Posts for flyers

The Free Fall Continues: Some Very Revealing Takeaways from Blue Jackets 5, Flyers 3

Anthony SanFilippo - March 16, 2018

Claude Giroux stood there. His mouth throbbing. His lip swollen. The dried blood changing the red in his beard to a different shade.

Take a puck to the face, and these things happen.

But there he was, trying to talk through the swelling, and explain what is wrong with his team – a team that just 19 days earlier was in first place in the division – but now, after losing to Columbus 5-3 and dropping their seventh game in the last eight contests – finds itself no longer in control of its own destiny and in need of help from around the league.

(Unless they win all 11 remaining games in regulation, which we all know isn’t going to happen)

So, there was Giroux, gutting it out with the media after he had just played another terrific game – registering a point for the eighth consecutive contest as he scored one of the three Flyers’ goals – in the midst of a truly terrific individual season, telling everyone that the Flyers were, once again victims of their own mistakes.

Which prompted me to ask him a question:

Are the mistakes that are happening something new every night or are they something chronic that keep happening every game?

“To be honest, I don’t know what to say to that,” he said. “It’s a good question, but I don’t have an answer for you.”

That’s OK Claude, because you just gave a very clear and lucid answer.

By not answering the question, Giroux spoke volumes. He obviously doesn’t want to be put in a position where he has to say something like, “Yes, we keep making the same mistakes over and over again and they aren’t getting corrected.”

He’s never been the kind of player to point fingers at others. He’ll fall on a sword for his team. It’s what makes him a good leader. But, it’s hard to be so selfless when he’s playing at such a high level and the rest of the team is not.

Giroux is a smart guy. He’s not going to be disingenuous. He’s not going to say something to make teammates look bad, but he’s also not going to say something to make the rest of us roll our eyes and have the B.S. detectors beeping like crazy.

So, he chose not to answer, but at the same time said a bunch.

Because this Flyers team continues to beat itself. It’s maddening to watch, too. Because they aren’t wrong when they say they do a lot of good things. They do. The Flyers get sustained pressure for good chunks of games. They do out-skate and outwork teams – even teams that are probably more talented – for good stretches of time. There are a lot of moments within games that are very encouraging.

But they are then, inexplicably, prone to disastrous mistakes that end up costing them because even if they lead the world in effort, they definitely still lack in talent and depth, and when that’s the case, simple errors end up costing you more frequently.

So after talking to Claude, I decided to ask the coach the same question. Maybe he’d give me an answer.

So I asked.

And he stared at me. For a good three seconds, which made it feel longer. I can only imagine how it looked on television.

But then he gave a good response:

“I’d say tonight for me the second goal against is a big one,” Dave Hakstol said. “Ten seconds after we gave up the first. So that coverage goal, you can’t duplicate that.

“Then the fourth one which was a puck that didn’t get deep and caught on a line change. Doesn’t matter how you want to categorize them. Those are two mistakes that I thought made it a deep hole to come out of.

I bolded those key phrases for a minute. Because it says, “Yes, Anthony. These are the issues that keep happening and we can’t seem to stop them from happening.”

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Rolling Snake Eyes – What the Latest Loss Means for the Flyers’ Playoff Chances

Anthony SanFilippo - March 13, 2018

The NHL rules require teams to open their locker room to the media five minutes after the last player leaves the ice at the conclusion of the game.

The Flyers are usually very good at this. Their media relations guru, Zack Hill, can often be found standing outside the locker room with the timer on his phone running so we all know when it’s going to open up.

So when Zack cracked open the locker room door and the media sauntered in last night, there wasn’t a player in the room.

That’s rare.

Usually there are still some guys undressing. Some guys talking. Some guys waiting to speak to the media.

But last night, it was a ghost town.

And it was for several minutes more, before Wayne Simmonds begrudgingly emerged and gave us 50 seconds of his time.

Let me stop here for a second…. this is not a complaint. I get it. I would probably feel the same way as the players. I wouldn’t want to talk about a 3-2 loss to Vegas in regulation, their sixth loss in seven games, that suddenly has all but eliminated the cushion the Flyers had built with a sensational 37-game run from early December through the end of February.

I wouldn’t want to have to explain what is going wrong. I wouldn’t want to have to justify the team frustration. I wouldn’t want to have to worry about saying something born out of emotion that can be construed the wrong way.

So, from my perspective, if the Flyers just wanted to pass on speaking altogether last night, I would have been OK with it. It may have ruffled some media feathers, but it would have sent one hell of a message.

But, to their credit, they all came and talked. Not long. Nobody really had much to say. But they paraded out – Simmer, Ghost, Coots and G. Even Oskar Lindblom and Petr Mrazek held court.

And to a man they talked about frustration. They talked about having to stop doing this to themselves. They talked about self-inflicted wounds and small mistakes that are hurting them and suddenly making the end of the season more about finding a way to hang on than making the push for first place.

Because even though the Flyers are still within striking distance of first place – they are four points out with 12 games to go, they really have to spend more time paying attention to what’s sneaking up behind them.

Columbus is within two points – and they play each other Thursday. The Devils are three points back – with a game in hand. And Florida, who is not in a playoff spot, is six back with three games in hand.

Actually, the Flyers should feel a brief sense of relief because the Panthers missed an opportunity to close that gap to four points last night, losing on home ice to the lowly Ottawa Senators.

But right now, it’s all about survival.

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Jake Voracek’s Sobering Words About His Team Are Spot On: Thoughts after Penguins 5, Flyers 2

Anthony SanFilippo - March 8, 2018

The air in the Flyers locker room was thick with something after last night’s 5-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

It’s not that easy to describe its aura, but I’m pretty certain it’s the same one that pervades all locker rooms and club houses of Cinderella story teams who come up just short.

This is what it must have been like when Gordon Hayward’s half court heave came tantalizingly close, but ultimately missed, as Butler fell in the National Championship to perennial powerhouse Duke a few years back.

Or when Jameer Nelson’s jumper from the foul line went off the rim and Oklahoma State, not St. Joe’s, danced into the Final Four in 2004.

Or probably most akin to Loyola Marymount, riding the emotional wave of playing in the tournament following the death of their star player (and Philly native) Hank Gathers on the court in the West Coast Conference tournament and going on to make a dramatic and unexpected run to the Elite Eight, only to get snowed under by the best team in college hoops – UNLV – missing on their own miracle run to the Final Four in 1990 – which happened to be the last time the Lions made the tournament.

Yes, that’s three college basketball references in a row to start a hockey story. But hey, it’s March after all, and the madness of this month does work its way into other sports sometimes.

And the Flyers are a perfect case. They’re an up and coming team, no doubt. They have two elite superstars in Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek. Sean Couturier may have stepped across that star threshold this season. There are several young players to be really excited about – a few who are significant contributors already – like Travis Konecny, Ivan Provorov, and Shayne Gostisbehere.

And led by that sextet, the Flyers became a real fun story in December, January and especially February. They rocketed from last place to first place in the Metropolitan Division. They amassed the third-best record in the NHL over a 37-game stretch – which is a good portion of a season (45%). They put the NHL on notice that this scrappy roster full of no-quit players was going to be a hard opponent to play against night in and night out.

They overcame a 10-game losing streak. They built a 12-game point streak of their own. There was – and still is – a lot to like about the Flyers. It was a darling of a story.

But, lost in the feel-good vibe the team was emanating for so long, was the fact that there were still concerns, still issues that could, at any time, once again rear their ugly heads and rain on the orange an black parade.

Enter the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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Are we Approaching White Knuckle Time? Thoughts After the Flyers Lost Both Games Over the Weekend

Anthony SanFilippo - March 5, 2018

The cushion is still there. The breaths are not desperate gasps – yet. There is still enough time and space to operate with a little wiggle and be OK.

I’ve been saying it all along; the Flyers created some much needed padding with that 12-game point streak against inferior competition, because the gauntlet was coming.

And three swipes of that blade by some southern executioners from Raleigh, Tampa and the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area each drew some blood.

Yes, the brutal part of the Flyers schedule has begun, and it has not yielded pretty results. In three games against two teams scratching and clawing to make the playoffs (Carolina and Florida) and one against the best team in the sport (Tampa Bay) the Flyers are 0-2-1.

They have allowed 15 goals in those three games. The mistakes are mounting. So are the injuries. Once again, the Flyers are starting to seem fragile, like they were in November, and not super confident, like they’ve been the past couple months.

It could be just a bad stretch. After all, they took the Lightning to the brink. Although Tampa was obviously the better team, you have to give the Flyers credit for punching and counter-punching the better team, even if they blew two-goal leads twice in the same game.

So, maybe this isn’t a big deal.  After all, the Flyers are still in second place in the Metropolitan Division, just two points behind first place Washington.

But the division and the playoff race has slowly started to squeeze in in them.

Pittsburgh is just one point back of the Flyers. The Devils are five back. Columbus, six. The red-hot Panthers, who squashed the Flyers 4-1 yesterday but are still one-point out of a playoff spot, are nine points back, which is a lot, until you realize Florida has three games in hand and the easiest schedule remaining in the Eastern Conference based on the records of their remaining opponents.

And don’t forget Carolina, who is just two points out a playoff spot. They show up twice more on the calendar for Philadelphia.

The next four games for the Flyers are against teams who are ahead of them in the standings. And then three more Metropolitan teams all in the thick of the playoff race before a two-game “respite” against Detroit and the New York Rangers. Frankly, 12 of the remaining 16 games this season are against teams firmly in the playoffs or fighting for a spot.

So, who knows what Petr Mrazek’s homecoming will look like in Detroit? What shape will this Flyers team be in by then? Will they have rebounded and be fighting for home ice advantage in the first round, maybe even the division title?

Or will they have slipped and be among the gang of five fighting for the final two wild card spots?

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They Are Renovating The Wells Fargo Center

Kyle Scott - March 5, 2018

Comcast Spectacor announced plans today to renovate the mezzanine level of the Wells Fargo Center. Work is scheduled to be completed next fall (they kind of have to). Here are the changes along with some thoughts:

Among the exciting enhancements coming to the Wells Fargo Center’s Mezzanine Level are two new Open Air Lounges.  Placed in the southwest and northeast corners of the arena, these distinctive locations provide premier amenities and open-space socializing while experiencing the thrill of a live event.  Fans will enjoy views of the bowl in an upscale setting with more than a dozen screens in each location featuring in-arena and out-of-town action.

This is interesting, and seems a bit of an architectural challenge to cut out a portion of, well, something to create an open-air viewing platform, I’m guessing similar to the concourses at Citizens Bank Park.

Better sound:

Beyond the Mezzanine Level, this next phase of the redesign includes a new state-of-the-art sound system that will stimulate the entire arena.  The new system features a complete replacement of the arena bowl speaker clusters, next-generation amplifiers, new mixing equipment and software delivering improved range, enhanced sound clarity and optimized balancing throughout the venue.

Thank God. Loud music at the Wells Fargo Center – not including concert speakers brought in by artists – can be ear-piercing. The volume is high enough, but it has all the subtlety of a dump truck driving through a nitroglycerin plant. It’s borderline offensive, and also I always think those speakers are going to fall.

Over 150 new LED game-action screens, menu boards and illumination technology delivering a complete visual transformation

This is code for: more space to put ads. The Wells Fargo Center is a phone book as it is, and make no mistake, the inclusion of more screens with easily manipulated pixels means more ads.

8,000 brand new seats featuring cup holders

I’ve always wondered this– how many jizz stains are in those seats? Or in any major arena for that matter? Think about how many concerts – dark corners, for doing dark deeds – and Wing Bowls have taken place inviting some level of fornication. Probably not as much as the old Vet seats, but it’s got to be above zero. No joke, I’ve thought about this a lot. Anyway, the cup holders are a welcome addition.

All snark aside, and though I hate the phone book nature of the building, the Wells Fargo Center has fairly decent food, adequate bathrooms, and handles countless events each year, mostly flawlessly. These changes are welcome. They just need to get that absurd security line figured out.

Warts Exposed – Observations from Hurricanes 4, Flyers 1

Anthony SanFilippo - March 2, 2018

When the Flyers Game Presentation coordinator flashed up on the big screen hanging over center ice in the first period that the Flyers were 10-0-1 since the Eagles won the Super Bowl, you knew he was going to be the Mush of the Week.

It was only minutes later that the Carolina Hurricanes scored their first goal.

It was only two hours later that the Flyers were licking their wounds following a thorough 4-1 defeat at the hands of those Hurricanes.

It was an ugly game. A shoddy effort. One of those games that happens from time-to-time during the course of a hockey season. And it ended the Flyers twelve-game point streak.

But, you had to see this coming right?

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A New Danny Briere Emerging on the Flyers While the Original is Coming into his Own in a New Career

Anthony SanFilippo - February 22, 2018

All eyes will be on Travis Konecny tonight when the Flyers take on the Columbus Blue Jackets.

After taking a shot off his foot that limited him for some of the game against Montreal Tuesday, and completely missing practice Wednesday, fans will hold their collective breath to see if:

  1. Konecny actually plays tonight (he is probable).
  2. There are any noticeable effects of the injury.
  3. He doesn’t hurt himself more.

After all, Konecny is the poster boy for the Flyers sustained success the past two months. As he’s blossomed as a scorer, so too has the team figured out how to have the best record in the sport for the past 25 games.

And although the Flyers have been relatively healthy this year, losing both goalies and Wayne Simmonds to injury within a week is starting to have some people worry that this current nine-game point streak and rocket trip up the standings can come crashing down quickly, especially if another important player – like Konecny – were to miss significant time.

I talked to one long-time NHL scout at a game a few weeks back and asked him about Konecny. He had nothing but high praise for the Flyers forward – and this was before he started to break out.

“Give him the opportunity to play with better players and play consistently and the Flyers will have a faster version of Danny Briere,” the scout said.

Heck, the Flyers would be happy if he simply was as productive as Briere, never mind being faster, and potentially better.

But that is high praise – comparing him to one of the most beloved Flyers of the past 30 years.

Can anyone argue that Briere isn’t on the top 10 list of fan-favorite Flyers of those three decades?

Briere was so well-liked because not only did he produce for the fans, he gave them everything he had both on the ice and off it. He was as open, honest and forthright about everything as he was a pesky chigger around the net for the opposition.

And now, Briere is starting to make his way in the business side of hockey, while also still doing anything he can to connect with his fans – starting with French-Canadian youth and eventually reaching the fans in Philadelphia as well.

If things go according to plan, it seems like Briere is going to be a part of the Flyers family for a long time to come – and maybe even one day have some involvement at the NHL level.

But that’s still a ways off.

I talked to Briere recently about his new role running an ECHL franchise for Comcast-Spectacor, how it came about, what his future holds, and about his autobiography. I bet you didn’t know he wrote a book.

So, here’s my story on Briere (this is also running on another local website called Flying Fish Hockey, where I wrote it as a guest column).

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Flyers Trade for Mrazek, Recall Lindblom, but are Suddenly Being Bit by the Injury Bug

Anthony SanFilippo - February 20, 2018

So Ron Hextall bit the bullet and made the trade with Detroit anyway.

He really had no choice.

The Flyers acquired Red Wings goalie Petr Mrazek for two conditional draft picks (which I’ll break down in a minute).

In essence, what they did late last night (Hextall’s conference call with reporters was at 11 p.m. – right in the middle of me recording my segment for today’s Crossing Broadcast, which, if you listen, makes me sound pretty prescient! Haha!), was trade for a healthier version of Michal Neuvirth.

Mrazek is only 26 and at one time was considered the Red Wings’ goalie of the future. And although he had chances to take that job and run with it, he never did. He was wildly inconsistent – at times looking like a world beater – an impenetrable force – and other times looking like Swiss cheese.

The Czech goalie is one who relies on emotion and competitiveness, so when things are going well, so is he. And when they’re not – well… neither is he.

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