Posts for nhl

Call it a Comeback. Eighty-Eight…er…uh… Five Takeaways from Flyers 3, Maple Leafs 2

Anthony SanFilippo - January 19, 2018

As time passes, the outcome of last night’s game will be no more than a footnote in history as everyone else will remember the pomp and circumstance.

They’ll remember nearly 20,000 people wearing Eric Lindros T-shirts.

They’ll remember the number 88 painted into the ice behind each net. Or, in each corner where he laid out many an opponent with his physical style, or even across the the tarp that covers each tunnel entrance into the locker room area.

They’ll remember the 50-foot projection screens that hung from the scoreboard that showed highlights of Lindros’ career and how, at the end, they dropped rapidly to the ice to reveal, standing alone at center ice, the player who many believe was responsible for the erecting of the Wells Fargo Center to begin with. Big E. Standing amidst the trophies he and his team won in his career – receiving thunderous applause from the fans.

They’ll remember how the Flyers, and specifically Lou Nolan, once again proving why he’s the best Master of Ceremonies, maybe ever, deftly introduced Eric’s parents – Bonnie and Carl, the most meddling parental duo in the history of Philadelphia sports and arguably in the history of the four major sports in North America – by having them escorted to the ice by Lindros’ running mates who got a huge ovation: John Leclair and Mikael Renberg.

They’ll remember the No. 88 slowly being lifted to the rafters, where it became the sixth retired number in franchise history, finally coming to rest, slightly askew (I’m sure the Wells Fargo denizens will fix it by Saturday), in a twist of irony right next to Bobby Clarke’s No. 16.

They’ll remember the messages being played on the scoreboard throughout the game from great players from the Lindros’ era giving video tributes to No. 88 (of course, Jeremy Roenick’s was delivered from a golf course and was the one that blathered on the longest).

They’ll remember all that.

What they might not remember though is a gut check performance by the current hockey team that took place on the ice afterward, in what amounts to just another crucial game for a Flyers team that has designs on making the postseason, no matter how difficult it might be for a last place club at this juncture in the season.

Check that. They’re no longer in last place.

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Lather, Rinse, Repeat – Same Old, Same Old After Rangers 5, Flyers 1

Anthony SanFilippo - January 17, 2018

I usually don’t have an agenda when writing about the Flyers.

It is my intention to always provide an informed opinion or analysis based on data or conversation with people in the know – even if the opinion is unpopular.

But heading into last night’s game in New York – I will admit – I had it in my head that I was going to write a story with a specific, predetermined angle.

I was going to sit down at the keyboard and tell you how impressed I have been of late with the Flyers. After coming back from a bye and playing a very strong game against New Jersey Saturday. I was going to talk about Sean Couturier and Jake Voracek being overlooked as All-Stars in the NHL this year. I was going to talk about the improved play of young guys like Travis Konecny, Jordan Weal, and Nolan Patrick.

I had the whole thing planned in advance. It was going to be the perfect catapult into the lovefest that will be the Eric Lindros number retirement ceremony tomorrow night.

Then the game happened.

The Flyers were completely outworked and buried by a divisional opponent – in a matchup that is critical to the playoff race, no less – for the second time in six games.

And my plan was blown to smithereens.

It’s no wonder I tend to skew toward skepticism with this team.

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Good Vibes… But Maybe Too Good? Thoughts After Flyers 4, Sabres 1

Anthony SanFilippo - January 8, 2018

Tyrell Goulbourne was sitting in the locker room, taking off his pads and packing them in a bag.

This was an indicator that Goulbourne, unlike the rest of his Flyers teammates, wasn’t getting a chance to go on vacation as the Flyers entered a bye week that mandates a full 120 hours off (five days) before they are required to undergo any team activity (The Flyers next practice isn’t until 4 p.m. on Friday).

And yet, here was Goulbourne, all smiles, willing to talk about his NHL experience and the potential to have it continue as soon as the weekend.

I’ll get into my conversation with Goulbourne in a bit, but it’s rare that you see a guy getting sent back down to the minors in such a good mood.

Ahhh, a winning hockey locker room is a unique atmosphere – especially one where you’ve won a few games in a row, or 11 of 16 after a 10-game losing skid – all of which is the case for the Flyers following a not pretty, yet efficient, 4-1 win over Buffalo yesterday.

There’s the woooing as the player of the game is presented with the Ric Flair robe. There’s loud music. Guys are willing to talk and talk at length. There’s a lot of smiling and playfulness.

There’s even some over the top answers to questions, like:

“The feeling is we are very close to the playoffs right now,” Jake Voracek said. “I was reading somewhere that some people felt this team should get blown up during that 10-game losing streak. We didn’t, and we’re staying patient and we’re in a playoff position right now, so that’s good for us.”

Slow down Jake. Or, as Dave Hakstol likes to say, put it in park.

Look, the team should feel good about itself. They’ve played good hockey over the past three games. They were even, for a brief moment, tied for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot yesterday afternoon before the Penguins jumped back in front of them with an overtime win over Boston. Continue Reading

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Has the Winter Classic’s Novelty Worn Off?

Kevin Kinkead - January 4, 2018

Remember when you first saw your favorite band?

Everything was new and exciting. You heard songs like “Nightrain” in a live setting, drank crappy beer in a parking lot, and crossed one off the bucket list.

Then you saw that band for a second time. It was cool, but the setlist was mostly the same. They added a few tracks here and there, and maybe the venue was different, but it was never going to be better than the first gig.

That’s how I feel about the Winter Classic, which posted its lowest TV rating on Monday afternoon. NBC’s 1.4 household number brought an audience of 2.48 million people, which was the fourth-consecutive drop in viewership since 2014, when the game was played at the University of Michigan’s “Big House” between Detroit and Toronto.

These are the numbers dating back to 2008, when the first game was played between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York: Continue Reading

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New Year, Same Story: Five Takeaways from Penguins 5, Flyers 1

Anthony SanFilippo - January 3, 2018

As many of you know from my last post, I’ve been missing the past few Flyers games (live) because of my involvement with Big Daddy Graham’s “A Row Home Christmas.”

But as it turns out, I haven’t been missing much.

The Flyers are what we thought they were, and have been, and will continue to be in the near future. Inconsistent. Frustrating at times. But mostly mediocre. Although qualifying last night’s loss to Pittsburgh as mediocre is far too generous.

Last night was a completely sub-par effort all the way around, including their first stinker from goalie Brian Elliott in quite some time. They have now lost five-of-seven, this after winning six in a row following a ten-game losing streak.

And when a team is that streaky, they can’t be trusted to be consistent ever – either consistently good or consistently bad.

I have a friend who is a degenerate gambler. So much so that he bets hockey with regularity. He has been leaning on me for, ahem, expert advice in hockey for years. Over time I’ve truly done no better than maybe enough to assure he is able to keep betting hockey – meaning slightly better than 50% or just enough to cover his bookie’s vig.

And yet, despite being able to give him picks on games for years, and having my best track record in the playoffs and with Flyers games (because you can get a sense of how the team feels or looks sometimes in practice or morning skates) he is frustrated with me because I have not given him one Flyers game yet this season.

Part of that is because I’m not doing this full-time and I’m not at many of those practices and morning skates, so even though I’m still texting or talking with people with the team from afar, I don’t feel confident giving him a pick based mostly on my gut.

But the real reason is, you can’t tell with this Flyers team from one game to the next. There’s no flow or rhythm to them. They don’t generate any consistency because there’s nothing consistent about them. They really are a team without an identity.

For the better part of two months, Dave Hakstol was opposed to really mixing up his lines. Sure, he would make one forward change here or there. Maybe flip flop two guys in the lineup, but he kept things the same, even while they were losing a bunch of games in a row.

Now, he’s juggling the lineup like his hair’s on fire. After finally moving Travis Konecny on a line with Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier in Columbus last Saturday (and having them look good in the process against a superior team) they played together all of one lousy period in Florida before that combination was abandoned again.

Of course, Hakstol said after the game that the lineup shifting was just the Flyers trying to find nine forwards that work together. And to his credit, they were re-united the last two games, one which they looked really good (Tampa) and one which they (and everyone else) looked lousy (Pittsburgh).

But here we are 39 games into the season and the Flyers really haven’t found any forwards that work together with the exception of Couturier and Giroux and whoever you put on the wing with them.

So maybe that’s the problem more than anything. Maybe it’s the construction of the team. Maybe these heralded Flyers prospects aren’t as talented as we once thought. Maybe that’s why Ron Hextall has protected so many of them for so long – not wanting them to get swallowed up by the big, bad NHL because they aren’t as good as others their age.

I’ve started constructing a deep dive comparison of all the Flyers players to others around the NHL. And since it’s so lengthy, I’ll break it up into a few posts which I’ll unveil next week during the Flyers bye week which is basically one game past the halfway point of the season

But as for last night… well… maybe I’ll just let Flyers Twitter tell that story:

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Four in a Row! Five Takeaways from Flyers 4, Maple Leafs 2

Anthony SanFilippo - December 13, 2017


The two teams most hockey experts were lining up as potential Stanley Cup Final opponents this season were the Edmonton Oilers and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

And while the hockey media bias always skews Canadian when it can, there was at least some rationale for it. After all, the Oilers and Leafs feature two of the sport’s youngest and brightest stars in Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews.

Both teams were on the come last season and were hard outs in the playoffs. They are well managed and coached and are definitely teams who this league will see in the Cup Finals in the very near future.

And the Flyers are 4-0 against them this season.

Go figure.

To the Flyers credit, they played perhaps their most complete game of the NHL season to this point last night, defeating the Maple Leafs 4-2 and extending their winning streak to four games  – the first time they have won four straight in regulation since February, 2014. Yeah… almost four years.

They continue to get great goaltending from Brian Elliott (although the first Leafs goal was as unsightly as a big juicy whitehead on the side of your nose), Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier keep dazzling and production keeps coming from further down the lineup.

And for once, they won the possession battle, something that’s been eluding them for some time.

But, they did get a little fortunate. Matthews missed the game with an injury. Toronto, for as talented and well-coached as they are, turn the puck over a ton and are not a good possession team and the Leafs are in the middle of a five-city, five games in seven days stretch while the Flyers have been home resting for four days.

So, a lot of extraneous stuff does play into it.

Still, this was a good win for the Flyers. The most impressive of this winning streak so far. And there’s a lot to takeaway from it, so, as Kyle likes to say, let’s hit it: Continue Reading

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Numbers Don’t Lie: Negative Thoughts Despite a Winning Streak after Flyers 4, Canucks 1

Anthony SanFilippo - December 8, 2017

Let me get the formalities out of the way first, because I have a feeling that what I’m about to write isn’t going to be popular.

  • The Flyers have a three-game winning streak for the first time this season. The Flyers swept the Western Canada road trip, something that’s not easy to do.
  • Michael Raffl is on fire, having scored in each game. He now has five goals and two assists in his last eight.
  • Jake Voracek leads the NHL in assists, which is pretty impressive, especially since he has now been shifted away from the top line and yet is still producing.
  • The power play scored twice in a game for the first time in almost two months.
  • The penalty kill has not allowed a goal in the last four games and has killed off 12 straight opposition power plays over the past five games.
  • Dave Hakstol finally conceded his system wasn’t working, balanced the lineup better, changed to a more defensive approach – which is helping the team once it gets a lead – and is producing winning results.
  • Brian Elliott continues to provide top tier goaltending. He’s started 12 of the last 14 games, and even came in relief in one of the non-starts, and has been the Flyers best player most nights.
  • The Flyers continue to lead the NHL in fewest goals allowed at 5-on-5.

So, what could I possibly have to say that wouldn’t be a popular opinion?

How about that this is all a facade and really is unsustainable?

I know, rain on the parade, “old man yelling at clouds,” and all of those typical tropes that are spouted when a minority opinion is presented, are headed my way.

And yet, I can’t help but sit here and tell you that what you have seen on this three-game winning streak, that has my colleagues writing about turnarounds and possible playoff appearances, is no more than fool’s gold, a false flag, a mirage.

And here’s why:

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Old School Hockey – Five Takeaways from Flyers 4, Oilers 2

Anthony SanFilippo - December 7, 2017


There was something a little bit different about the Flyers last night as they won consecutive games for only the second time all season.

They continued the notion of secondary scoring being key, as they got four more goals from guys not named Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jake Voracek – a trio that had scored 45.7% of the teams’ goals prior to the last two games.

Well, the rest of the team has now scored nine straight goals for the Flyers – all of them by forwards no less – and unsurprisingly, the Flyers have won two straight.

But that’s not what was different specific to last night. Dave Hakstol finally broke up his top line in Calgary and kept it that way in Edmonton. And yes, it helps spread the offense around, as we’ve been talking about on this blog for about a month.

But that’s not it.

Brian Elliott played another strong game in net for the Flyers – something that has become almost expected. After a slow start in his first half-dozen games, Elliott has been the guy keeping the Flyers in games on most nights with his workman-like approach to goaltending – not flashy, just getting the job done.

But it wasn’t Elliott either.

Nope. It was the Flyers trying to play like the New Jersey Devils, circa 1995.

It was a flashback to a bygone era in the NHL. An era where boring, stifling hockey would put you to sleep on a nightly basis. But, those Devils would beat you with their style that everyone else in the league hated – except them.

The Flyers were at it last night.

One game after beating Calgary but allowing the Flames to take a whopping 80 shot attempts, the Flyers decided to hunker down defensively and really try to frustrate the Edmonton Oilers and their supposedly high-flying offense.

The Oilers only attempted 51 shots. Only 26 actually got on goal. After some of the save performances Elliott’s had to put in recently, he had to feel like this game was merely a part-time shift.

And the Oilers were greatly limited as compared to the Flames because the Flyers decided to change their system a bit last night and bottle up the neutral zone. It made for a much more even game, puck possession-wise, and the Flyers were opportunistic, scoring on their best chances. It was an old-fashioned hockey formula that caught the Oilers by surprise and worked for the Flyers for one game.

Can it work long-term? Maybe. However, it requires a lot of patience and commitment to the defensive game as well as a more conservative approach – things that don’t normally seem attractive as options to today’s younger players.

But if Hakstol is smart, he’ll see if he can get the players to buy into it for a little while anyway to see if it instills confidence in a team who, despite winning two straight games, is still a fragile group when things go awry.

To the takeaways:

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