Monthly Archives: May 2011

And that’s it…

Shame.

Shame, shame, shame.

That’s what the Philadelphia Flyers should feel right now.  Unlike other post-mortems that will just spout out “reasons” of the here and now, I can find a particular date that the Flyers started to get away from their style of play.

On February 14, the team traveled to Tampa Bay to take on the Lightning at St. Pete Times Forum.  The game was tight.  Back and forth the two teams fought.  The Flyers controlled the game in the second period, but the Lightning fought back with three goals of their own to tie it up.  The game forced a lot of emotions.  It felt a lot like a playoff game the way these two teams fought.  The game ended up going 7 rounds in a shootout.

The Flyers won that game 4-3.  If you look at the schedule after that win, things started to really go downhill.  Normal people would expect a team to gain a lot of momentum from a win like that…however, just the opposite happened.  I’ll let you take whatever you want from the following months.  I feel like that was the moment the season turned around for the negative.

We saw that no switch existed.  The team still played a lackluster brand of undisciplined and terrible hockey.  They are usually used to playing physical, intense hockey that they have prided themselves on for years.  In the first series, the team let themselves fall behind.  They couldn’t muster any offense to beat Ryan Miller in two games; on the other hand, the Flyers’ goaltending just wasn’t good enough to keep the puck out enough.

The Flyers did not even record a shutout all season.  Regular teams can actually do that several times a year.  Even the bad ones.

Personally, I was ready to accept the Flyers’ season being over in the first intermission of game six.  Michael Leighton, seemingly the final straw in the Flyers’ season, played beyond terrible.  It didn’t seem possible for the Flyers to keep moving.  They won that game, and played a ridiculously dominant game in game seven.

What makes zero sense is how seemingly unprepared the team was for the Bruins.  Completely outplayed and outcoached in game one, barely losing game two, and getting their asses kicked in games three and four.

No effort.  No switch.  No win.  No Cup.

Ryan Bright of Philly Sports Daily in his latest blog (which you can read http://bit.ly/ksdtZH) he says it’s all about the attitude.

He’s so right.

We can hear about the injuries rolling in, but when push comes to shove, the attitude was not there.

Period.

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Flyers Lacking Initiative

“Great save…!”

Those are two words I can’t say I’ve heard any commentator say about a Flyers netminder.  Maybe some of them said it, but I sure don’t remember it.  That, or it wasn’t a memorable save.  There are no times we have been really wowed by Flyers goaltending in the past couple of years.

There’s three netminders on the Flyers roster, and all three of them are not willing to take the reins.  Brian Boucher and Sergei Bobrovsky played a masterful regular season, even with the late-season struggles.  Once the playoffs started though…different story.  There have been so many goaltender pulls in just a few games that it is starting to become an expectation.

Goaltending gets scrutinized first.  It does for good reason, too, because ultimately, that’s the last line of defense.  Let’s take a look at some statistics that I have been finding over the past couple of days.

First off, the Flyers have won game one in a playoff series only twice since the lockout.  They have put themselves behind the eight-ball way too many times.  A glaring error in the Flyers’ ways for the longest time has been their ability to base their style of play on coming back.  They rarely dictate the pace from the start.  The other team has their way with them to start and the Flyers are forced to make drastic adjustments just to stay alive.  Being down 1-0 in a series, especially with home ice, just takes the wind out of your sails.  It happened twice this year.

Secondly, the Flyers have scored the first goal in four playoff games this year.  The rest of them, they have fallen behind, and sometimes by a considerable margin.  We can look no further than game five of the quarterfinals series where they fell behind 3-0 before almost coming back to win.  We can look to the Bruins’ drubbing of the Flyers in games one and three.  Teams have their way with the Flyers early and often.  Where’s the initiative and intensity?  Where has the intensity gone since January 15 after an emotional win against the Tampa Bay Lightning?

Some other things to consider:
-Mike Richards fired 8 pucks in game one, scored once.  Richards fired 10 shots in game two, no goals.  Four shots in game three, nothing doing.  And of those shots, I could only count maybe two or three scoring chances.  His patience is hurting him.  He forces the plays that aren’t there.  Trust me, I’m not saying Richards doesn’t deserve the captaincy.  Everyone loves him in that room.  But he needs to bury pucks and be a bit less patient.

-The Flyers built their defense at the beginning of the year to combat relying on Chris Pronger.  Problem is, it didn’t work.  On my recollection, the year Chris Pronger isn’t around, a team struggles mightily.  When the Oilers made the Cup Finals with Pronger, the team struggled the year after as he left the team.  They didn’t make the playoffs.  When the Ducks shipped him off to Philadelphia, the defense core could make up for his loss, and the Ducks didn’t make the playoffs.  Pronger covers up a lot of holes, and he does it subtly.

-Continuing with the defense, Matt Carle is playing a disastrous postseason.  Four assists and a -8.  That’s a team-worst -8.  Briere isn’t much farther behind with a -5.  Carle has shown considerable weakness when paired with anyone but Chris Pronger.  During the season, he put up numbers consistently.  He scored one goal and 39 assists and ended the year +30.  He wasn’t playing with Pronger the whole time either.  He’s not useless.  He may be hurt, or just completely helpless right now.

-James van Riemsdyk is playing with the god mode cheat on.  Far and away, van Riemsdyk’s 7 goals have carried this team.  He’s only 22 years of age, and he’s growing into his body.  He’s a taller guy.  His strength on the outside is uncanny and not many defensemen could shove him off the puck.  Everyone criticized this guy.  I hope you’re seeing what everyone else is though.  I can’t wait to see him work in the future.

-The goaltending needs help.  When they get the chance, the Flyers’ brass should wring their hands clean of Leighton.  I’m a big Boucher fan, but his play this postseason has been nothing short of inconsistent.  Bobrovsky needs time.  He will be good in the future.  Just not now.  So the short term fixes consist of these…
+…an injured and risky Ray Emery.  The guy is coming off of a debilitating condition called avascular necrosis.  He had his hip completely re-shaped and because of that, he needs to go through rehab every single day.  His story is remarkable and completely worthy of the Masterton trophy, but his return to the Flyers is unlikely.
+…a very capable Tomas Vokoun.  He’s expensive, and getting older, but the guy has skills.  Even on a terrible Panthers team, his save percentage was annually over .920.  The guy can stop pucks consistently.  This option is only possible if the Flyers dump some salary.  Who goes?  My gut says to go after this guy at all costs.  He wasted his prime years in Florida, but he still has value.
+ …41-year-young Dwayne Roloson.  The Lightning have first crack at him, and he’s showing he can still play.  Let them keep him.  They have the room and they need him.

I’m sure there are others, but the Flyers need someone solid.  I know only the Lord saves more than Bouchleightsky.  But it’s time for a change.  Not only just a goaltending change, but a philosophy change.

Laviolette’s intense forechecking system works well.  It frustrates teams.  However, we see teams draw first blood against the Flyers a lot when it counts.  That’s especially apparent this postseason.  Honestly, it’s a little sickening to see on a daily basis.

Can the Flyers defy history again?  It’ll take a hell of a lot of initiative to pull off.

Who will be the hero if it happens?