After quite a long hiatus from this site, I’ve decided to give it another go. I’m not going to do as much game-to-game analysis. Instead, I plan on doing higher-level commentary. Hopefully the hockey fans of the internet world enjoy it.
The Flyers control their own fate at this point. They could have been challenging Ottawa for the fifth seed, but they faltered found themselves as close to being out of the playoff picture as they could possibly make it. They lost to the Islanders, a team they’ve beaten time after time just by showing up. But then they came back with a strong game against the Habs only to find themselves on the wrong end of a great goaltending performance.
Fortunately, the Flyers responded well to that loss and put in another strong effort against the Red Wings and pulled off a key 4-3 victory yesterday afternoon. Many have chalked it up to the Wings playing Osgood, their backup goalie, instead of Jimmy Howard. Does Howard give the Wings a better chance of winning than Osgood? Of course he does, but the Flyers weren’t exactly playing with Bernie Parent. Good teams will still win even with their backup goalie in, and the Red Wings didn’t bend for the Flyers yesterday, the Flyers were simply the better team.
The Flyers took advantage of a soft goal in the first few second of the game and kept pouring on the pressure. While Osgood should have stopped Carcillo’s first shot, he also made some tough saves to even keep the Wings in the game early on. But once the Wings gathered themselves, they showed why they hadn’t lost a game in regulation in the past twelve and tied the game by the time the first period was over. Personally, I started to get a bad feeling about the game. Over the past few weeks, the Flyers have been terrible with dealing with adversity of any time. Calling them a fragile team was an understatement.
But the Flyers did something out of the ordinary for themsevles. They came out in the second period and scored. A goal in the first minute in each of the two opening periods? That can’t be a bad thing. They jumped on a Detroit turnover, caused by a strong forecheck, and Claude Giroux potted the loose puck into the top corner. Osgood had no chance. And they they kept the pressure up and Arron Asham later added a slam dunk goal that Osgood had even less of a chance on. For the rest of the game, the Flyers survived the Red Wing onslaught and held on for two points.
That was the effort that the Flyers are capable of giving. It’s all about confidence. The Flyers need to keep plugging away and win these last three games in order to develop some type of momentum for the playoffs. The many injuries to the goalies really stinks. Ray Emery was playing well, then he got injured. Michael Leighton was winning game after game…and then he got injured. Johan Backlund was looking very good against the Penguins, and then he got injured. Brian Boucher hasn’t been that good overall, but he’s been playing behind a team with shattered confidence. Good teams will overcome a soft goal here or there, but when a team is questioning themselves, a soft goal can kill their chances in a game.
Boucher is not the guy I’d want leading my team into the playoffs, but he’s what the Flyers have. If the Flyers don’t play well in front of Boucher, then there’s no excuse about the goalie being the problem for an early exit. If Boucher plays terribly in the playoffs, well, did anyone expect him to carry the team? If he plays well, then that’s great.
The ball’s in the Flyers’ court. They play the Maple Leafs next, a team they have to beat, no question about it. I don’t care that they’ve been winning some games, a team with their playoff hopes on the line HAS to beat the last place team in the conference. And then the Flyers play two games against the Rangers to close the season. It could be a case of win and you’re in. Fortunately for the Flyers, they will more than likely hold the win tiebreaker if it comes down to that. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The Rangers play a solid Sabres team tomorrow night. A win puts them in a good spot while a loss could spell a whole lot of trouble. The next two days will shed a lot of light on the playoff situation in the Eastern Conference.
You hate him, you’ve trained yourself to ignore his vocal frequencies, and you know his hockey opinion is about as valid as an Eskimo’s opinion of Cancun. But you just have to keep playing with this soundboard.
Here it is, the Pierre McGuire Soundboard. Unfortunately, the WordPress blogs don’t allow for Silverlight applications, so I had to put it on an external site.
Today was a relatively calm deadline today. Most of that probably has to do with the Olympic freeze and big names like Olle Jokinen, Dion Phaneuf, and Ilya Kovalchuk being traded then, but still, today was nothing really to write home about. There are still some trades filing in as I type, but I don’t expect anything significant at this point.
So how made the biggest splashes? In the Eastern Conference, that goes to the Washington Capitals. They made a number of deals today for mostly middle of the road players (Scott Walker and Milan Jurcina) and the best move was acquiring Eric Belanger from the Minnesota Wild. He’ll join a very productive offensive team while scoring 13 goals and 22 assists this year for the Wild. It’ll be interesting to see how the Capitals play him: he’ll probably end up as the center on either the second or third line. If he’s on the second line playing with the likes of Semin and Laich, then his numbers should jump up, but otherwise expect a similar or lesser pace.
The most interesting deal that the Capitals made was the Joe Corvo for Brian Pothier, a prospect, and a second round pick. He’ll make their power play even more potent with a great shot from the point, no doubt. However, the Capitals don’t need more goals and they especially don’t need more goals coming from their defensemen. They need defensive defensemen especially with Varlamov being beat up for much of the year and Jose Theodore being shaky all year. Good job by the Hurricanes getting that second rounder for 2011.
In the West, the most active team was the Phoenix Coyotes. They’ve acquired Wojtek Wolski, Lee Stepniak, Mathieu Schneider, and Derek Morris. Wolski should be bring a nice secondary scoring punch to the team and should help alleviate the loss of Scottie Upshall due to injury. They gave up a young player with a lot of potential in Peter Mueller to get Wojtek, but sometimes you have to give up some long term value to get better in the short term. Remember, the Coyotes still have Kyle Turris waiting in the wings, the third overall pick in the 2007 draft.
Fredrik Modin to the Kings for a conditional draft pick might be a solid pickup for LA. Modin doesn’t light the lamp like he used to, but he can be a solid depth player who can add a goal or two here and there. He also brings valuable playoff experience, including a Stanley Cup ring, to a young team. Another similar solid move was bringing in Jeff Halpern–another solid veteran player who can be of value to the team.
And remember, biggest splash does not mean best moves. Sometimes the best moves are the ones you don’t make. For example, the Florida Panthers wanted Jeff Carter from the Flyers for Tomas Vokoun. Speaking of the Flyers, it looks like Michael Leighton will be the guy for the playoffs.
First of all, congratulations to Canada on winning the gold. Also, congratulations to the US team for an amazing tournament. As an American, I was severely disappointed that we didn’t win the gold, but I’m darn proud of my team for proving many critics wrong and coming one goal away from the gold medal. It was a great tournament for hockey and its fans.
Has there ever been a season where the Philadelphia Flyers have not had a goalie controversy? Personally, I thought this was finally the year that all of that talk would be put to rest. Ray Emery started the season on fire but was overcome with an injury that forced him to the shelf for awhile. He came back, but was unable to play through the injuries again. He’s now on the long term IR. While many people will say that that Emery Experiment has been a failure, I’m not so sure of that. People predicted that Emery would play poorly and/or would cause locker room problems. Neither has been the case. Before he was put on the LTIR, the Flyers were about ready to sign him to an extension, so he must have done something right. Is Emery the goalie of the future for the Flyers? Probably not, but he’s not bad as a short term solution until the Flyers are able to acquire “the guy.”
The Flyers might have made the best (or luckiest, I don’t really care which) waiver wire pickup of the year in acquiring Michael Leighton. Leighton went from a fringe backup goalie to the starter for the Flyers almost overnight. Of course that was helped along by injuries to Emery and Brian Boucher, but give credit where credit is due, he’s really made the best of his opportunity. In 18 games played for the Flyers, Leighton holds an excellent 12-3-1 record to go along with equally excellent GAA of 2.19 and save percentage of .925. I’ve always maintained that Leighton is no more than a backup goalie in the NHL, but I don’t care who you are, those stats are great. It comes down to wins, and Leighton’s delivered there. And two of those losses came in scores of 1-0 and 2-1. The bottom line is that Leighton has give the Flyers the chance to win every single night he’s played.
What I’ve failed to mention so far might be one of the more important reasons why Leighton’s been so good. The defense has been stellar for the Flyers since Leighton’s taken over. Chris Pronger’s been solid all year and Kimmo Timonen has picked up his game to where he’s been in previous seasons. Lukas Krajicek has been another great pickup for the Flyers and has teamed up with Timonen for a very strong second pairing tandem. In addition to the solid play by the back end, the forwards have also picked up the slack as well. The return of Blair Betts from injury has given the Flyers the shut down fourth line again. Betts has played so well that the Flyers have rewarded him with a two year contract extension. It’s a team defense and it’s working.
With the trade deadline tomorrow, rumors have been flying regarding the Flyers goaltending situation. Dan Ellis and Tomas Vokoun have been mentioned as very much on the radar for the Flyers. Tomas Vokoun has been a strong goaltender his entire career and I would welcome him to the Flyers, but I’m just not sure the Flyers have the pieces or the cap space to land him. Vokoun’s cap hit is $5.7 million. Since waiving both Danny Syvret and Riley Cote and placing Emery on the LTIR, the Flyers have given themselves some room under the cap with between $2 and 3 million, but they’ll still have to shed some space in order to fit Vokoun. Another issue is that Vokoun has a no trade clause, but according to Eklund, he is apparently willing to waive it.
But I’m not sure that the Flyers have the pieces to really land anyone. In the upcoming 2010 Entry Draft, the first pick for the Flyers isn’t until the third round. They really can’t afford to give up any more picks in the next two drafts as they really need to develop talent in their system since Kevin Marshall and Marc-Andre Bourdon are really the only prospects worth mentioning right now. The higher-paid forwards on the Flyers that could be considered as trade bait all have no trade clauses on their contracts as well. Briere, Gagne, and Hartnell would all have to approve deals. But should the Flyers really be thinking about trading away top six talent right now? And I very much doubt that the Flyers would at all consider trading away young talent in Claude Giroux or James van Riemsdyk for a quick fix in net. For some reason Jeff Carter’s name always appears in trade rumors, but I just don’t see the Flyers trading the guy. So I’m not even going to get into that.
The only tradeable players that the Flyers have are Braydon Coburn, Ryan Parent, and Oskars Bartulis. Once Parent returns from injury, someone will have to be the odd man out. The Flyers are apparently willing to deal Parent, since his name has been brought up in rumored deals for Dan Hamhuis of the Nashville Predators. The thing is that none of these guys are enough to pry a guy like Vokoun away from the Panthers, even with a strong prospect involved. As a note, players picked up off waivers are not eligible to be traded, so neither Michael Leighton nor Lukas Krajicek are going anywhere via trades.
So where does this leave the Flyers? I believe that they have to go with Leighton. He’s not the goalie of the future, but he’s a earned himself a chance to lead the team through the playoffs. He’s won games…so is there really anything else you can ask the guy to do? The Flyers might not even have a choice with their personnel and draft picks situation, but I’d rather them worry about the goalie of the future in the offseason rather than at the trade deadline when they’ll find themselves in bidding wars and less choices than they’d like.
We’ll find out what’s going to happen in the next 24 hours or so.
As the Winter Olympic Games wind down, the storylines from the Men’s Hockey tourney grow increasingly exciting. One story that will peak the interest of all Montreal Canadiens fans is how Team Slovakia has pushed its way through the crowd of pre-Game fav’s to find themselves in the Semi-Finals against Team Canada.
No small feat for Team Slovakia considering they knocked off Team Sweden in the Quarter-finals to reach the Semi’s… of course we all know Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Lundqvist, Henrik Zetterberg, Daniel Alfredsson, Nicklas Backstrom, Peter Forsberg, and the Sedin Twins (Daniel + Henrik) to name the mega stars on the Swedish roster.
Of special note is Team Slovakia’s starting goaltender, Jaroslav Halak otherwise known as the other guy in Montreal behind supposed Franchise netminder Carey Price. Halak has impressed all with his play and the results speak for themselves. He is scheduled to become a Restricted FA this Summer and the Canadiens will be wise to lock him up or at the very least plan + anticipate offer-sheets heading Halak’s way.
So what should we take away from this storyline? For starters, (1) Halak is rising to the top as the cream of the crop should. (2) He’s proving he can handle pressure situations + how he and Team Slovakia perform in the Semi-Finals will determine how Halak is perceived as a Money/Big Game goalie. (3) He proved former Montreal Canadiens GM Bob Gainey wrong, that it was Halak who should’ve been given the Number 1 job in the Fall, not Price (yes, hindsight is a beautiful thing). And finally, (4) Jaroslav Halak has shown he’s a Number 1 caliber goalie in the World, not just the National Hockey League!
The Winter Olympics couldn’t have come st a better time for the Habs. With the recent departure of GM Bob Gainey, the trade deadline looming, injuries to key personnel, Montreal is fortunate to get this breather to regroup for the final 6 weeks of the regular season.
Jaroslav Halak appears to have won the starting job over Carey Price. That should help Montreal’s chances of landing a play-off position. Halak has been more consistent and delievered victories when his team’s needed him.
Mike Cammalleri should be able to return in the final weeks to help the Habs with their post-season push. Some goes for the Andrei’s, Markov and Kostitsyn, both are key contributors on the powerplay which has been silence for the past several weeks leading up to the break.
Im thinking this 2 week break will help teams refocus and have a strong finish to the season.
However, I still maintain the Canadiens will just sneak inti the playoffs as the 8th seed in the East and get bounced in the first round. At least I can hope the upcoming trade deadline brings interesting players to Montreal, though it didn’t kickoff very well with the addition of Dominic Moore. Oh well, beggars can’t be choosers.