Posts for nhl

A Lack of “Sticktoitiveness” – Breaking Down the Real Reason the Flyers Lost Game 3 to the Penguins.

Anthony SanFilippo - April 16, 2018

It was a common theme.

Each player in the locker room said it.

The coach reiterated it, ad nauseam, during his nearly 10-minute press conference.

The Flyers lost Game 3 to the Penguins 5-1 because of a lack of discipline.

I’m here to tell you that while giving Pittsburgh’s potent power play seven chances (of which they scored on three times) is certainly a way to lose a game, it wasn’t where the game was lost.

Nope. The game was lost in the locker room between the first and second period – before all the penalties started piling up.

The game was lost after the Flyers played perhaps their best period of the hockey season and had nothing to show for it.

A great game plan by Dave Hakstol blew up in smoke and went out the window pretty quickly in the second period when the Flyers stopped believing in the process.

A 1-0 deficit after 20 minutes – even the most energized 20-minutes of the season – wasn’t the culprit either. It was just one goal. The result of one bad decision – the only one of the first period – and the Flyers picked up where they left off immediately after it, so it wasn’t the deflating element.

No, the downfall for the Flyers was the fact that they couldn’t finish their chances – and they had a bevy of them – in the opening 20 minutes. They were in full throttle mode for 20 minutes and couldn’t crack Matt Murray and the Penguins defense – which blocked a ton of shots, yet again.

So, in the second period, the Flyers started a little more tentatively. And when you’re tentative in the playoffs, it leads to mistakes – in this case, stick infractions, that led to a parade of penalties.

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Losing by a Touchdown: Five failures of the Flyers in their 7-0 Game One Loss

Anthony SanFilippo - April 12, 2018

There are bad losses…. and then there was last night.

The Flyers were as ill-prepared for the start of the playoffs as any team I have ever seen. It was as embarrassing to watch as I’m sure it was to participate.

Sure, it’s easy to say it’s just one game and that the Penguins could win 20-0 or 3-2 and it all counts the same… blah, blah, blah – shove that crap logic right back down your gullet from whence it came.

The fact of the matter was something emphatically pointed out yesterday – the Penguins are a playoff-tested team and the Flyers are not yet ready for prime time.

From the guys dressed in suits to the guys wearing skates, there wasn’t one person prepared for the avalanche that was coming their way.

The Flyers seemed to think this series was going to start a lot more like a boxing match – where the first round is a bit of a feeling out process. Throw a couple jabs, take a couple, and really get a sense of how each team is going to play before it settles in.

Uh, that was an epic misread on their part.

Instead, the Penguins were like, “screw that” and came out of the gates like the thoroughbred team they are, and didn’t stop. And won’t stop.

I know a lot of you younger folks are skeptical when us graybeards tell you that experienced teams and talented teams know how to elevate their game to a whole new level and that young teams often have a hard time matching that.

I know it’s a very old school way of thinking because we live in a world where the younger generations are a bunch of doubting Thomases and need empirical evidence for absolutely everything before they even consider accepting a statement as true, or even mostly true (you ever watch the news with the fact-checkers? They need to qualify something as mostly true or mostly false and can’t just accept true or false with qualifiers anymore… it’s maddening…. OK, back to hockey).

Anyway… when we say players are “red light players” or that they can just “flip the switch” and dominate games because we’ve seen it, we mean it.

And if you want empirical evidence, I give you the Pittsburgh Penguins last night.

That, friends, is what great teams can do. I hate to admit it, because there’s a lot of things I really don’t like about the Penguins…

(For example, and this is not indicative of anything, but just an anecdote I will share – after the game last night, a Philadelphia reporter was chastised by members of the Penguins public relations staff for accidentally stepping on the Penguins logo in their locker room because it’s “bad luck.” 

This isn’t the first time this has happened, and to be fair, the Penguins are not alone with this, as other teams have this asinine tradition, too.

And you know what I say to these teams and the members of the logo-protecting Gestapo that they employ? If you don’t want someone stepping on your logo, then don’t put it on the damn floor! And seriously, it’s a freaking piece of carpet, you morons. It’s not like it’s some old heirloom from underneath Sidney Crosby’s dryer that he used to shoot pucks into in Nova Scotia growing up – as if it was some sort of sign from above that he was destined to lead the Penguins to Stanley Cup glory, no… it’s new. It was put in when the building opened a few years back. It has no historical value whatsoever. It’s a rug. Stop being so bleeping self-righteous about it. Damn.)

… but the Penguins are a great team.

Yes, I said on the Snow the Goalie podcast (subscribe/rate/review… thanks!) that they aren’t the same Penguins team that won the last two Stanley Cups. And their depth is good, but not as good as previous years. Their defense is pedestrian and goalie Matt Murray has been shaky all season.

And yet, in Game 1, they looked every bit as dominant as they were the last two seasons.

As is always the case in the playoffs, you can throw all your analysis (old school eye tests and new school analytics, both) out the window because it’s a different game. It’s a different season. And none of that stuff from the regular season really matters.

Great teams know how to win. Especially against not-so-great teams. Sadly for Flyers fans, the local boys in orange and black are the latter.

Everything that has plagued the Flyers for the past three months, three years, hell, three decades, was on display last night.

Here are five of them:

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Is Philadelphia vs. Pittsburgh Really a Rivalry?

Kevin Kinkead - April 11, 2018

I haven’t written anything about the Flyers this year because I don’t know anything about ice hockey. That’s Anthony’s beat anyway. He’s got you covered.

What I do know is that I hate Sidney Crosby and his fat face. I hate his smug demeanor and childish attitude and his 89 points. I hate his three Stanley Cups and his seven All-Star selections and his pair of Conn Smythe and Hart Trophies.

When it comes to Pittsburgh, however, that’s about it. Obviously Wawa is better than Sheetz, and it’s “soda,” not “pop,” but I really don’t dislike anything else about the Steel City.

But it’s not about me, it’s about you, the readers of Crossing Broad dot com, who overwhelming said that Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are not rivals:

Seems accurate to me.

When you go down the list of sports teams, it’s hard to find a ton of meaning:

Penguins/Flyers

Metropolitan Division rivals. Frequent games, playoff history, exciting matchups.

Steelers/Eagles

One AFC team, one NFC team. Infrequent games, no playoff matchups even possible outside of the Super Bowl.

Pirates/Phillies

It used to be something special before the Pirates moved to the National League Central back in 1994. You could go back to the 70s and find 10 NLCS appearances between the two teams, an era of success that saw the Pirates win it all twice (’71 and ’79’) and the Phillies once (1980). It’s been tempered since then, and when the Pirates began to turn the corner about five or six years ago, the Phils were sliding back to mediocrity after the 2008 and 2009 World Series appearances.

Sixers/no one

Pittsburgh doesn’t have an NBA team.

Union/no one

No MLS team, but Pittsburgh does have a USL team, the Riverhounds, who play Bethlehem Steel a few times a year.

Colleges 

Pitt kind of sucks in all sports now, so it’s hard to find meaning there. They don’t play Temple or Villanova anymore, and those football and basketball games weren’t rivalries anyway. What else is out there? Duquesne? Carnegie Mellon? The Point Park Pioneers?

I think that’s it, really, it’s just the Penguins and Flyers for real substance and meaning.

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Hart Trick: How the Should-Be MVP Claude Giroux Carried the Flyers to a Playoff Matchup with the Penguins

Anthony SanFilippo - April 8, 2018

Sometimes, the best players in their sports raise their level higher than you ever thought possible to will their team to victory.

For the Flyers, their Hart Trophy-deserving captain Claude Giroux did something he had never done before in 738 career regular season games to ensure a must-win game was, in fact, a victory.

Giroux registered his first career regular season hat trick and in turn became just the sixth Flyer in franchise history to eclipse the 100-point plateau as the Flyers dismantled the New York Rangers 5-0 in the final game of the regular season Saturday.

The win catapulted the Flyers into the playoffs for the 39th time in 50 seasons played, and set up yet another series with the hated Pittsburgh Penguins that will begin sometime later this week.

We’ll dive into that pairing a little bit later in this post, only because it would be a disservice to Giroux to not focus on him first.

After all, the guy has put together one of the best Flyers seasons in history, and arguably could be the best.

I know what you’re thinking. He had a good season, but the best in Flyers’ history?

I’ll be honest, I was a little skeptical of my own thoughts at first. But the more I considered it, and the more I compared it to the other great seasons in Flyers history, it became more and more apparent that the 82 games we just watched Claude Giroux play, may have, in fact, been the best ever by one Flyers player.

And at worst, it was second-best.

To test my theory, I sat down with Hall of Fame reporter and Flyers historian Jay Greenberg to discuss the contenders. We narrowed it down to these:

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One Point More: Thoughts from Flyers 4, Hurricanes 3

Anthony SanFilippo - April 6, 2018

I had to check my surroundings last night to make sure I wasn’t in a time machine.

After all, there was Claude Giroux telling us that the Flyers are laser-focused going to bring their best game to the 82nd and final game of the season against the New York Rangers Saturday afternoon with a playoff berth on the line.

I couldn’t help but have a feeling of deja vu.

It took me back eight years, to when the Flyers were in the same scenario. Beat the Rangers and make the playoffs.

OK, so there are some minor differences.

Technically, the Flyers don’t have to win, they just need to get to overtime and then can lose, and still get in.

Oh, and there’s also the scenario where they lose in regulation, and then back into the playoffs if the Florida Panthers lose to either Buffalo at home Saturday night or in Boston Sunday night.

And this time around, even though the Rangers have already announced that Henrik Lundqvist will be in goal for that final game against the Flyers, they really have nothing to play for other than to be a spoiler.

The Rangers were in the same boat as the Flyers in that 2010 game. They needed a win to get in as well. This Rangers team is starting a rebuild, and they are sitting in the Metropolitan Division basement.

So, it’s not exactly the same…. but….

The Flyers have positioned themselves in a do-or-maybe-die situation in the final game of the season.

An optimist will tell you, that after losing 10 straight games in November and seven of eight in early March, that to be in a situation where you can control your own playoff participation destiny in the final game of the season shows great resolve and determination by the team.

That’s fair.

But a pessimist will tell you that a team that was in first place in the Metro when they awoke on February 27th after a victory over Montreal could, in the span of just 19 games, fall completely out of the playoffs altogether shows you just how fragile and incomplete the team is and should generate questions about the coaching, the roster construction and, in that equation, the general manager.

And that would also be fair.

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Could Have Used That One: Thoughts on a 5-4 Loss and a Missed Opportunity

Anthony SanFilippo - April 4, 2018

Maybe it’s something about Tuesdays.

In a strange quirk, the Flyers have dropped 11 of 16 games played on Tuesday nights this year, and really haven’t looked good in any of the last five (1-1-3).

This includes last night’s disappointing loss to the defense-averse New York Islanders.

That marks three straight Tuesday losses to teams in free fall. Detroit had lost 10 straight. Dallas had lost eight in a row. And the Islanders had dropped 16 of their previous 19 games.

OK, so the Tuesday thing is just a goofy coincidence.

Playing down to the competition though? That’s an ongoing issue.

The Flyers had a chance to put a stranglehold on a playoff spot last night, and although they’re still in good shape to get into the postseason, they’ve left themselves in the undesirable position of still playing for that spot in the final two games of the season, as well as falling to the second and final wild card spot. If that’s where they stay, they’ll face a much tougher opponent in Boston or Tampa than they would if they were the top wild card team and drew Washington.

Before we look at a few things from last night, and just to keep you up to date….

The Flyers magic number remains three points – either earned by them or lost by Florida.

The Flyers have two games remaining, both at home – Thursday against Carolina and Saturday against the New York Rangers.

Go at least 1-0-1, and they’re in the playoffs.

However, if there’s a regulation loss in the final two games, then they’ll need help.

Florida has three games remaining – Thursday at home against Boston, Saturday at home against Buffalo, and a makeup game in Boston Sunday night.

So, Thursday is the key.

The Bruins are in a dogfight with Tampa for the top spot in the Atlantic Division (and home ice throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs) and still have an outside chance at the President’s Trophy, which would also come with home ice in the Finals, if they make it that far.

So, Boston has something to play for Thursday.

However, if Florida somehow wins that game, and they played a great game last night to beat the best team in hockey – Nashville – to keep their playoff hopes alive, then its possible that the game Sunday in Boston has no meaning to the Bruins, and they could decide to rest some key players, which wouldn’t help the Flyers if it came down to that game.

I fully expect Florida to trounce Buffalo Saturday if the game has meaning for the Panthers, so really the Flyers have put themselves in a position to have to make this happen themselves.

I think they will, but not if they play anything like they did during the first 40 minutes last night.

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The Captain and His Mates: Takeaways from Flyers 4, Bruins 3

Anthony SanFilippo - April 2, 2018

Following the Flyers’ thrilling 4-3 victory over Boston on Easter Sunday, I figured we should start with something different. You know, for the kids:

I always loved the Blind Melon version of this song…. which is why I went with this one for your enjoyment.

But back to the Flyers, yes, the magic number for making the playoffs is now three. Any combination of points earned by the Flyers or lost by the Florida Panthers that equals three, and the Flyers are in the postseason.

That could happen as soon as tomorrow night in Brooklyn when the Flyers play their final road game of the season against the New York Islanders.

So, yes, the Flyers are going to the playoffs despite being pretty mediocre (79 games played, 40 wins and 39 losses), but it doesn’t matter how you get there, it matters what you do when you get there.

And there are five teams the Flyers could still face in that first round.

And we’re here, on the first Monday in April, talking about the Flyers as a playoff team because of a huge win Sunday against Boston.

A regulation loss would have left things up in the air. The Flyers needed to play a very good game against an excellent Boston team – and they did.

And although there were a couple moments where you wanted to cringe, or throw your Easter yams at the television screen, the Flyers had some really strong performances from key players at key times to secure the victory.

Let’s break them down:

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By the Skin of Their Teeth: Thoughts After Flyers 4, Rangers 3

Anthony SanFilippo - March 23, 2018

Excuse the Flyers if they weren’t too celebratory about their win over the New York Rangers last night.

Yes, it was a big win. Yes, it was probably the win that in a couple weeks we will look back on and say was the one that ultimately secured them a playoff berth.

With another mini-stretch of tough games on the horizon, and the teams behind them making up most of their games in hand in the next week, it was a win of absolute necessity.

But it wasn’t pretty.

It took a strong effort from goalie Alex Lyon to keep them from losing a second straight game to a non-playoff team. It took some more next-level speed and agility from their budding star winger Travis Konecny to spark the offense – despite the fact that he was curiously missing from the ice for most of the third period. It took another three-point night from the captain, Claude Giroux, who might well be the most important player to his team in the entire NHL this season.

Beyond that, though, you pretty much held your nose to avoid the odor and also to hold your breath that an unwanted, in-game collapse wouldn’t take place.

OK, Ok… the second line was decent on the whole – Jake Voracek scored a goal on a great individual effort and Oskar Lindblom did register his second NHL goal cleaning up the rebound of a good shot by Nolan Patrick, but really, on the whole, the Flyers were out-skated by the Rangers. They were out out-worked by the Rangers. And the Rangers have nothing to play for while the Flyers definitely do.

It’s hard to be critical after a win. The Flyers did what they had to do and earned two very big points in the standings. They gave themselves a comfortable cushion again, and reduce their magic number over New Jersey to 13 points (either earned by the Flyers or lost by the Devils) and 14 points over Florida.

That may seem like a lot, with seven games to go, but it could be reduced to nine and 12 respectively by the time the Flyers take the ice again in Pittsburgh on Sunday – and they only need to finish ahead of one of those teams to make the playoffs.

Not only that, the Flyers have again climbed within a point of second place Pittsburgh and could well head north in the standings if they can get their act together.

It’s as if they’re fighting a war on two fronts. They are simultaneously in a battle with Pittsburgh and Columbus for second place in the Metropolitan Division as they are with New Jersey and Florida for the two Eastern Conference Wild Card spots, with one team going to end up on the outside looking in (my forecast has New Jersey missing the playoffs at this point).

And yet, despite all of this, the focus after the game wasn’t really on the positive (except for Lyon, who continues to be a solid relief pitcher of sorts for the Flyers, playing his best games when he has to put out fires).

No, instead, everyone talked about how uneven the team played. How there are still too many mistakes happening. How they still need to play better.

And, of course, there was always the questioning of the coach’s rationale for the in-game decisions he makes – although this time he gave a very direct and fair answer to questions about his in-game choices – even if I still don’t agree with it.

It’s a lot to tackle, so let’s do it one at a time.

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