Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Centralized West / Atlantic Supremacy

All five Central Division teams are currently in playoff position in the West, taking up more than half of the conference's spots. If it holds (which is unlikely because of the remaining schedule), the Central Division would be come the first in the league to get all five teams into the playoffs since the six division system started in 1998-99.

It would be pretty surprising for the Central Division to be the one to , as the Central has been pretty terrible in terms of depth in it's ten year history as a five-team division, averaging only 2.22 teams in the playoffs each season, second worst in the league.

You know what division is the best? The Flyers' own Atlantic Division, naturally. The Atlantic Division is tied with the Northeast Division with an average of 3.22 teams in the playoffs each year, significantly better than the 2.66 that would be the expected average. The Atlantic will have sole possession of the highest average once this season's numbers are added, as the division will almost certainly send four teams, and the Northeast will send a maximum of two. The Atlantic Division is also the only division never to have sent less than three teams, and with the Devils, Flyers, Penguinss and Rangers all in great shape to make the playoffs this season, the Atlantic is likely to become the first division to send four teams to the playoffs in three different years.

Of course, a large part of the success of the Atlantic and Northeast is due to the incomprehensible suck of the Southeast Division. The Southeast is the only division never to have sent three teams to the playoffs, an accomplishment which every other division has achieved at least twice (the Atlantic has done it nine times). The Southeast is also the only division to have ever sent only one team to the playoffs, and they've done it four times. Unbelievable that that craphole of a division has won two of the last four Stanley Cups.

Here's how the number of Stanley Cups by division breaks down:

Atlantic -- 2 (New Jersey 2000, New Jersey 2003)
Northeast -- 0
Southeast -- 2
(Tampa Bay 2004, Carolina 2008)
Central -- 2
(Detroit 2002, Detroit 2008)
Northwest -- 1
(Colorado 2001)
Pacific -- 2 (Dallas 1999, Anaheim 2007)

And the number of Stanley Cup finals appearances by division:

Atlantic -- 4 (New Jersey 2000, New Jersey 2001, New Jersey 2003, Pittsburgh 2008)
Northeast -- 2
(Buffalo 1999, Ottawa 2007)
Southeast -- 3
(Carolina 2002, Tampa Bay 2004, Carolina 2008)
Central -- 2
(Detroit 2002, Detroit 2008)
Northwest -- 3
(Colorado 2001, Calgary 2004, Edmonton 2006)
Pacific -- 2
(Dallas 1999, Dallas 2001, Anaheim 2003, Anaheim 2007)

For a team that has been getting the most teams into the playoffs, the Northeast has had some pretty crappy results in the playoffs. It's also worth noting that two of the Southeast's appearances in the finals came in years where there was only one Southeast team in the playoffs.

So what does all this mean? No idea.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Finder's Fee

Last Wednesday I alerted my dear readership to the possibility of getting their grubby little hands on some genuine Flyer blood.

And since my announcement, the price has skyrocketed from the $1 starting price to a whopping:


Wow. Since The Flyer Frequent is allegedly the second most popular site on the internet behind only Google, this explosion was only natural. I was hoping my bid of $1 would hold up. I guess I'll have to go to Plan B for obtaining Flyer blood. Plan B isn't pretty.

All I ask, ernied8, is a small contribution in gratitude for the enormous windfall I have brought you. Even a modest commission of, say, 40%, would be sufficient.

Game #75 Review: Bruins 4 @ Flyers 3 3/27/09




Bruins won both in Philadelphia, and the Flyers won both in Boston. So much for giving the home town fans a good time.

  • So the Flyers didn't win. Not apocalyptic. They played pretty well (minus one), and it's not the playoffs. Losses are allowed. While catching New Jersey for the division title would be nice, losing that possibility isn't worth crying over.
  • What is worth crying over is Antero Niittymaki. His last three starts at home he has surrendered three goals in the first period. Twice now his three goal leaks have cost the Flyers the lead. All three of these home starts he has lost. Throw in his last road game, and he's 0-4 in his last four starts.
  • Yes, both teams had to play back-to-back games, but the Flyers had to play three in four nights, where this was only the Bruins second game in seven days. Another reason not to worry about this loss.
  • Claude Giroux is really good at this game. Really, really good.
A couple days off, then a home-and-home with Toronto. Should win both, but one is acceptable. Toronto is all over the place these days, so expect some weird, crappy, high-scoring hockey.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Game #74 Review: Flyers 4 (SO) @ Islanders 3 3/28/09

4 (SO)



(Game summary videos haven't been working on the NHL TV pages lately...)

Epic win over a terrible team? Why not.
  • This was a game the Flyers needed to win, because losing two straight to teams out of the playoffs would have been a huge bump in the road. If the Flyers hadn't dug themselves such a hole, this game wouldn't have been nearly as impressive. But two points are two points.
  • Arron Asham or Darroll Powe can't replace Daniel Carcillo on the third line soon enough. Carcillo has now played twelve games in the orange and black, and has scored exactly zero goals. The only other forward not to have scored in this stretch? Riley Cote.
  • I like Giroux with Gagne and Knuble, but the reuniting of the Hartnell-Carter-Lupul line was way overdue. They never should have been split.
Joffrey Lupul, in a rare performance as an energetic player, gets The Hat, with two goals.

And he was kind enough to the fans to reveal the back of the hat while talking to Coatesy.

Antero Niittymaki (who?) gets the start tonight against Boston, a game the Flyers will barely lose.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Game #74 Preview: Flyers @ Islanders 3/28/09


Flyers in the friendly confines of Nassau Colliseum tonight, against a team that the Flyers dominate like none other, the 30th place New York Islanders.

Why the Flyers Will Win:
  • The Flyers are just much better than the Islanders. They've won ten straight against them, and should have absolutely no problems tonight.
Why the Islanders Will Win:
  • The Isles have to be riding high after a big 2-0 shut out of Detroit last night. They will be playing with as much confidence as a team that terrible possibly could.
This could very easily be the Flyers last ever game in Nassau, if the team does pack up and move to Kansas City or wherever else the rumors have them going. Good riddance.

Prediction: Flyers 5-1.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Game #73 Preview: Panthers @ Flyers 3/26/09


It's the night we've all been waiting for. The night that Florida finally arrives to the Wachovia Center.

Why the Flyers Will Win:

  • As I'm sure you've heard, tonight is Scott Hartnell Wig Night. 7,000 wigs in the arena. I just pray there's a hat trick. Those things would look so ridiculous on the ice, and the team whose fans threw rats at Flyers players during the 1996 playoffs certain
  • How dumb would it be to lose on Scott Hartnell Wig Night? Fear of that embarrassment should be incentive enough.
  • Florida's choke yesterday was out of control. Up 3-1 on Buffalo in the third, they managed to lose 5-3, seriously damaging their playoff hopes. Florida and Montreal seem to be competing for who gets to start their summer earlier, and the Panthers are winning that battle right now. Morale has to be absurdly low for the boys with the kitties on their shirts.

Why the Panthers Will Win:

  • Things have been going so badly for Florida lately that it has to turn around sometime. Having this game only a night after their choke gives them less time to sulk, which could help.

Prediction: Flyers win 4-1. Hartnell almost certainly drops the gloves.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Hat, Part Deux

Ed Moran of the Philadelphia Daily News today broke the story of the Flyers' ugly orange Player of the Game Hat. Oh wait, that's not right. Yours truly was all over this story weeks ago. And I don't even write about this stuff for a living...

In my continuing efforts to be the preeminent source for all things related to The Hat, I now present the updated gallery of all The Hat winners in 2009:

New Jersey 3/23/09 -- Jeff Carter (1 goal, his 40th of the season).

Pittsburgh 3/22/09 -- Ryan Parent (1 assist, held Malkin and Crosby to zero shots)

Buffalo 3/20/09 -- Danny Briere (2 goals)

NY Rangers 3/14/09 -- Arron Asham (2 goals)

Buffalo 3/10/09 -- The Hat not seen in interviews.

Nashville 3/7/09 -- Joffrey Lupul (2 goals).

Boston 3/3/09 -- The Hat not seen in interviews.

Los Angeles 2/25/09 -- Martin Biron (34 shots, 34 saves in the shoutout).

Washington 2/24/09 -- The Hat not seen in interviews.

Buffalo 2/19/09 -- Mike Richards (2 goals and 3 assists)

NY Rangers 2/15/09 -- Claude Giroux (1 goal and 2 assists)

NY Islanders 2/14/09 -- The Hat not seen in interviews.

Atlanta 2/8/09 -- Scott Hartnell (2 assists and ZERO(!) penalties)

Boston 2/7/09 -- The Hat not seen in interviews.

Tampa Bay 1/30/09 -- Antero Niittymaki (42 shots, 41 saves, and an assist).

Atlanta 1/21/09 -- The Hat not seen in interviews.

Florida 1/16/09 -- Antero Niittymaki (34 shots, 32 saves)

Toronto 1/10/09 -- The Hat not seen in interviews.

Minnesota 1/8/09 -- The Hat not seen in interviews.

Anaheim 1/2/09 -- The Hat not seen in interviews.

Flyer Blood to the Highest Bidder

The Flyers are more about making their opponents bleed than actually bleeding their own blood. Because of its scarcity, Flyer blood is a precious commodity, a sound investment in these troubled economic times. Flyer blood can be worn in a vial around the neck to ward off evil, or used to extract DNA so parents wanting the best can make their baby a Flyer spawn. There are rumors out there that the reason the Octomom has had so many kids is because her sperm donor is Gary Dornhoefer. It would explain a lot.

My previous searches for Flyer blood had come up empty until just now, when I stumbled upon this treasure on the world's online blood marketplace--eBay. A game-worn Rick MacLeish jersey from the seventies, doused with a nice amount of Rick's own blood. Not only is there blood on the jersey, but it's mythology details how this modern day Shroud of Turin spent time in a landfill, which had to have enhanced its mystical powers immensely.

Bidding starts at the absurdly low price of $1.

Rick MacLeish's blood is a powerful elixir to be sure, my friends. Bid early, bid often. Don't let this once in a lifetime opportunity pass you by. Just look at all the other Flyers essentials you've already missed on eBay (FGSB).

(If you prefer ways to get close to Rick MacLeish that don't involve quite as many bodily fluids, I recommend watching his domination of Showdown '78.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

New Poll / Do Dreams Come True?

The Flyer Frequent is proud to present its second ever poll, up on the sidebar now. Vote for who you most want to see the Flyers take on in the first round, either Pittsburgh, Carolina, or the Rangers.

With a handful votes in so far, the Carolina Hurricanes are the most desired opponent. Which is good, because as of today, they are in fifth place, winning a big game in Florida last night. Pittsburgh is only a point behind with a game in hand, but fifth is fifth.

The Flyers went 3-0-1 against the Hurricanes this season, playing all four games within the span of a couple weeks in late November and early December. Carolina, you'll recall, couldn't even beat the Flyers when they led 5-1 after two periods.

At the risk of getting ahead of myself, I think it's pretty clear that if the Flyers do meet the 'Canes in Round 1, sweep will be the word.

Game #72 Review: Devils 2 @ Flyers 4 3/23/09




Beating Pittsburgh and New Jersey back to back? Doesn't get much better than that.

  • That was about as good a night on the power play as you'll ever see. Flyers were perfect at 3-for-3 with the man-advantage, scoring three goals in only 3:15 of power play time. The penalty kill was pretty solid as well, holding the Devils to only one power play goal in eight chances, in 14:23 of 5-on-4.
  • Remember when Daniel Briere was really terrible? Ever since he got his first goal in this comeback vs. Buffalo on Thursday, he has been phenomenal. His goal on the great feed from Kimmo Timonen was a beauty, and his feed on Mike Knuble's was just as nice. He's got his poaching feel back, and it's really a great thing to behold.
  • Daniel Carcillo and Arron Asham can't trade lines soon enough. Carcillo has the penalty taking skills of Steve Downie with the grooming habits of Adam Morrison. It's a really horrible thing to watch.
  • I accidentally initially put just "Martin Brodeur" as a reason why the Flyers would win this game. But was it wrong? He was not great at all, especially on Gagne's goal. Flyers are now 3-1 against Brodeur this season. Not bad.

For getting his fortieth goal of the season, The Hat goes to Jeff Carter.

Flyers are off until Thursday, with a couple of potential trap games coming up, vs. Florida on Thursday and at Nassau on Saturday.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Game #72 Preview: Devils @ Flyers 3/23/09


Back to back games against the two biggest divisional rivals on national television? What's not to love?

Why the Flyers Will Win:
  • Momentum. The Flyers and Devils both played good teams whose colors are black-and-gold yesterday afternoon. The Flyers won, largely because their black-and-gold team showed up in blue. The Devils, on the other hand, looked pretty bad against Boston, Brodeur especially.
  • The Devils have pretty little to play for these days. They'll finish in second. The Flyers are also locked into fourth, but since the Flyboys have something to prove against the Devils and the Devils don't have much to prove against the Flyers,
  • Daniel Briere is playing real well right now. Hell, everybody except Daniel Carcillo is playing real well right now.
  • Martin Brodeur will probably still be blinded by tears from the alimony beating he took recently.

Why the Devils Will Win:

  • The Devils haven't back to back games since Obama has been president. Yeesh.
  • Back in December, the Flyers played the Penguins and Devils back to back. They had a big win over Pittsburgh, then seemed absurdly content to get an OT loss vs. the Devils. If they're that complacent again, there could be issues.

Prediction: Flyers 3-1. Do it to it.

Puck drops at 7 on Versus.

The First Round Opponent

The Flyers, as has been clear for weeks now, are going to be the #4 seed in the Eastern Conference come playoff time. What has been decidedly less clear is who will be their opponent in Games 1 and 2 at the Wachovia Center. It looked like it would be Montreal for a while, or maybe Florida, but both have hit the skids hard recently, falling to eighth and ninth respectively.

Bold Prediction: The Flyers will face a Staal brother in the first round.
Barring an unlikely huge surge by either of those two, the Flyers' first round opponent will be either Pittsburgh, Carolina, or the Rangers, who have 86, 85, and 84 points respectively as they sit in fifth, sixth, and seventh.

Here's how the remaining schedules look for the three:

Pittsburgh has the toughest next three, against two division leaders and the Rangers, whereas the Rangers and Hurricanes both have two against teams pretty much out of the playoff race, followed by. Don't be surprised to see Pittsburgh fall out of fifth this week, though they should be able to make it up in their remaining five games, which are all against weaker teams. Pittsburgh should finish in fifth, but they're as streaky a team as any, so here's hoping they don't.

Carolina, everyone should agree, is the least scary of the three, and therefore the most desireable first round opponent. They play five of their games at home, which hopefully should cancel out the two at New Jersey which they shouldn't have a shot in. Hopefully Brodeur is resting for the last one.

Lastly, the Rangers, who are a mess. Sean Avery & Co. are the only of the three who the Flyers will face in the regular season. They meet in the final two games of the season, at which point the picture will be much clearer. The Flyers may have the chance to tank to get the Rangers in the first round, or the Rangers the chance to tank to avoid the Flyers. Both could tank, which would be a mess. Playing a home and home to end a season is pretty unusual, and could potentially lead to the two teams playing nine straight games against each other, which I have to think is pretty unprecedented. It should stay unprecedented, though, as I don't see the Rangers passing both Pittsburgh and Carolina, especially as their meeting with each team is away from Manhattan.

It will probably be another Battle of Pennsylvania, but there is still a chance it won't be. Let the Capitals have Pittsburgh, I say. They deserve each other.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Game #71 Review: Flyers 3 @ Penguins 1 3/22/09



That was strange. I had absolutely zero hope for this game. Clearly, I was rendered hopeless by the fact that only one Sweet Sixteen team is ranked below #5, and deluded by recent Penguins successes. And for that I apologize. It will never happen again.
  • The stats guy says that Crosby and Malkin combined for zero shots. Ryan Parent is getting a lot of the credit for this, but it was really a huge team effort. And if they really got zero shots, how to explain this huge Biron save on Crosby?
  • Goalie controversies are an omnipresent cliche for the Flyers, but Martin Biron looked really good. Really good. I'm still nervous when he gives up one that another quick one is going in, but that didn't happen today.
  • Daniel Carcillo = still terrible. His dive was largely called on reputation alone, but having his reputation regularly cost the Flyers penalties is just as bad as having him regularly called for legit penalties. He needs to be on the fourth line (or just scratched), moving Asham or Powe up.
  • Speaking of Darroll Powe, he has become a bizarrely huge part of this team's defensive core for a fourth liner. He's getting regular time on the PK, and scored the empty net goal with less than a minute left in the game because Stevens put him on the ice in a one-goal game with less than a minute left. Bold move.
  • The main lesson we learned in this game is that I'm a genius. I said in the preview that all the Penguins success has been because Fleury has been playing better. And today, he was bad. And the Penguins lost. Simon Gagne's goal was pretty soft, and he probably could have had Hartnell's. The Flyers were sticking to the formula that worked so well for them against Montreal in the playoffs last year--demoralizing a team by getting a lead despite being horribly outshot (Penguins led in shots 21-10 after two despite being down 2-0).

Despite not getting on the scoresheet until an assist on Powe's empty netter, Ryan Parent gets The Hat for the first time. Not a bad pick.

Big stuff against New Jersey tonight on Versus at 7. The back-to-back is a built in excuse to lose, but winning is much preferable.

Game #71 Preview: Flyers @ Penguins 3/22/09


I'm not going to do the usual why each team will win thing, because honestly I can't come up with many decent reasons why the Penguins won't win this game. They're 13-1-2 since Bylsma took over. Malkin could be missing the game with a suspension for his late cheapshot vs. L.A., which would be nice, but probably won't be the difference.
The difference for this team, which doesn't get talked about enough, is Fleury. Fleury was phenomenal in the playoffs last year, and was terrible early in this year. Now he's playing pretty well, and so is the rest of his team. The Flyers have only won once against the Penguins this season, and that was with the terrible Dany Sabourin in net for the flightless birds.
This game is even more important than the average Pittsburgh game since it's the last time the Flyers and Penguins play in the regular season, before they almost certainly meet in the first round of the playoffs. If the Flyers can really just injur every decent Penguin--Crosby, Malkin, Gonchar, Fleury, Staal, Kunitz, Sykora--that would be good. Hopefully then Carolina would be able to move into the #5 seed, which would be a much easier opponent, and be the first time that the Flyers ever faced the Hurricanes/Whalers in a playoff series, leaving the Thrashers as the only Eastern team the Flyers have never faced in the playoffs.
And the game is on NBC, which is good because I'll get to see it, but terrible because NBC's coverage is awful. Mike Milbury is awful. Pierre McGuire is awful. Whoever keeps them on the air is even more awful.
Hopefully the game won't be awful. Hopefully the Flyers win. That would be good.
Puck drops at 12:30 in the Igloo. Go Flyers.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Game #70 Review: Flyers 6 @ Sabres 4 3/20/09



Honk for Sweep.
  • I've stopped short of saying Daniel Briere was becoming a cancer on the team, but it was getting near that. John Stevens switched up the lines just for him, and clearly not everyone was thrilled about it. Briere producing has to make people happier, if a little resentful maybe.
  • Not a pretty game, really, but the Flyers needed a lot of goals, and goals they got. Richards, Carter, Gagne, Briere all tallied. No big stretch to say they're going to need those four to be the big four come playoff time.
  • Daniel Carcillo has no business being on the top three lines. He has no business being anywhere but the Phantoms, really. Waive the jackass already.
  • The buzzer goal = not cool, Sabres, not cool.

No big surprise here, Briere gets The Hat this time. And he giggled like a schoolgirl about it to boot.

Two nationally-televised games in the next couple days. Penguins Sunday on NBC, then Devils Monday on Versus. Should be a hoot.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Game #70 Preview: Flyers @ Sabres 3/20/09

I'm in a rush, but luckily tonight is pretty straight forward...
Why the Flyers Will Win:
  • The Flyers have won every game in this season series, and with some ease. They'll win again tonight.
Why the Sabres Will Win:

  • They won't.

Prediction: Flyers 4-1. Do it to it, boys.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Madness on Ice

The two most dominant American sports events in my mind are the NFL Playoffs and March Madness, both of which are single elimination. It's about time the NHL got in on that action.

Instead of the crap preseason the NHL does now, the NHL should playd a single-elimination tournament for like the Stanley Saucer or something. Seeding and brackets would be based off the previous year''s standings, and lower seeds would host the game. There'd be a day or two off between each game.
I'm undecided on whether or not the conferences should be seperate and meet at the final or be mixed the whole way.

Doing just the east, based on today's standings, here's how I see it playing out. I'm not biased at all.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Game #69 Review: Flyers 2 @ Red Wings 3 3/17/09




As far as heartbreaking, two-goal lead blowing, regulation losses go, this one wasn't so bad.

  • It feels like a game the Flyers should have won because they had a two goal lead. But really, Detroit is just better than the Flyers, and if you had told me that the Flyers would only lose by one, I would have been a little surprised.
  • That being said, the Flyers really could have won this game if they had gotten more decent shots on Chris Osgood. He's terrible, and will be Detroit's downfall come playoff time.
  • Martin Biron is really good. It took thirty something shots for the top team in the league tofinally get one past him. But there is an issue with Biron that has been there forever, and that is his propensity for giving up quick back to back goals. The team has got to be aware of this, and just try their damnedest to keep
  • Before the deadline, it looked like there might be zero Daniels on the team. But instead we have two. And both Daniels, Briere and Carcillo, really should be fed to the lions. Carcillo was awful and completely at fault on the first Detroit goal, and Briere was not good. His problems are probably all mental at this point, and until he starts scoring he's a big hinderance. But, of course, he has to keep getting ice time if he's gonna score. Quite the catch-48.

Big three games in the next four days. Sabres, Penguins, and Devils. Three points would be nice.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Game #69 Preview: Flyers @ Red Wings 3/17/09


For the first time in three years, it's time to play at the JLA. And it's on Versus, the second in a stretch of four out of five Flyers games that will be on national TV. Amen to that.

Why The Flyers Will Win:
  • Sure the Flyers haven't won in their last seventeen trips to Detroit. But the eighteenth time's the charm, right?
  • Martin Biron has been real solid in March, and is playing with a lot of confidence having finally locked up the starting gig. Look for him to be big tonight.
  • The Red Wings have a lot of question marks in goal, and a propensity for getting blown out of the water. In their last three losses, they've given up eight, eight, and six goals. If the Flyers can get a first cut in, the Red Wings have proven to be a pretty hemophiliac team, completely unable to stop the bleeding.
  • The Flyers are 4-0-1 this year in games on Versus, including wins in the last four.
  • The Flyers are one of the few teams that can match Detroit's offensive depth. Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Simon Gagne, Scott Hartnell, Joffrey Lupul, Mike Knuble, Claude Giroux, Daniel Briere and even Arron Asham make for quite the stacked front lines.
  • Pretzels are only $1 all night long at the Joe. While this will boost morale, it will mean the locals will be too busy chewing to loudly support their boys in red.
  • It's Ryan Parent's birthday, and he doesn't like losing on his birthday.
Why the Red Wings Will Win:

  • The Flyers haven't won in their last seventeen trips to Detroit. No reason the eighteenth would be any different.
  • Daniel Briere has been a mess in this latest incarnation. He's been slow and not even coming close to making goals happen. Until something changes he's going to keep being a huge hindrance to the team.
  • Randy Jones is out for a week, and though he has his haters, he is clearly way better than Danny Syvret, who has been called up to take his place (no Guenin?).
  • In case you haven't heard, the Red Wings are really, really good. They lead the league in points, and were the first team to clinch a playoff berth.

Prediction: Red Wings win 4-1. They're good.