frequently tucked into the pocket of his suit pants.
Then came Thursday.
Pronger was back to being a media darling. He took questions, cracked jokes, playfully got into it with one reporter, looked good on the ice firing slap shots at will, and was using his right hand for a lot more - holding a water bottle, motioning with it while emphasizing a point.
He went from less than five minutes of ice time in Game 6 playing solely on the power play, to 17-plus minutes in Game 7 playing both PP and even strength.
Might he be ready for the full load come Saturday and Game 1 against Boston? We'll see, but I'm betting yes.
I've not been told anything, it's solely based on instinct and observation. And if Pronger is back to being the Pronger that became a Philadelphia rock star last spring, then the Flyers are in a far better position this time against the Bruins.
Just for kicks, and because I know my colleague will get a laugh once he reads this, here is a transcription of the playful exchange between Pronger and Tim Panaccio of CSNPhilly.com after practice Thursday. As you will see, I play a good straight man.
To set the scene, Pronger purposely ignored a question from Panaccio during the media scrum just prior to this exchange.
Pronger: (To me as Tim's walking over) Here comes Tim. Watch this.
Tim: You didn't answer my question.
Pronger: You had a question?
Tim: Yeah, and you didn't answer it.
Pronger: Let's hear it.
Tim: Are you surprised that Boston didn't score a single power play goal in the (first round of the) playoffs.
Pronger: Am I surprised?
Tim: Yeah. That's almost unheard of.
Me: It is. It's never happened.
Pronger: There you go. There's always a first for everything. There's always firsts. They scored three overtime-winning goals. That in itself makes up for all the power play stuff.
Tim: Given your power play has struggled almost as much as theirs...
Pronger: (cutting Tim off) Wow, how many did we get?
Tim: How many did you get?
Me: You got five.
Pronger: (dripping with sarcasm) Oh, We got five. Ohhhhh.
Tim: Big difference.
Pronger: Oh? Zero and five, that's close isn't it?
Tim: You were seven percent.
Pronger: Is that what it was?
Pronger: Are you sure?
Me: Actually it was 14 percent.
Pronger: (to Me) Thank you. (to Tim) Get your stats right and then come back and talk to me.
Tim: You think this is a series where the power play is going to make the difference?
Pronger: (to Me) What was our power play percentage?
Pronger: Ohhhhh. O.K.
Tim: It was seven before you came back and then it went to 14.
Pronger: Ohhhh. O.K. Well, 14 and seven aren't the same Tim.
Tim: It's double.
Pronger: (surprised that Tim's math is so good, he raises his eyebrows) Ahhhh....
(general laughter from the audience of the rest of the media and Flyers staff present).
Pronger: Double? So, make sure you have your stats correct before you ask a question. Because it's very misleading.
Tim: It was seven before it became 14 percent.
Pronger: You see, but that's not a question. You're trying to make a statement Tim with your question and it doesn't work that way.
Me: (To Tim) You want help?
Tim: (ignoring me) Are you going to see this as a difference in the series, these two teams that can't seem to score power play goals? Whoever gets the most is probably going to win this.
Pronger: You're still not getting it Tim. I still don't understand the question.
Me: (Finally coming to the rescue) How important will special teams be in this series?
Pronger: Special teams are always important. Whether you look at the negatives like Tim, or look at the positives accomplished, penalty kill and power play are always essential to winning in the playoffs and this series is going to be no different.
Me: (to Tim) Happy?
Tim: (Grumbles a response kind of like yeah)
Pronger: You're better than that Tim! You're better than that.
(At this point I turned off my recorder... there was another few seconds of back and forth between them before Pronger walked off, feeling victorious).
So, like I said before, he's back.