Tag Archives: Hockey

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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Habs Hooligans Burn Crosby…And Cop Cars

How do you say lolz in French?

So after the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semi Finals last night, a couple of young rabble-rousers took to the street in celebration.

Ok, maybe it was more like 21,000 rabble-rousers… but who is really counting. Yeah, well the Police may have been… They made 36 arrests but they really brought the house down when they unleashed  tear gas on the mob, which dispatched the remaining party animals into the night.

You thought Frankford and Cottman was bad? These morons haven’t even won anything yet and they are lighting cop cars on fire.

I do give them full marks for creativity in burning the Crosby cut-out though. Well played Frenchy…well played.

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Team America Faces Off Against the Friendly Finnish

Today at 3pm EST the United States will take on Finland for a chance to play for the gold. I’m having one issue leading into this game, as a hockey fan tell me if you are dealing with the same thing. I find myself able to quickly hate on any opposing team or athlete in the Olympics with relative ease but some reason I just can’t get any negative feelings towards the Finns.

Maybe it’s because Kimmo Timonen might be my favorite Flyer.

Maybe it’s because Mikka Kiprusoff is a beast.

Maybe it’s because Finnish players always seem to be gritty warrior types who play with reckless abandon. (See Kukkonen, Lasse)

No matter the respect I have for the Finns, come 3 o’clock  I will be fully behind our Americans but it would have been a lot more enjoyable taking on some former Eastern Block nation or those cocky Canucks again. Maybe I’ll get my wish on Sunday.

Here’s some inspirational American music for you on this glorious day…

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Captain ‘Stache Takes Carcillo’s Lead

"I make this look good."

At Monday’s practice Flyers captain Mike Richards did more than work on his game; he debuted a tribute to teammate Dan Carcillo by shaving off his beard and sporting a serious handlebar mustache. Richards has been plagued by some inconsistent play of late and hopes his new ‘stache will lend him some good fortune

“Hopefully, it will start working. The beard wasn’t working. Hopefully, this will come along.”

Richards certainly wasn’t the only one around the Flyers who have noticed Dan Carcillo’s excellent play of late. Coach Laviolette’s been impressed by the young physical forward.

“When he wears his heart on his sleeve, everybody sees it. It’s contagious from the bench to the building, to the fans and myself. Danny’s played really good hockey for us.”

Carcillo himself talked about how he’s noticed some fans sporting some fake mustache’s in support of his play. Hey, whatever it takes to make this team bond together…if it’s 70’s porn mustaches who are we to question.

1 mustache > 4 penguins

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Newsflash: Officials are Biased

Cheer up buddy.

Well, it looks like the NBA isn’t the only league with dirty refs. The NHL has quite the issue on its hands now that Vancouver Canuck forward Alex Burrows came out last night, and accused veteran referee  Stephane Auger of carrying out a personal vendetta against him on the ice.

Burrows accused Auger of coming to him during the pregame skate and threatening him with revenge over a hit in a previous game.

According to Jason Botchford of the Vancouver Province on Monday night, Burrows said that Auger claimed the Canuck “made him look bad in Nashville on the Smithson hit” by feigning injury, and that Auger was going to “get him back” in the game against the Preds.

Burrows would end up leading all skaters in penalty minutes in the game with 16, including a dive and a 10-minute misconduct in the third period. He candidly spoke about Auger’s pregame threat and the ensuing penalties during a postgame interview that’s going to cause many a headache in NHL HQ on Tuesday — and could cost Auger his reputation, if not his job. (puckdaddy on yahoo.)

“He got me on a diving call that I didn’t think was diving and an interference call,” Burrows said. “I have no idea how he could call that and it changed the game

“Because of a guy’s ego, it just blows everything out of proportion and the refs are making bad calls and we’re paying for it.”

“He comes into the game and he’s going to make a call to give Nashville the advantage and I don’t think that’s fair for my teammates and for the fans.

Off the ice Auger is a British television star.

“After my second penalty I skated by him and he said ‘If you say a word I am going to kick you out.’

“So I didn’t say a word because I still thought we could come back and win the game. But with 3 seconds left and the faceoff outside the zone I thought I could tell him what I thought about him.

“It’s stupid, he takes it personal against guys.

“I think he should sit out the rest of the year for making calls like that are making us look bad.”

Now let me preface this by saying, I have always despised Stephane Auger. I could not be happier to see this slimy pompous ass lose his job. For years I have watched him single-handedly destroy dozens of good, solid hockey games with his phantom calls and outrageous judgement. I always just assumed he was completely inept at his job like many others in the NHL.

"Well at least we have a moment alone in front of 20,000 people and on national television."

As a fan, especially of the Flyers it’s really easy to buy into personal vendetta’s against your team and players. How great is it to be proven right with this idiot? He wasn’t even smart enough to have this conversation with Burrows behind closed doors, cameras caught the discussion in question.

This is not the first time this genius has been involved in controversy. Auger accused Phoenix Coyote and former Canadian national team captain, Shane Doan of using an anti-french slur during a game. A charge that Doan vehemently denied. The accusation went all the way to Canadian Parliament.

Opposition party leaders slammed the choice of Doan as captain Monday and referred to an alleged incident at the end of a National Hockey League game between Doan’s Phoenix Coyotes and the hometown Montreal Canadiens on Dec. 13, 2005. It was claimed by a French-Canadian linesman that Doan directed an anti-French slur at referee Stephane Auger, for which Doan received a gross misconduct. The NHL investigated and found no substance to the charges but the issue simply won’t die.

“I don’t have a single thing to hide about any of this,” Doan said. “The NHL investigated it. When they investigated it, there was nothing there. Nothing at all. I did not say a single thing. It wasn’t like I said almost something like that. I was trying to calm down our goalie (Curtis Joseph). I was not talking to the officials.”

Auger was also a part of one of the most outrageous blown calls in recent memory in a Red Wing/Stars game in November.

Auger also had a very eventful night in Philadelphia just over a month ago, in which he awarded the Caps a 9 minute power play and handed Dan Carcillo 29 unanswered penalty minutes for essentially winning a fight.

Karma however did come back to get Auger in the third period though with an errant Scott Hartnell slap shot.

I know it won’t get much pub here in the states but trust me…this is a HUGE deal. I wouldn’t be surprised if this clown gets fired. Imagine how big of a story it would be finding out Ed “Hercules” Hoculi went up to McNabb before a game and told him he was out to get him.

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Keith Ballard Slashes Own Goalie In the Face

 

Smooth move Keith. Tomas Vokoun was taken off the ice on a stretcher, he was also bleeding from the whack.

No word yet if Ballard will be suspended for being a complete and utter idiot.

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Moving On…

After about two weeks of mourning the Philles World Series loss to the Yankees, I have finally crawled out of my hole, and returned to being a fully functional member of society.

Once out of my pit of despair, I stumbled right into a hockey team that is on a certifiable roll. Last night they had their first real statement win of the season, by punching the Devils in the mouth with a 3-2 victory. The win denied the Devs the all time record for road wins to start a season which will remain at 9 for the time being.

The game was highlighted by timely, stellar goaltending by Ray Emery. He has really settled into his role as the number one netminder here. In his last handful of games he has an astronomical save percentage and a goals against average just under 2. Numbers are one thing but it is just a different feel right now with him between the pipes in comparison to the goalies of Flyers failures past. He is big, smooth, athletic and fast. But the most important thing I have seen so far is that he appears to come up with the big save at the right time. No more short side 40 ft floaters. No more dribblers in the final minute of a period. Clutch is the most important trait of any goaltender and right now he appears to have it in spades…it is only November though.

The Flyers having won 6 of their last 7 are currently in a hotel in Los Angeles awaiting a showdown tomorrow night with the league’s top scorer Anze Kopitar and his Kings at the Staples Center. I love the west coast games that start at 10:30 here.

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