Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Fly-By: 12/31/08

The last Flyers news of 2008...

Gagne out 7-10 Days (TSN) Which is infinitely better than indefinitely.

Lupul Road Trip Blog ( "An update at least once a day." Which, to Joffrey, means once about every three days, apparently. You get to hear about his thoughts on the regional quality of salmon, a subject close to my heart. And he admits to eating with the enemy (a Canuck), a decidedly Gordon Bombay circa D2 move.

Game #37 Review: Flyers @ Canucks 12/30/08




This was big. Getting off to a quick start in the first by getting two goals in the first period (double what the Flyers had scored in the first six periods of this road trip) was big. Martin Biron finally letting in fewer than three goals was big. Winning a game this isolated on the schedule was big.

But the biggest thing clearly is Simon Gagne getting knocked out of the game in the first minute. Obviously concussion worries are first and foremost any time Gagne goes down for the rest of his career, but this one didn't look too bad. He got up fairly quickly, and seemed to be clutching his shoulder more than he was dizzy or disoriented. I doubt he'll play in California, but I really don't think this wasn't the career ender it could have been.

Some thoughts:

  • Don't care that he lost the fight badly--how sweet is it to have a captain stick up for his teammates like Mike Richards does.
  • Been hearing his name forever as a prospect, and glad to see Claude Giroux getting out there and playing well. He is super quick and has incredible hustle on every play, and is just a little pinball type that is fun to watch.
  • Biron played real well, especially in the third. And those goals weren't stoppable shots. Nice effort for him, easily his best game of December.
  • Jeff Carter widens his lead for most goals in the NHL. Playing for the name on the back can be a good motivator even if playing for the crest on front is most important. Carter's clearly pretty excited to be leading the league, and it's the kind of quest that can really electrify a locker room.
  • Ossi Vaananen as third string goalie? That was some pretty sweet post-to-post.
  • If Carter has the best shot on the team, Scott Hartnell has the best slap shot. He beats goalies glove-side on shots better than anyone I can think of.
  • Garbagey goal to be sure, but nice for Jonathon Kalinski to get his first career tally, and a game winner no less.
  • Odd to see only one Flyer in minus territory in a one-goal game. That somewhat dubious distinction goes to Darroll Powe.
  • The orange and black tie on John Stevens was pretty sweet. Not that it's gonna reach any Guy Carbonneau levels, but it's a good look.
  • I don't think Bieksa's hit was that dirty, but it's total crap for Canucks TV to name him the #2 star of the game when all he did the whole game was knock out Gagne and then get in a retalliation fight with Richards. Give it to Kalinski for getting his first ever goal and the game winner, or give it to Ryan Kesler for that nice deflection on Vancouver's second.
  • The hell is going on with Vancouver's goaltending? They're without their franchise player Roberto Luongo, so they trade for a not great backup in Jason La Barbera and pull Curtis Sanford after a not-that-bad two-goal first period? I don't get it. But I'm embarrassed if I'm La Barbera. He's practically the Kings' #1 guy these days, and he got traded for a seventh round draft pick. That's unimpressive.

On to California. Worse places to spend New Year's than Los Angeles. Maybe they can find Rose Bowl tickets and go see Penn State beat up on USC?

Game #36 Review: Flyers @ Blue Jackets 12/27/08



Not a whole lot of good things happened here. Fewer injuries than there were in Chicago. Again there were travel delays that led to a game-day flight, but this was the Flyers' worst effort of the season. The Flyers are as streaky a team as any, so hopefully the break between this and Vancouver next Tuesday breaks up the skid. Because right now, these are some nasty skid marks the Flyers are smearing across the standings.

Gone 'til Tuesday night, goin' up into more Flyersy territory in Atlantic City, the possible future home of the Phantoms. Hopefully the team can get on the right plane this time and get some much needed rest and practice before they play a hopefully Sundin-less Vancouver.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Game #36 Preview: Flyers @ Blue Jackets 12/27/08

Rough scheduling for what would otherwise be a slam dunk game.

Why The Flyers Will Win:
  • The Flyers have never lost to Columbus. Ever.
  • Niittymaki will get the start, and he's been money lately. He really shoulda started last night and Biron tonight, but I digress...

That's all I got, sadly. Circumstances are really not ideal for tonight...

Why The Flyers Will Lose:

  • Injuries abound. Briere, Upshall, now Timonen and Hartnell. Flyers can win without those guys, but losing so many so quickly has to be draining.
  • Back-to-back road games suck. Chicago and Columbus aren't that near each other, and weather in the midwest has been awful, undoubtedly screwing with travel some more.
  • Hell hath no fury like an Umberger scorned. I have to imagine he's still pissed about being traded for draft picks after the playoffs he had. And Philadelphia to Columbus is a massive downgrade in every way imagineable, except now he's closer to that garbage alma mater of his.

Not optimistic, but hopefully the Flyers can win this one on brand name alone. It's still Columbus.

Game #35 Review: Flyers @ Blackhawks 12/26/08


Not much to say about this one. The Blackhawks are the hottest team in the NHL right now. No shame in losing to an Original Six team that is setting all-time franchise records. Or at least that's what I'm telling myself.

Travel problems and scheduling made this game pretty unwinnable. And the injuries may make the next one unwinnable too.


Hartnell and Timonen Injured

Because the 5-1 loss to Chicago wasn't bad enough on its own, news broke that the Flyers will be without at least two of their starters for the forseeable future.
Philadelphia Daily News
CHICAGO - Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen and forward Scott Hartnell were injured in last night's 5-1 loss to the Blackhawks.
Timonen had a soft cast on his right foot after chipping a bone in the ankle.
"It will depend on how Kimmo feels, but it looks like [he'll be out] a minimum of a week," Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said. "Hartnell broke his big toe blocking a shot. We'll see how he feels, but it's a very slim chance [he'll play tonight]."

Friday, December 26, 2008

Running Thoughts: Flyers @ Blackhawks 12/26/08

First Period

  • Why is Biron starting? This is a horrible team for him to come back against.
  • Flyers plane circling for hours and no morning skate? Swell.
  • And just over a minute in, a big, juicy Biron rebound makes it a quick 1-0 for the 'Hawks.
  • Just over a minute after that, a Sharp shot top-shelf makes it 2-0. This could be a real long night. And a real short night for Biron.
  • Metropolit misses a breakaway, frustrated Flyers take a penalty. Boo.
  • Penalty killed and the Richards scores from a nice defensive breakdown from Chicago. 2-1 Chicago.
  • Real nice steal from Knuble followed by a real dumb turnover.
  • Real nice long possession by the third-first line. Doesn't lead to anything, but still nice.
  • Penalty against the 'Hawks with 0.8 seconds left in the period. Not sure why they made Toews sit in
  • Flyers seem to have shook off the rust, are playing pretty well now. To escape with only a one-goal deficit after that shittalicious start isn't too bad.

Second Period

  • Garbage penalty on Knuble seventy seconds in stops what had been a nice power play.
  • Asham-Giroux-Metropolit line is having a real nice night.
  • Gratton wins a fight. He seems to win more than Cote, though he may be in a different weight class.
  • Real nice glove save by Biron on what coulda been a real unlucky goal.
  • No shots on goal for the Flyers in the first eight minutes of the second. Seven for the Blackhawks.
  • This game has really slowed down. All the goals in the first nine minutes.
  • Fifteen minutes in the second, still no Flyers shots. 26-9 total shot count. Bleh.
  • Flyers get their first shot of the period with 1:48 remaining.
  • Nice save by Biron on a minibreak by Patrick Kane.
  • Dumb slashing penalty by Lupul with a minute left.
  • And another penalty at the buzzer, this one on Gagne. This one wasn't as dumb, though. But the 'Hawks start the third with a minute of 5-on-3.

Third Period

  • 'Hawks score on a five on three. 3-1 Chicago. It expires, and the Flyers immediately take two more penalties, the second an especially dumb over-the-glass by Powe, giving the Hawks another whopping 1:55 of 5-on-3.
  • And another goal on a 5-on-3. This one from Versteeg and his ENORMOUS front teeth. 4-1 Chicago.
  • Luca Sbisa has had a pretty awful.
  • For good measure the Hawks quickly add an even strength goal. 5-1 Chicago. Let's see if they leave Biron in for this last fifteen minutes.
  • Flyers can do the comeback from 5-1 down thing again, right? Right?
  • Richie fights are always good to see. That's what Flyers captaincy is all about.
  • Time runs out. Flyers lose. The scheduling and the flight delays are what I blame for entirely expected loss, they should have everything together by tomorrow night in Ohio.

Game #35 Preview: Flyers @ Blackhawks 12/26/08


Still drunk off egg nog and peppermint Schnapps, the Flyers head to Chicago to face the Blackhawks in a battle of the Eastern #4 seed vs. the Western Conference #4 seed.

Why The Flyers Will Win:
  • The Flyers have won seven of their last nine, and fourteen of their last seventeen. None too shabby.
  • The Blackhawks have won seven straight. Their luck has to run out soon, right? Right?
  • The Blackhawks gotta be distracted by the upcoming Winter Classic at Wrigley Field on New Year's Day. Less than a week away, and with media attention galore, it would be easy for them to overlook this game.
  • Cristobal Huet might start, and he is definitely not the reason for Chicago's success, winning "only" half his games. Plus he may still be traumatized by this. Or this. Or this.

Why The Flyers Will Lose:

  • The Blackhawks have won seven straight. And in some style, scoring an average of over four goals in those seven games, including putting up seven on Phoenix and nine(!) on Edmonton.
  • The Flyers are 1-3 against Original Six teams this year.
  • Holiday travel sucks.
  • This will likely be Marty Biron's first game back from a long absence from the flu, against a very fast and potent offense. If he's at all rusty, the Blackhawks will light him up early and often. Here's hoping Marty saves his return for Columbus tomorrow.
  • The Blackhawks have two players in Patrick Sharp and Ben Eager that now suck significantly less than they did when they were with the Flyers. The Flyers seeing them not suck may very well be jarring.

Puck drops at 8:30 EST. Stupid Central time.

Fly-By: 12/26/08

Phantoms leaving Philadelphia Area for Sure (DelCo Times)
Why not have them play at the Wachovia Center, too? The Staples Center fits in three winter sports teams and concerts, why can't the Wachovia Center? Even just for a year until the team can be moved to Hershey.

After the comeback from 5-1 down against Carolina, why not crash a frat party? Though it's a little more understandable since this party was actually at a bar in Center City. Not like they caravaned out to the Villanova campus or anything.
Riley Cote Still Bruised From Brashear Beatdown (The 700 Level)
I still love Brashear. He's making way too much money now in D.C., but he's still awesome. Brash's website is a mess, and totally worth your time.

Luca Sbisa's Family Arrives, Heavy Sleep Ensues (Philadelphia Inquirer)
The jokes about how the tree grew from two to four inches are just way too easy.

Briere to Travel With Flyers on Road Trip (
He says it's to be ready to come back from injury at any time, but we all know he just wants to go to Disneyland.

Road Trip!

The Flyers are 10-0-2 in their last twelve home games. What better time to go on a six-game road trip? What prospect could be more exciting than thirteen of the next eighteen games away from home?

Because of their location right in the center of it all in Philadelphia, the Flyers do less traveling than most any other team. No team in the NHL has a less distant most distant divisional opponent (you may have to read that more than once to get it).

The Flyers have won less than half their road games, stacking up a decidedly unimpressive 7-4-4 record away from home this year, and are winless outside the Eastern Time Zone. The Flyers have only won one game on the road this year that followed another road game. And so on and so on...

Now that all the doom and gloom is out of the way, here's a quick blow-by-blow of the Flyers' next two weeks of nomadism:

  1. @ Chicago, 12/26. There may be no worse team to be facing right now than the Blackhawks. The combination of Patrick Kane (#1 in Western Conference forward All-Star voting), Jonathan Toews (#2 in Western Conference forward All-Star voting), and the Winter Classic at Wrigley Field have made hockey suddenly relevant in this once deadest of Original Six cities, with the Blackhawks now easily selling out every home game. The 'Hawks have won seven in a row, including a couple huge blowouts, as well as a sweep of the Flames, Oilers, and Canucks on a swing through Western Canada. This isn't the team you want to start a long road campaign against.

  2. @ Columbus, 12/27. You gotta feel for Blue Jackets fans, who are still waiting on their first playoff appearance in this their ninth season. They do have some nice goaltending coming up in Steve Mason, and they did have that one fluke nice win over San Jose. The Flyers have never lost to the Blue Jackets in their seven previous meetings. The real concern here is that the Flyers have to play in front of thousands of Ohioans on an "All You Can Eat Night." Even with plexiglass separating the Flyers from the hoards of masticating Buckeyes, it has to be a troubling scene.

  3. @ Vancouver 12/30. The last Flyers game of 2008 is in Vancouver, home of the 2010 Olympics and one of the most unpredictable teams in the NHL. The Canucks have been minus-Luongo, but are now plus-Sundin, a change to the equation that might not make a ton of difference early on given Mats' absence from the game. The Flyers are secretly phenomenal in Vancouver, stacking up a 30-10-12 (W-L-T, no OTLs) all-time record in British Columbia.

  4. @ Anaheim 1/2. After ringing in 2009 at Disneyland (presumably), the Flyers face the Anaheim Ducks, who seem to have now fully recovered from falling flat on their faces in the 2008 playoffs during their attempt to defend their 2007 Stanley Cup. The Ducks have recovered from their early losing skids, and have racked up plenty of wins lately. It is easily noted, however, that most all of these wins have come against pretty crappy teams. And the Flyers are not a crappy team.

  5. @ Los Angeles 1/3. The second-to-last regular season game for the Flyers outside of the Eastern Time Zone is at the Staples Center, versus the always disappointing Los Angeles Kings. The Kings are so bad that FS-W interviews the cast of Chuck during play rather than show the game. The Flyers should be happy to get the Kings past regulation, where they are a decidedly less-than-kingly 2-6.

  6. @ Washington 1/6. The Flyers end their epic six-game trek close to home, at the friendly confines of the Verizon Center, where they play an otherwise hot Capitals team that pooed all over themselves upon stepping onto the ice in Philadelphia last Saturday in a blowout 7-1 loss at the Wachovia Center. This marks the Flyers' first return to D.C. since their Game 7 OT win in the first round of the 2008 playoffs, their first return since getting garbage thrown at them during post-game interviews. Caps head coach Bruce Boudreau vowed revenge or something after the Caps aforementioned self-pooing in Philadelphia last Saturday, so we'll have to wait and see if that leads to anything. Previous talk by Caps players about wanting revenge against the Flyers for their playoff loss to them only led to self-pooing the first time, and it's likely the result will be the same again. With that in mind, it's still worth noting that Alex Ovechkin is still frighteningly good.
Then it's back home to brotherly love and WaWa. The Flyers are only two points behind the Rangers for first in the Atlantic, with a whopping three games in-hand, so they have a huge opportunity on this tough part of the schedule. Let's just hope they can make the most of it.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

No Other Way I Could Begin

Because it doesn't start until the Fat Lady sings...