Tag Archives: Chris Pronger

Flyers/Hawks Finals Preview

Nearly every media outlet in North America that covers hockey coming into this season; believed that the Flyers were cup contenders. Mid-way through their 82 game journey, you would have had a hard time finding one Flyers fan that genuinely believed they would even make the playoffs. Inconsistent effort, a coaching change, players with personal turmoil, more injuries than your local emergency room and now sitting here on Memorial Day weekend…not one bit of that matters.

The Philadelphia Flyers over the last 6 weeks have become everything that was expected of them 9 months ago. They are a team forged from the fire; they have avoided being consumed by the flames of elimination 5 times; they never stopped believing in themselves and answered the bell each and every time that they had to.  Their historic comeback in the semifinals against the Boston Bruins is already one of the greatest feats in Philadelphia sports history and if they capture the cup it will go down as the greatest comeback in hockey history.

Their complete and utter domination of the Montreal Canadiens in 5 games has been completely downplayed by critics. 3 shutouts in 5 games; which included an absolutely suffocating defensive performance during game 4 in Montreal. Yet, all of that has been ignored by the pundits…the Flyers are nearly unanimous underdogs. The Vegas odds are stacked against them and apparently they will have  no one who can control the worlds greatest forward Wayne…excuse me, I mean Dustin… Byfuglien. Why bother even showing up to the United Center tomorrow, right?

Well, here’s how I believe your team, your town, your Philadelphia Flyers stack up against the Western Conference Champion Chicago Blackhawks…


Goalies

Michael Leighton’s story sounds like a plot of a Disney flick. I won’t rehash his rise from obscurity; you’ve heard the details, it’s time to stop acting so shocked. Everyone has been waiting for the midnight hour to strike and for Leighton’s shine to wear off. Well the ball has been going on for about 6 months now and his slippers still fit just fine. Since joining the Flyers , Leighton has compiled a sensational record of 22-6-2 with 4 (and a half) shutouts. He currently leads the NHL in GAA (1.45) and save pct. (.948).

For the Hawks they have impressive rookie Antti Niemi. He has started every game in the playoffs for the Hawks and has all 12 of their victories. He is a butterfly goalie with very good size and excellent reflexes. He reminds me of Tuuka Rask to be honest and not just because they are both Finnish. Like a lot of European netminders; Niemi has exceptional agility but may struggle with some shots up high. He is coming off an excellent series against San Jose and has been exceptional on the road.

However, in these playoffs the Flyers have defeated Martin Brodeur; the best goalie of the modern era , Tuuka Rask; the regular season leader in GAA and save pct. and Jaroslav Halak; who was out of this world stealing the series’ from Washington and Pittsburgh. What does Antti Niemi have over these guys you ask? Nothing.

Advantage Flyers.

Forwards

The Blackhawks have a fantastic set of forwards. They have tremendous depth and a very solid mix of veterans and young guns who have really taken the next step after losing in the conference finals last year. They are led by their captain Jonathan Toews. He is a very similar player to Mike Richards with his quiet leadership style and playmaking ability, but Toews has more dazzle in his offensive game with his tremendous hands. Riding shotgun to Toews, is winger Patrick Kane. An enemy to cab drivers (read the story here if you haven’t before) and goaltenders across North America, Kane is an offensive force. He has blazing speed, great vision and a tremendous wrist shot. He was one of the most dangerous players for Team USA at the Olympics in Vancouver. The most painful thing for Flyers fans watching Kane perform on this stage, is that when the Flyers finished with the worst record in their history in 2006 they lost the draft lottery thus losing the rights to pick Patrick and picked James Van Riemsdyk second overall. There are a couple of things you have to check out with Patrick Kane though… his transparent playoff beard for one, his mullet (seriously)oh yeah and this…

How unfortunate...

On Toews’ other wing is power forward Dustin Byfuglien (pronounced Buff-Lin). If you have paid attention to ESPN’s coverage or any of the media day press conferences you may think that Dustin Byfuglien is an all-star. You may also have heard that he has found the cure for cancer and that there are plans to rename the Hart trophy to the Byfuglien. A converted defenseman he’s now a giant (6’4 250) power forward who has scored some big goals for Chicago during their run. He is also a -3 at even strength during the playoffs and tallied only 34 points during the regular season. Not exactly hall of fame numbers here.

The Hawks boast serious secondary scoring threats in the human jinx Marian Hossa, young Kris Versteeg and former Flyer Patrick Sharp. They also have veteran defensive forward John Madden and gritty Dave Bolland heading up their penalty kill.

Do you remember when Ben Eager was in Philly? Well you certainly will after he takes a few reckless runs at the Orange and Black on Saturday. He’s a bowling ball with a big mouth who rarely backs it up with anyone who can actually throw them. He will be public enemy #1 pretty quickly in this series.

With the return of Jeff Carter and Ian Lapperiere the Flyers have restored the depth that was their key to making the playoffs in the first place. The top line of Richards, Gagne and Carter may be the best two-way line in the league. All 3 are great in their own zone and can enable Peter Laviolette to match up with the Toews line without giving up an offensive counter-punch. With Danny Briere and Ville Leino threatening on nearly every shift and the emergence of Claude Giroux on the 3rd line, the Flyers come close to matching the firepower of the Hawks. The 4th line centered by Blair Betts is a fiercely competitive trio which will be a key to locking down the Hawks second line especially on the road when the matchup’s will not always be in order. I also fully believe that Danny Carcillo will be back in the lineup to combat some of Ben Eager’s antics.

Advantage: Hawks…but not by much.

Defense

Two words, Chris Pronger. Seriously, that should be all I have to tell you in describing who I think holds the advantage on the blue line. Chris Pronger has the size, smarts, skills and experience to lead this team to a championship. He’s done it before and just like with the Ducks he’s not working alone. Kimmo Timonen anchors the second pairing and is among the games most underrated defenders. A strong puck mover with offensive skill, where Timonen really shines is  in his own zone; blocking shots  and breaking up scoring chances with his incredible stick work. 4th year blueliners Matt Carle and Braydon Coburn have also had very strong playoff runs. The third pairing of Lukas Krajicek and Ryan Parent will see about 4 minutes a night.

Chicago has some fine defenseman on their end as well; with smooth skating Duncan Keith has all world offensive skill from the backend but he can be prone to turnovers. Keith’s defense partner is the  physical Brent Seabrook; a shut down defender with a booming shot who has had a very solid season. This will be the top pair that the Flyers top line has faced in the playoffs. Young Niklas Hjalmarsson has stepped up as a solid  offensive #3 for the Hawks. Brian Campbell (yeah, the ginger who knocked out RJ Umberger) who sports the leagues worst contract brings his offensive skill but generally inept defensive play to their second pairing. Brent Sopel is a solid 3rd pairing defender, Jordan Hendry is a liability and his ice time will be limited.

Advantage: Pronger.

Overall Prediction

The Chicago Blackhawks are a very talented team with highly skilled forwards and a couple of all world defenseman. They are not however the ’87 Oilers. They are a very young team with rookie goaltending. The Flyers have been through so much already and I genuinely believe that they will not allow the chance to be immortalized pass them by. The veterans on this team know this may be their only shot. Danny Briere, Kimmo Timonen and Simon Gagne have never been here. Ian Lapperiere has sacrificed himself for 15 years, what will he do for a chance at a championship? Mike Richards and Chris Pronger will not let them fail.

Flyers in 6.

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Per Eskin: Richards Stripped Of Captaincy

Richards with die hard Flyers fan Gina Lynn.

WIP’s resident Eagles ass kisser stated a few minutes ago on his show that…

“Per my sources Mike Richards has had his C removed and Chris Pronger will be named captain tonight.”

I don’t buy this for a second. Eskin literally has ZERO POINT ZERO credibility when it comes to hockey and the Flyers. Still something worth reporting though…we shall see.

Update: Rumor was that Richards offered to step down and Holmgren denied the request. God only knows…

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The Pronger Is Pissed

In the wake of his new team losing 5 of their last 6 games, Chris Pronger today made some candid comments to CSNPhilly.com’s Tim Panaccio. In the interview the former cup winner, gold medalist and captain of two NHL clubs stated his awkward position of not wanting to step on Mike Richards toes, aswell as his frustration over the teams recent performance.

I plucked some interesting quotes below but  here is the full link

“He hasn’t asked me for any help,” Pronger said of Richards. “I’ve been in his shoes. It’s not [bleeping] easy. The expectations are high on him and on the team. We’re not playing to the best of our abilities, and a lot of that gets shouldered by the captain.

“Sometimes it’s fair and just and sometimes it’s not, and it’s hard to deal with that, especially at [his] age. You’re trying to figure out yourself. At 24, some kids are coming out of college, business school, some don’t even have a job at 24.”

“[Richards] hasn’t come to me [to] ask me anything, and it’s delicate because at the end of the day, it’s his team,” Pronger said. “He’s the captain. He needs to show the rest of the players that it is his team. I don’t want to be the guy that has to stand up every day and tell ourselves to look into the mirror and play better and all this stuff.

“I don’t know if he is ‘rah-rah’ type or talkative type. It is a difficult tightrope to walk. I don’t want to step on his toes. Maybe he is evaluating. You can’t just jump into a situation and ranting and raving without understanding what has gone on here in the past, as well.

“He’s been here four years and sees how things have progressed from being a s—-y team to a pretty good team, to having even higher expectations. I would think he has a better read on some of these guys than I do.

“I think Homer is right. [Richards] has to trust his instincts that got him to where he is at. That is something you learn early on. Especially, when you struggle to play the game sometimes, which we all do.”

Pronger said if Richards is questioning his own instincts, “if he’s already at that point, then I think we’ll see something within the next few days. If he’s trying to trust his gut or ask for help. I know Homer has talked to him”

“The expectations are high, you want to accept that challenge and embrace it and overcome it, but there is the idea you want it too badly or push it too much,” Pronger said. “You try too hard to score a goal when the simple play is to throw if off the goalie’s pads and the teammate who’s driving the net, bangs it in. Little things like that get lost in the shuffle of what you are doing. … You try to make the game more difficult than it is.”

Coach John Stevens has emphasized that the effort is there but not the results.

“It’s not like we’re not working hard or just out there bleeping around,” Pronger added. “We’re not putting the puck in the net. Little things like that, sometimes, you over-evaluate and over-analyze things. The simplest thing is to take a step back and look at it from a simple perspective.”

“How could we have won that game in Atlanta?” Pronger asked. “Could it have been that [3-minute] power play? Absolutely! Could it have been not to take that bleeping penalty-and go down 5-on-3? Absolutely! How about scoring some goals 5-on-5?

“Instead of Richie one-timing it and instead of [the puck] going into the corner, maybe it goes off his mask into the net? There’s a lot of different things. If you want to analyze, there are 10, 12, 15 things that happen in the course of a game that could change a game and have it go either way.”

“When you are not playing as well as we had been, and playing like crap on that road trip and losing and losing and then you are starting to come out of it, and playing a little bit better, you are still going to lose coming up that slope.”

“We’re losing games we should win right now, but hopefully, we’re over the crest, we can see the top and start scoring some goals and win,” he said.

“We need to make it [bleeping] happen on Thursday,” Pronger said. “It needs to [bleeping] happen now, so we can get over that hump and get this ship headed into the right direction.”

I could not be happier to read some of these comments from Pronger. Jeff Carter and Mike Richards the supposed “leaders” of this team are coming off of just a horrendous stretch of games in which the two have appeared absolutely listless in their play.

Always touted as a heart and soul grinder who is at his best when playing a simple hard-nosed style, Mike Richards has clearly over complicated his game. Blind centering passes and a lack of physical play have been his biggest offenses.

It’s time for this guy to step up and lead HIS team. He is no longer surrounded with just his drinking buddies, there are veterans around him in Pronger and Ian Laperriere who know what it takes to win and know how to lead. Turn it around or there might be a new captain way sooner than anyone expected.


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Maybe He Was Hungry?

hartnell2(photoshop from letsgopens.com)

Okay so in case you missed it, last night in the final seconds of the Flyers defeat to the Pittsburgh Penguins a scrum involving Scott Hartnell and Kris Letang took place. This is obviously not news. The fact that Kris Letang is accusing Hartnell of trying to bite his finger off in said skirmish however, is news.

“I think he knows what he did.” said Letang whose hand was heavily bandaged from the cut(bite?) on his right ring finger. “Why don’t you ask him what he did, I’d like to know his answer.”

Hartnell denied the biting incident however he didn’t exactly excuse himself completely…

“A lot of stuff happens on the bottom of the pile. He had his hands in my face doing the face wash and we’re rolling around. I can’t say what happened.”

This is not the first time a Flyer has been accused of biting an opposing player. Two years ago, veteran defenseman Derian Hatcher was said to have bitten Devils forward Travis Zajac during a scrap. Hatcher denied the incident.

Also just last year, Senators forward Jaarko Ruutu was suspended two games for taking a chunk off of Sabres tough guy Andrew Peters’ finger.

The happiest player around at hearing this news must be Flyers rear guard Braydon Coburn. Anything that can possibly distract fans and media from talking about just how putrid a performance he had. I know it’s early but the regression that appears to be happening with Coburn’s decision making and puck skills is certainly alarming. He was horrendous aginst the Caps on Tuesday and followed it up last night with a performance that would make Chris Therien embarassed.

This was just one of his many blunders…youtube of own goal

Also, Sidney Crosby got away with a slash to the throat of Chris Pronger in the same scrum as the alleged Hartnell mauling. Shocking isn’t it…

UPDATE: Per TSN’s Darren Dreger, Hartnell will have a hearing with league disciplinarian Colin Campbell this morning over the alleged bite. Even with the complete lack of visual evidence I set the suspension odds at 2.5 games. What do you got the over or the under? Remember he is a Flyer…

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Flyers Take On Ovechkin In Home Opener

90955553CM019_PHILADELPHIA_

The Flyers faceoff tonight against Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals, in their home opener.

The Flyers stand at 2-0 to start the season for the first time since 98-99, and for the first time in their franchise history are 2-0 with both of those wins coming on the road to open the year.

The key to the early success has clearly been the defense. With Kimmo Timonen and Chris Pronger nullifying the oppositons’s top lines, and goaltender Ray Emery playing as well as anyone could have hoped, their has been very little to complain about in the first two outings.

This week will tell us more about the boys in black and orange, with Washington here tonight, Pittsburgh in Philly on Thursday and Chris Pronger’s old Anaheim Duck teammates coming to town Saturday evening.

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Jones To Be Waived

jones2

Per a source, Randy Jones will be placed on waivers within the next 24 hours. In the meantime the Flyers will attempt to move him and his 2.75 million dollar cap hit in a trade  in an attempt to avoid forcing Jones to play for the Adirondack Phantoms in the AHL. I was told that Jones was notified this afternoon but that is not 100% confirmed.

If true this means the remaining Flyers defenseman are…

Chris Pronger, Matt Carle, Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn, Ryan Parent, Ole Kristian Tollefson and Danny Syvret.

I’ll post more info if I get any…

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Randy Jones Is On Thin Ice

Jones

Tonight the Flyers will face-off in South Philly against the New Jersey Devils in the 5th game of the preseason. In this lineup will be Defenseman Randy Jones. That, in and of itself is not news however the questions surrounding Jones’ position on this team may be some of the most ressing remaining before the opener in just over a week.

Prior to last year Jones was a restricted free agent and was given a 2 year 5.5 million dollar contract extension. He suffered a torn labrum in his hip during preseason action which required surgery. He missed half of the year and when he returned he was generally unimpressive. He finished the year a +8 with 4 goals and 4 assists in just 47 games played.

WIth the Flyers moves in the offseason clearly geared towards beefing up their blue line it appeared that Joens might be an afterthought. Besides bringing in Chris Pronger to anchor the first pairing, the Flyers also brought in hard nosed Norwegian defense man Ole Kristian-Tollefson from the Blue Jackets to compete for a spot. Tollefson along with impressive youngsters Ryan Parent and Danny Syvret have drawn praise from Head Coach John Stevens for their efforts thus far during camp. The same cannot be said for Jones…

“Physically, he feels better but Jonesy is capable of playing better than he has to this point, He needs to get back to that level of play that we’ve seen before and that comes from moving his feet and not standing still when he defends and when he has the puck.”

Even if Jones’ play reaches the level that his head coach expects it to, where does he fit into the lineup?  The top 2 pairings for the Orange and Black appear set in stone with Chris Pronger paired with Matt Carle and Kimmo Timonen teaming up with Braydon Coburn on the second grouping.

In the new world of the salary capped NHL a team that plans on competing for the cup simply cannot afford to pay a third pairing defense man nearly 3 million dollars. Keeping Jones on this roster over the likes of Syvret or Tollefson will cost the team approximately 2 million in cap space and could be the difference between them being able to make a mid-season acquisition that may require them to take on salary. Also, Jones’ roster spot could have a direct impact on whether James Van Riemsdyk’s salary could be fit into the club’s numbers for the start of the season.

Do you remember the last week of the year when the Flyers had to call up amateur defense men like David Sloane and James Fritsch just to field a full lineup. They were so strapped for cash they couldnt even call up a Phantom from across the parking lot and it cost them.

I doubt Paul Holmgren wants to scramble for some guy off the street in the middle of a playoff run again.

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