Posts for penguins

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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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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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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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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Flyers/Penguins at Beaver Stadium is Being Pitched for 2016-2017

Jim Adair - March 27, 2015

A Flyers-Penguins Winter Classic at Beaver Stadium has long-been rumored and grumbled about, but never confirmed. In fact, it’s never gone past the rumor stage. Howard Eskin confirmed it once (inaccurately) and we heard rumors of Penn State being on board, but never much more. Until now.

According to Broad Street Hockey, Shawn Tilger told the gathered season ticket holders at the Flyers Town Hall meeting that the team is pitching the game for the 2016-2017 season to commemorate the 50th anniversary of both the Flyers and the Penguins. It’s still a long ways away, and there will be countless reports between now and then that it’s happening but not happening or maybe happening until its probably happening it’s happening.

Former Penguin says You Don’t Want to Bring Your Kids to the Wells Fargo Center

Jim Adair - January 8, 2015

Photo Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Our reaction exactly, Wayne. Photo Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Brooks Orpik spent the first eleven seasons of his career in a Penguins uniform, so he knows what it’s like to be treated like the enemy at the Wells Fargo Center. He plays for the Capitals now, and in the lead up to the Caps’ first game at the WFC this season, he shared some words about what playing on the hostile Wells Fargo ice is like:

“It’s probably not a building you want to bring your kids to, that’s for sure. You’ll learn some new language, especially with the way the benches are set up, they’re kind of open to the crowd.

It can be entertaining, too. Sometimes they get pretty creative with the signs and I’ve seen them go a little overboard, too. It’s always a real fun building as long as you don’t get behind early. If you get behind early it can be a pretty tough building to play in.”

Okay Brooks. First of all, it’s probably some (well taught) kids yelling some of that stuff at you to begin with. And secondly, isn’t “new language” just a sign of the fans’ creativity? They’re artists. Then again, where you bring your kids is entirely up to you. And some people wouldn’t bring their kids to tonight’s Capitals/Flyers game for a different reason:

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Flyers Fan Who Said “eww” to a Sidney Crosby Jersey for Christmas Gets a Special Gift from the Flyers

Jim Adair - January 7, 2015

Remember that kid who got a Sidney Crosby jersey for Christmas as a joke and didn’t appreciate it? If you were worried about that kid having some lingering trauma from opening a gift to see black and yellow, well it looks like the Flyers were too. They sent him (and his family) a gift pack that included an autograhed Claude Giroux jersey, a puck, a hat, sunglasses, a bunch of other junk, and a pair of tickets to watch the Flyers play the Bruins. Oh, he also gets to meet Giroux and some of the other players. That should wash that bad Pittsburgh memory right out of his head. Wait, did I say they were playing the Bruins? Never mind.