Saturday, April 25, 2009

Until Next Season...

..because sometimes a 3-0 lead just isn't enough.

World Penguin Day

World Penguin Day is an annual "holiday," celebrated every year on April 25th. Yes, this April 25th. The day the Flyers fight for their playoff lives against the Penguins. Not real penguins, though. Just hockey players with pictures of penguins on their chests.

Playing real penguins would be kinda fun. They're good on ice, and would probably try to hatch the puck or something. And they're all about Daniel Briere's height, which would be fun for him.

It could be the last day of the Flyers' season, and this is the mind-blowing stuff I come up with. It's impressive, I know.

Friday, April 24, 2009


Following in the footsteps of Angelina Jolie and Madonna, anthemist extraordinaire Lauren Hart is off to Africa to get herself a baby. Which is fine.

What's a little questionable about this is the timing. Lauren decided the best time to go grab said baby is in April, ie playoff time, ie the time when she gets to sing "God Bless America" with a video recording of a dead woman.

So instead of a duet between a dead, absent woman and a live, present woman, the Flyers will open Game 6 with a duet between a dead, absent woman and a live, absent woman who apparently values babies over Jared Ross & Co.

How do you feel about Lauren Hart's priorities?

Six is a Magic Number

Since the lockout, the Flyers have been a tough knockout. No team has been able to close out the Flyers in an elimination game if they didn't build up a lead of at least six goals. Six.

So in this Game 6, the Penguins theoretically will need to put in at least six goals.

Not gonna happen.

ECQF Game 5: Flyers 3 @ Penguins 0 - Penguins Lead Series 3-2




That's more like it.
  • It was an odd, unfamiliar feeling having bounces go the Flyers' way.
  • As those of you who read The FF frequently should know, I have ALWAYS been an ardent defender of Daniel Carcillo, who has proved me right by being one of the Flyers' best these past two games. He got assists on the first two goals to finish a game best +2. Added to his goal in Game 4, he's picked it up nicely after that suspension.
  • One person I actually have been advocating for is Arron Asham, who again showed off some offensive chops with a laser of a shot to open the scoring, a goal that stood up to be the game winner.
  • That first goal held up because Martin Biron did what he needed to do. He didn't really even look his best, but nothing got past him (except Evgeni Malkin's kick-in). Tough to complain too much about a shut out.
  • Every Flyer forward except for two have scored. Those two? Joffrey Lupul and Danny Briere. Not to say their not earning they're pay (they aren't), I'm just thinking a little pride should kick in when Jared Ross is out-tallying you...
  • I realize he scored tonight, but Mike Knuble hasn't been much better than his two aforementioned goalless teammates. Hopefully that late goal gets him back on track.
  • I guess it makes sense to keep trying, so good on 'em, but anyone else think it was a little odd that Bylsma pulled Marc-Andre Fleury with just over a minute left, down by three? Can't say I've seen that before.
  • The Pittsburgh fans were quiet the whole game, and deserted their team halfway through the third. The Igloo didn't look more than half full with five minutes left, which is pretty disgraceful for a playoff game, no matter the score.
The action now shifts back to The Wach for Game 6, on Saturday at 3 PM on NBC and CBC. The Penguins haven't outplayed the Flyers since Game 1. That was more than a week ago.

Good things can and will happen.

Let's go Flyers.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

ECQF Game 4 Review: Penguins 3 @ Flyers 1 - Penguins Lead Series 3-1

Oh well.
  • I've been saying Marc-Andre Fleury was the key to this thing the whole time, and Game 4 certainly proved this. Flyers dominated this game and had nothing to show for it.
  • What really killed the Flyers was not getting a goal real early. The Flyers came out blazing in the first ten minutes, while the Pens and even Fleury looked a little flat out of the gate. Getting an early goal woulda been huge, but Pittsburgh weathered the storm, got a super crappy goal from Sidney Crosby putting himself in the net before the puck, and they never looked back.
  • With Daniel Carcillo of all people scoring (finally), the stage really was set for a huge goal in those waning minutes of the third. The Flyers played their worst hockey of the game inconveniently after Biron got pulled, which made for a pretty anti-climactic end to what could have been a pretty epic comeback.
This is what it must have been like for Montreal fans last year, watching your team dominate games and doubling up the other team's shot count, hitting post after post, not being able to score any damn goals while the opponent takes advantage of seemingly every opportunity they get. It's not fun.

There's no doubt in my mind that the Flyers "deserve" a lot better than to be down 3-1 at this point. One of those post shots goes in from Game 4, Carter buries that empty net in Game 2, and it's a whole different series.

Which is why I'm fairly sure the series is over, but Game 5 certainly isn't. The Flyers have not been outplayed at all since Game 1, and seem to know it. They get some bounces to finally go their way, and this thing could very easily be headed back to Philadelphia for a Game 6.

Let's Go Flyers.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

ECQF Game 4 Preview: Penguins @ Flyers - Penguins Lead Series 2-1 - 4/21/09

Whenever I start thinking about this Game 4 tonight, my arms start twitching, my palms get all sweaty, my mouth gets all dry, I get short of breath and feel like I'm about to pass out. All of which makes typing pretty difficult. Damn, I love the playoffs.

Last year's Game 4 against Pittsburgh didn't really matter. The Flyers were down 3-0, and while winning it and avoiding the sweep was nice, it still only gave them a (generous) 13% chance of taking the series.

This year is totally different. A win tonight and it's a tie ballgame, a best-of-three for a spot in the second round. Flyers would have all the momentum, and the Penguins would be crying even more than usual.

And on the other side, a loss tonight would be fatal. As much as the Flyers "made it a series" by winning Game 3, they would completely unmake the series by losing tonight. It would be over. I'd say there was still hope, but I'd be lying.

So with all that in mind, here we go...

Why the Flyers Will Win:
  • Because the Flyers are really, really good. Their depth is absolutely nuts, with any of around eight of them completely capable of having a multi-goal game tonight.
  • The Flyers should have all the momentum tonight. They outplayed the Penguins in Game 3 and most of Game 2. The Flyers could be overconfident and had trouble stringing wins together down the stretch, but if there is any momentum it will be squarely with the orange team.
  • As you should have read earlier, the Flyers are money in Game 4s. They've won five straight and eight of their last nine. I'm not sure if this means anything, but it's good all the same.
  • I have no evidence for this, but I feel like the Flyers are going to get pretty favorable officiating tonight. They're really due.
Why the Penguins Will Win:
  • Because the Flyers have been completely incapable of containing Evgeni Malkin. He's leading the league with seven points in these playoffs. Seven points in three games.
  • I didn't know which section to put this in, but once again I think this game is completely in Marc-Andre Fleury's small French Canadian hands. If he bounces back big from his Game 3 disappointment, it will spell trouble for the Flyers. If he doesn't, the Flyers win.
  • Because the Penguins are getting more used to the Wach by now. If you think that the crowd was a big factor in Game 3, you gotta realize that it won't be as big a factor tonight. Add that to the fact that Flyer fans won't be given any free orange shirts (sorry), and life should be a little easier for the Pens.
Prediction: Flyers win 3-2. OT. Epic.

Puck drops at 7, on Versus, CBC, CSN Philadelphia, and FSN Pittsburgh.

Do it to it, boys.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Flyers Get Creepy...for You!

I'm not sure what's creepiest about this. The horrible acting, the way you can't see John Stevens while he's talking to you, or the way your phone actually rings. It's serious scary movie material.

Don't visit this link in the dark.

Fourth Time's the Charm

Whether or not they win the series, the Flyers have had phenomenal success in Game 4s over the past five seasons. The Flyers have won eight of their past nine Game 4s, including their past five in a row. That's crazy good.

Some highlights (the ones I could find):

2004 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Game 4 vs. New Jersey

2004 Eastern Conference Finals Game 4 vs. Tampa Bay

2006 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Game 4 vs. Buffalo

2008 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Game 4 vs. Washington

2008 Eastern Conference Semifinals Game 4 vs. Montreal

2008 Eastern Conference Finals Game 4 vs. Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh, on the other hand, has lost their last three Game 4s. Unimpressive.

Recap: Flyers are good, Penguins are bad.

Do it to it, boys.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

ECQF Game 3: Penguins 3 @ Flyers 6 - Penguins Lead Series 2-1




And we have a series.
  • All that orange is a beautiful thing. From the T-shirts (which the Penguins were too cheap to give out this year) to the Kate Smith, it's easily the best playoff atmosphere in any sport. And I say that as a completely impartial observer.
  • It definitely got pretty scary there in the early second, with the Penguins erasing a two-goal cushion in like twenty-five seconds of playing time. Sure the Flyers had the lead for 53 minutes of this game and never trailed, but those seven minutes weren't fun. The Frenchies got together and decided that not having the lead was no good, and decided that they (Martin Biron, Claude Giroux, Simon Gagne, and Daniel Briere) should start playing really well. And it was a beautiful thing to see.
  • Claude Giroux is such a great human being. Not only did he get a real pretty goal, a prettier assist, and the prettiest fight (that he only got roughing for), he also has managed to grow a playoff beard that is almost as orange as his jersey. It's a great look.
  • The main thing to take home from tonight's game is that I really know what I'm talking about. I've been saying all series long that the key is whether or not Marc-Andre Fleury plays well, and tonight was another shining example of that. Fleury stunk up the joint wire to wire, with a save percentage around 82%. And the Flyers won. Game 4 will largely balance on how he bounces back.
  • As much as dumping on Daniel Carcillo is the pasttime here, I gotta say he had a pretty decent game today. He was one of only four Flyer forwards who didn't spend any time in the box, and didn't do anything too boneheaded. I still think Luca Sbisa contributes more, but it worked out alright today.
  • The only thing I noticed Sidney Crosby do all game was get face washed by Darroll Powe, who by the way is having one hell of a series.
  • Congrats to Jared Ross on choosing a pretty good occasion to score his first NHL goal.
Tuesday is now the hugest night of everyone's life. Git 'er tied, boys.

Orange--You Glad?

Today for the first time since May 3rd, 1999, the Flyers will wear orange for a playoff game. This is the first time since April 6th, 1969, that the Flyers will wear orange for a home playoff game.

I apologize for how uninteresting that is, and I apologize to myself for wasting so much time figuring those dates out.

The Last Playoff Game at the Wach

Go Flyers.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

ECQF Game 2: Flyers 2 @ Penguins 3 (OT) - Penguins Lead Series 2-0



3 (OT)

Well that sucked.
  • Losing but playing well really isn't enough. Moral victories mean nothing this time of year, though this game was infinitely better than Game 1. The Flyers controlled play most of the way, and had the lead with less than four minutes remaining. Can't get too much closer.
  • NEVER have I heard of a 5-on-3 in overtime in the playoffs before. Neither call was terrible, but both were unfortunate. Claude Giroux's penalty especially was just bad luck, as he would not have gotten a call at all if these composite sticks didn't break so easily.
  • Jeff Carter's inability to bury that shot with Marc-Andre Fleury way out of position was absolutely killer. I really have no other words to describe it.
  • Martin Biron was great, except for in overtime. The goal was pretty soft, but way worse than that was when he inexplicably came out to like the blue line to challenge a racing Penguin for a puck. He barely won the battle, but NO way was it worth the risk. Not in regulation in the regular season, much less overtime in the playoffs. Had he been a half step slower, the game would have ended right there, in about the worst fashion imagineable. But all in all, he was good.
The focus at this point has to be on extending the series one game at a time. Winning Game 3 means there will be a Game 5. Winning Games 3 and 4 means there will be a Game 6. Baby steps.

Game 3 puck drops at 3 on NBC. Go Flyers.

Friday, April 17, 2009

ECQF Game 2: Flyers @ Penguins 4/17/09 (Penguins Lead 1-0)

The biggest game of the year. If the Flyers lose, as far as I'm concerned, all hope is lost. Insert your own favorite cliche here. Tonight is cliche city.

Why the Flyers Will Win:
  • Because they have to. The Flyers are going to be desperate, and hopefully were embarrassed by their play in Game 1. There's a lot to prove. They will be better if they have any pride.
  • The Flyers played their best near the end of the game. Maybe some good momentum got started? Maybe?
  • How can Pittsburgh not underestimate these Flyers? Every talking head is saying that the series is over, how the Flyers are a terrible team, etc. The Flyers could very well catch them sleeping.
  • Daniel Carcillo is not a playoff calibre player, and the Flyers will be better off without him. Hopefully Luca Sbisa can provide some sort of spark.
Why the Penguins Will Win:
  • If Game 2 looks anything like Game 1, the Penguins will win. The Flyers were far from being in the contest at any point, so a lot has to change fast.
  • The main problem the Flyers have had against the Penguins dating back to last year's playoffs is a complete inability to solve Marc-Andre Fleury. Second to the penalties, it was the main reason the Flyers lost Game 1. Keeping shots high and sending somebody to run him over repeatedly (I nominate Hartnell) could do a lot of good. But if nothing changes, it will be trouble.
  • Normally I would say that the big advantage in penalties against that the Penguins held in Game 1 would mean some balancing out in Game 2. But the Carcillo suspension will just reinforce notions of the Flyers being goons. Expect whistles early and often.
If anybody is thinking along these lines, yes the Flyers did lose both Games 1 and 2 in Buffalo in 2006 and come back to tie the series by winning both Games 3 and 4 in Philadelphia. So it can be done. But both those Flyers wins were flukes, and the Flyers deservedly got destroyed in Games 5 and 6.

Prediction: Penguins win 3-0. I pray I'm wrong.

Puck drops at 7 on CSN Philadelphia, Versus, and CBC.

Let's go Flyers (clap clap clapclap clap).

Carcillo vs. Sbisa By The Numbers

During the much maligned Daniel Carcillo era, the Flyers have gone 10-10-1, which makes for a 47.6% winning percentage.

During the Luca Sbisa era (October-January), the Flyers went 26-14-9, good for a 53.1% winning percentage. They also had a much greater percentage of their losses in OT, which of course is largely meaningless in playoffs, but speaks to the losses being closer.

All in all, good news. Unless you read between the lines...

The record during the interregnum between Carcillo and Sbisa? 8-4-1, good for a 61.5% winning percentage. That was the stretch leading up to the Upshall-Carcillo trade, since which the Flyers have only won 47.6% of their games. That's a drop-off of about 14 percent, which is pretty huge.

I promise I'll try not to say anything more about Scottie Upshall the remainder of the playoffs. I'll try to try. But it's so hard...

My Name is Luca, I Play in the Second Game

An angel descending from the north (see the halo?), Luca Sbisa makes his triumphant return to Flyerland in what is only the biggest game of the season. Welcome back, little Swiss guy.

Daniel Carcillo
finally got the Flyers on the suspension board this season, after being held suspensionless for an uncharacteristic 83 games. He'll have to watch from the press box, where scared reporters will try not to make eye contact with him for fear of him biting off their faces.

So what does Sbisa's return mean? Sbisa and Carcillo combined for zero goals this season, true, but Sbisa has the excuse of playing on defense most all of his time with the Flyers, whereas Carcillo's only excuse is that he's terrible.

Sbisa will be on offense tonight, which was always fun to watch. He is crazy fast and plays like he's crazy small (even though he's allegedly 6'2''), bouncing around wildly like a ping-pong ball. Whether he's good or not is not really important--he'll be a different look for the Penguins to deal with, and has to be a pain to play against. Facing Luca Sbisa on offense has to be like playing poker against someone who has no idea what the rules are. They have no idea what they're doing, but neither do you, so it's dangerous for both.

So please, Luca, do big things tonight. The bar is set dangerously low, just be careful not to trip over it.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

They're Trying to Take My Carcillo Away!

The NHL will hold a hearing with Philadelphia Flyers forward Daniel Carcillo at 3 p.m. ET Thursday to discuss an incident that took place during the Flyers' Game 1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-1, Wednesday night.

The NHL spoke with all coaches and general managers prior to the start of the playoffs informing them there would be no "message sending" during the latter stages of games. Carcillo got involved with the Penguins' Max Talbot near the end of the game.

The Flyers acquired Carcillo, 24, at the trade deadline in exchange for Scottie Upshall and a 2011 second round draft pick. He scored 3 goals and 11 assists in 74 games this season, picking up 254 penalty minutes.


Prayers answered (albeit late). Here's hoping they ban him and reverse the Upshall trade...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

ECQF Game 1: Flyers 1 @ Penguins 4 - Penguins Lead Series 1-0



Can't get too much worse, right? Right...?
  • The Flyers can't afford to think everything was okay in this game, and that they'll just bounce back. Because it wasn't, and they won't. The Flyers have to do exactly what they did after that horrible performance in Toronto not so long ago. Beat themselves up over it, change shit, and come out firing, and score five goals in the first period. That would be good.
  • The Flyers just did not look good. Any of them. Braydon Coburn looked okay. Maybe Mike Richards wasn't bad. But nobody was great. Jared Ross may well have been the third best player on the ice. Not good.
  • Just about every Flyer forward was totally invisible tonight, except for the two previously mentioned, Scott Hartnell, and Claude Giroux.
  • Arron Asham's penalty was really weak. Led to the first goal, and the game seemed over from there on. That's the only whining I can muster out of this--the Flyers didn't deserve to win at all.
  • Martin Biron was pretty mediocre. No terrible goals, but he could have had the first three. Especially the third, from Evgeni Malkin. Those are the kind of weird breakdown goals that the Penguins seem to get a lot vs. our boys. No reason for Biron not to start Game 2, it really isn't debatable. He hasn't been immaculate, sure, but Antero Niittymaki has been just bad lately, so putting him in really shouldn't be an option.
  • That guy who predicted that the Penguins would win Game 1 by the score of 4-1? He must be a freakin' genius.
The split is what we needed, and the split is still in play. Game 2 becomes a must win now, no way around that.

On This Day Last Year...

...The Flyers took their first lead of the playoffs, winning Game 3 against the Capitals 6-3 to go up two games to one in the first round.

One year later, the Flyers go into Pittsburgh looking to take their first lead of the playoffs tonight.

If that doesn't get you excited for this game, you don't have a pulse.

Go Flyers.

ECQF Game 1 Preview: Flyers @ Penguins 4/15/09


Holy crap, we're here. As of writing this, there's about nine hours until the Flyers begin their run in the playoffs. It's been three hundred and thirty-two days since the Flyers last played a playoff game. That's a long time. A LONG time.

(This is mostly general stuff for the whole series, but it's mostly for tonight).

Why the Flyers Will Win:
  • Because they've got something to prove. About 97% of pundits are picking Pittsburgh to win this series, which is pretty ridiculous for a 4 vs 5 match-up. Plenty of bulletin board material.
  • Because the Penguins' record against the Flyers this year is really deceptive. They won four of the six, sure, but one of those was in a shootout (in a game the Flyers were leading with three minutes left), and the other was because of this shit.
  • Because the Penguins' record against the Flyers this year is really irrelevant. The Flyers had a winning record against the Penguins in the regular season last year, and we all know how much that meant. The Flyers also did not have winning records last regular season against either Washington or Montreal, and we all know how much that meant too.
  • Braydon Coburn. Kimmo Timonen. Simon Gagne. Claude Giroux. None of them were around last year. Those additions plus the subtractions of Ryan Malone, Marian Hossa, and Derian Hatcher should mean good things.
  • Last time the Flyers and Penguins played, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin combined for zero points. And more importantly, zero shots. This is a team with it's current lineup that knows how to shut them down.
Why the Penguins Will Win:
  • Goaltending. I definitely don't dump on Martin Biron as much as the rest of the world does, but I don't think he matches up well against Marc-Andre Fleury. Mostly because Fleury is the key to the Penguins success, and doesn't get anywhere near the credit he should for it. Ever since Fleury got rid of those yellow pads, he's been real good. The Flyers scored a combined eight goals on him in five games last year (plus an empty netter). That's a GAA of 1.60. Which is real good.
  • The Penguins ended the season in the right way, winning their last few games pretty convincingly, finishing a run that saw them move up all the way from tenth to fourth. The Flyers, on the other hand, finished the season by blowing three different leads against the Rangers to squander home ice.
Prediction: Penguins take Game 1, by a score of 4-1. Shaky night for Biron. He'll have a big Game 2, though.


As is always the onus for the higher seed in any playoff series, the Flyers need to get a split in Pittsburgh. Whether they want to win Game 1 or Game 2 doesn't matter, as long as they get one of them. In the playoffs last year, every higher seed that got a split (or better) in their first two games on the road went on to win the series (except one, Calgary who lost in seven). Underdogs went six for seven in series where they got the split, and zero for eight in series where they didn't come away with a split. It's that simple.

The Flyers followed that formula beautifully. They managed splits in both Washington and Montreal, and won both those series. They couldn't split in Pittsburgh, and lost the series.

So the Flyers need to win one of these two. Tonight would be nice. Game 2 on Friday would be nice. Both would be nicer. But please, Flyers, get at least one. Or else this Salmon will be a very sad fish.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Scoreboards Make Me Fired Up

Ever since I've been going to Flyers games (which is approximately since I was five days old), or any other sports event for that matter, I always loved scoreboards. A big part of it is doubtlessly my fascination with anything shiny with a lot of flashing lights,

Next to ones showing a win for whoever I like, my favorite scoreboard is the one before the game starts. 0-0, all the time remaining. No matter how lopsided the match up is, everybody goes into every game tied (except those weird combined score soccer back-to-back two-game series, and the final day of Jeopardy tournaments). 0-0 makes everybody nervous. 0-0 means anything can happen. 0-0 means nobody might ever score, ever, for like 29 overtimes. You never can tell.

Shit I'm good. I should write Nike commercials.

And it's with that spirit of tabula rasa in mind that I introduce The Flyer Frequent's newest feature, a scoreboard that will keep track of the score in games of the Flyers-Penguins series, as well as the Flyers-Capitals, Flyers-Bruins, and Flyers-Blackhawks series when they roll around. It'll be on the sidebar, replacing that breathtakingly stable Daniel Carcillo goal count meter. It'll be updated pretty irregularly, so you may want to find a back up news source, just in case.

So for now, here's what we got.

0-0, baby. Gotta love it.

The Penguins' Deluded View of History

One of my most prized possessions is a VHS from 1989 called "Never Say Die," which goes into really ridiculous detail on the Flyers' 1988-89 season, including a long
segment about what the team did to kill time while in Winnipeg. Really must see stuff.

But since the video is impossible to find and will likely never make it to YouTube, I had to find an alternate source for clips on the Flyers-Penguins first ever playoff meeting, in 1989. And yes, it really did take 21 years for the cross-state Penguins to face the Flyers in the playoffs even though they joined the league in 1967-68, because the Penguins were just horrendous in the first half of their existence. The flightless birds only won three playoff series in their first twenty-one seasons, whereas the Flyers had won three playoff series in a season five times by the time 1989 rolled around. That had to be pretty embarrassing for not just the Penguins and their fans, but everyone in the league.

So in lieu of Never Say Die, I found a clip on the 'Tube from what appears to be the Penguins equivalent of Never Say Die. Except that unlike Never Say Die, this Penguins video, inexplicably titled "There's a Team in the Building," is completely on crack. There's some bold-faced bias that even a Fox News anchor would have to shake his head at.

If you don't pay really close attention to the narration, you'll assume the Penguins won this series, when in reality they lost it to a pretty mediocre Flyers team that wouldn't make the playoffs again for the next five years.

Did you catch any Flyers wins in there? They mentioned the Flyers winning game two while showing a Penguin scoring and fans in the Igloo applauding. The mention of the Flyers winning Game 4 was made while the Penguins were shown celebrating their Game 3 win. Game 6's mention is a sentence fragment. The Flyers win in Game 7 mentions a more complete thought, but tries to diminish the win by saying the Flyers "stole" it. Takes some balls to say that a team "stole" a game they won 4-1.

I do realize that getting mad at the narration of a VHS from 20 years ago might not be the most relevant way to prepare for the playoffs, but I care not. Let's just hope the Penguins' 2009 VHS is equally dismissive of these upcoming four Flyer wins.

Stale Hate

One of the many frustrating things about playing Pittsburgh in the first round is that it deprives Flyers fans of the opportunity to get to hate someone new. Last year saw the Flyers face both the Capitals and Canadiens for the first time since the 1980s. Part of the reason I was looking forward to playing the Hurricanes was because it would mean playing a new team, getting acquainted with and falling in hate with a whole new group of people, a whole new fanbase.

Instead, we get to play the Penguins. Our big rival. The team who broke our hearts last year.


Playing the Penguins, as someone else put it somewhere (how's that for citation), is like dessert before the icing. Every Pittsburgh game is such an treat. But it's a treat we've had a lot before. Playing the Penguins in the first round is like eating the first eleven chocolate eclair ice cream bars in the box in one sitting (which is awesome because they're delicious), and then having eating the twelfth one because Gary Bettman is forcing you to. You enjoyed the first eleven, but you're pretty damn full, and you know that this last Pittsburgh-colored chocolate eclair ice cream bar would taste a lot better if you could just wait a while. I wish there was time before eating this last eclair bar to get the previous eleven out of your systems in what would certainly be an epic trip to the bathroom. I'm guessing that's how a lot of the Flyers (and maybe the Penguins) are feeling right now, especially the always constipated Andrew Alberts and Hal Gill.

And that's a big part of the reason I haven't had a lot to say about this series. I've got epic brain freeze, I'm full, and a little nauseous at the thought of having to cram more of this crap down my throat.

I'll recover by 7:01 pm Wednesday, I'm sure, but in the mean time I'm gonna need some Tums. Or maybe Alyonka Larionov can teach me how to be bulimic.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Times

Wednesday, April 15

at Pittsburgh, 7:00 p.m.

Friday, April 17 at Pittsburgh, 7:00 p.m. VERSUS, CBC, RDS
Sunday, April 19 at Philadelphia, 3:00 p.m. NBC, CBC, RDS
Tuesday, April 21 at Philadelphia, 7:00 p.m. VERSUS, CBC, RDS
*Thursday, April 23 at Pittsburgh, 7:00 p.m. VERSUS, CBC, RDS
*Saturday, April 25 at Philadelphia, 3:00 p.m. NBC, CBC
*Monday, April 27 at Pittsburgh, TBD VERSUS, CBC

For those of you keeping score at home, the Flyers will play a maximum of ONE home night game during this series. Ridiculous.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Stupidest Thing I've Heard So Far Today

"Alexander Ovechkin [is] probably going to be the Conn Smythe trophy winner when this thing is over." -Mike Milbury on NBC
That's right, Mike Milbury is predicting the MVP of the playoffs before they start. He's not sure if the Caps will make it out of the first round, but he is sure that Ovechkin will be the MVP. Ovechkin could win, sure, but saying that it is "probable" before the Caps win a series (which the Caps haven't done since 1998) is pretty indefensible. Saying anything about the Conn Smythe before the finals is unconscionably dumb.

The only thing Mike Milbury ever did was drive the Islanders into the ground as GM, so why he's ever been paid to be an "expert" is beyond me. Unless, of course, the hiring director at NBC is a grateful Rangers fan.

Home Ice Matters. A Lot.

After winning two series as an underdog last season, home ice might not seem that important. But against our first round opponent, the Pittsburgh Penguins, it most certainly does.

Compared the all-time home and road records against the Penguins, and you'll see why.

Home (in Philadelphia) : 89W-24L-8T (78.8 win %)

Away (in Pittsburgh) : 43W-46L-22T (43.3 win %)

That's a HUGE 35.5% difference.

So please, Flyers, get a point against the Blueshirts tonight. It's practically Game 1 of the first round.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

It's Pittsburgh

The Pittsburgh Penguins have come all the way back from 10th place in the East to a tie for fourth, and they will face the Flyers in the first round of the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs in the 4 vs 5 match up, a rematch of last year's Eastern Conference Finals. The Flyers need at least one point against the Rangers on Sunday in order to get home ice for the series against Pittsburgh. The Rangers are locked into seventh, so hopefully they don't come out too motivated.

For my money the Flyers and Penguins are the two playoff-toughest in the East. Shame they have to meet this early.

Take a Dive, Crosby

Tonight, for the first time, I'd actually like to see Sidney Crosby take a dive.

If the Penguins lose in regulation tonight, the Flyers will face the Penguins in the first round. If the Penguins lose in regulation, the Flyers will have home ice advantage and face the Hurricanes in the first round.

Please please please please please please.

The Penguins tanked their last game last year in order to avoid playing the Flyers in the first round--they even gave Crosby the game off. No reason to think they shouldn't do the same this year.

So please Pittsburghers give Crosby, Malkin, Sykora, Fleury, Gonchar, Bylsma, Kunitz, and Guerin the night off. We don't want any part of each other in the first round, Pittsburgh. It's all in your hands.

The Canadiens might not try their best either tonight, probably preferring playing their rival Boston over Washington in the first round. If both teams are trying to tank tonight, it could be a mess of epic proportions.

Joffrey Lupul: Homewrecker

Comcast Sports Net Philadelphia decided to air a big, in-depth, hard hitting playoff preview show this Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday in order to build up their playoff coverage. Not a bad idea. You would assume there would be a breakdown of the Flyers' and their opponent's strengths and weaknesses, how they match up against each other, maybe a review of previous contests this season. You would assume that. But you would be oh so wrong.

Instead of focusing on the X's and O's, Comcast and Steve Coates have decided to focus on the eternal struggle between a man's wife and his teammate who he is apparently cheating on her with.

In an odd hybrid of The Newlywed Game and Jerry Springer called "Affairs of the Hart," Steve Coates puts pits Joffrey Lupul and Lisa Hartnell against one another in the most recent of their many battles for Scott Hartnell's love.

One would think Lisa would have the advantage Scott's wife, but Joffrey gets to sit next to Scott on flights to exotic destinations like Columbus, playing his guitar seductively as they get lost in each other's eyes.

It's a horribly public for this love triangle to fight itself out. Joffrey's answers get all the laughs, while Lisa is left to nervously laugh at her own responses, met with only silence.

Lisa tries to win Scott's heart back by cooking him some dinner (after he annoys his teammates and coaches at practice):

And Scott repays her by cooking an elaborate dinner for two with all sorts of special secret ingredients, the most special of all the ingredients being a generous sprinkling of love:

Except, as you can see, Lisa wasn't invited to this romantic dinner for two in her own home. Scott waited until she was out of town and called over his true love, Joffrey, to share in this meal of the heart.

"But Salmon, guys are always making romantic salad dinners for one another!"


Is Joffrey Lupul destroying the Hartnells' marriage? Probably. Joffrey better watch his back, though--Lisa's just sitting around with nothing to do but practice shooting him in the head over and over again on the two Buck Hunter machines in her apartment.

Game #81 Preview: Flyers @ Islanders 4/11/09


Last road game of the regular season. Here's hoping the last post-season road game is in another time zone.

Why the Flyers Will Win:
  • The Flyers are 5-0-0 in their previous meetings with the Islanders this season. I'm sensing a pattern there.
  • The Islanders have been really bad lately. REALLY BAD. With nothing to play for (and every loss helping their draft lottery chances in the Tavares Sweepstakes), the Islanders haven't been trying. Believe it or not, just like Michael Scott, there's a big difference between the Islanders trying and the Islanders not trying. The Islanders have lost their last two games by a combined score of 15-1. They're giving up an average of 2.5 goals a period, which is more than some teams have given up per game this year.
  • Ryan Parent is back from whatever was wrong with him, so the defense (which wasn't even bad without him) will be all the better.
  • Daniel Carcillo had his best game as a Flyer on Thursday. Still no scoring, but it's the closest he's come. Hopefully he takes advantage of the Islanders' shitty goaltending to get some momentum.
Why the Islanders Will Win:
  • This is the definition of a trap game. It's impossible for the Flyers not to be thinking ahead to the playoffs, and even the Rangers tomorrow. Hopefully this team has more focus than that.
  • If I'm the Flyers, losing this game wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. Dropping to sixth would mean losing home ice, yes, but it would also mean avoiding the hot Hurricanes and Penguins and facing the cold Devils in the first round. Not a terrible idea, maybe?
Prediction: Islanders win 4-1 in a game that unnerves many in Flyerland. Sorry.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Atlantic Cruise Control

For the third consecutive season, the Atlantic Division will send four teams to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Flyers, Penguins, Devils, and Rangers are the same foursome as last year, with the Islanders making it over the Flyers in 2007. The Atlantic Division made history in 2008 by being the first Eastern Conference division to send four teams in back to back years, and makes even more history this season by being the first team in either conference to do it three seasons in a row.

The Atlantic Division also is the only division never to have sent fewer than three teams to the playoffs in any season. This compares pretty favorably to the Southeast, who has never sent more than two teams to the playoffs in any season.

The Atlantic Division carried their tradition of regular season domination into the playoffs last season, with none of the four Atlantic Division squads losing a series to a non-Atlantic team in the Eastern Conference playoffs. In the playoffs, the Atlantic teams went a combined 12-4, with Pittsburgh sweeping Ottawa and the Flyers ousting the champions of both the Northeast and Southeast in five and seven games, respectively.

Congratulations, Atlantic Division. You're pretty damn good at this sport. And to the Islanders, least you'll get a decent draft pick?

Game #80 Review: Flyers 1 @ Rangers 2 4/9/09


Eh, we'll get em on Sunday.
  • What a horrible way to start a hockey game. Biron gets shoved into the net, and there's no whistle, and the Rangers take the lead in the first minute. The Flyers played pretty well (though they're not finishing their chances well), and deserved better than to have the game marred by that crap.
  • This is the second time that I've blamed the officials for a loss, which is pretty low. The only other time I blamed the refs? The last game at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers. Hmm...
  • Daniel Carcillo is certainly persona non grata in these parts, but he was alright tonight. Scoring just one goal will cure a lot. Not that I'll stop dumping on him, but at least this unimpressive stat will go away: Carcillo has scored zero goals in eighteen games as a Flyer. But in his one game against the Flyers this year as a Coyote, he managed to score a goal. Not cool. Oh, and Scottie Upshall managed to score again tonight...
  • Martin Biron looked good--neither goal was his fault, and he didn't get rattled from that BS first goal.
  • Hurricanes lost for the first time in forever, which keeps the Flyers tenuous hold on fourth in tact. Pittsburgh won, though, so there are now three teams tied at 96 points. The Flyers have two games left to Carolina and Pittsburgh's one apiece, but as of now have the fewest wins of the three, which is the tiebreaker.
Only two more games left in the entire regular season, at Islanders on Saturday and vs. the Rangers on Sunday. Saturday is a potential trap game, and would be incredibly easy to overlook, with the Rangers and a little thing called the playoffs on the horizon.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Game #80 Preview: Flyers @ Rangers 4/9/09


The Flyers are in, but still can finish anywhere between third and sixth, with home ice or without it, against Carolina, Pittsburgh, or even New Jersey. So these last three games against the New York teams are big.

Why the Flyers Will Win:
  • The Flyers are much better than the Rangers. That oughta count for something.
  • Next to the Penguins, it's pretty safe to say that the Rangers are this team's least liked opponent. The Flyers would undoubtedly love to keep the Rangerss out.
Why the Rangers Will Win:
  • David Sloane, who has never before played a game at ANY professional level, will be starting tonight for the Flyers in place of the injured Ryan Parent. I'm not sure why it's not Luca Sbisa making his triumphant return, but it's probably a cap issue. Work it out, Holmgren. Jared Ross, John Kalinski, and Luca Sbisa are all much better than Danny Syvret, Andreas Nodl, and whoever this Sloane clown is.
  • This could be the Rangers' last home game 'til October, potentially. That could be some motivation for them.
Prediction: Rangers win 3-1. No idea why.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

How Close We've Come

Brace yourselves, dear readers, because this is probably the best work I've ever done. The Flyers may or may not be hitting their peak as the playoffs approach, but I certainly am.

Now that the Flyers are officially in the playoffs, I figured it's high time to look to the past to try to find the algorithms, decipher the codes of past results to figure out exactly how well the Flyers will do in the playoffs this year.

Looking at data of number of playoff games won, playoff series won, and series played each year didn't yield a whole lot of useful results, because the number of rounds and lengths of series in the playoffs has changed a few times since 1968. So I figured the best way to put every year in historical perspective was to look at how close the Flyers came to winning the number of playoff games necessary to win the cup each year as a percentage.

Here's the graph, you should click on it to see it bigger:
And if you're for some reason dying to see the X and Y flipped, here it is sideways:

So what can we glean from this gold mine of information? Several things:
  1. Keeping Momentum is not the Flyers' strong point (What Goes Up Must Come Down Hard). Very rarely have the Flyers followed up success with success (which is different from not improving, see #3). There has only been one stretch in the entire forty season history of the team in which the Flyers were able to put together consecutive seasons of getting 50% or more of the way to the Stanley Cup. That stretch, not surprisingly, was from 1974-76, when the Flyers made the finals three straight seasons. The Flyers have gotten at least 50% of the way to the Stanley Cup (semifinals/Conference Finals) an extremely impressive thirteen times in their forty seasons, almost a third of the time. But only during this one 1974-76 stretch did the Flyers ever manage to put any of those thirteen back to back. This, theoretically, bodes poorly for these 2009 playoffs. But no better time to break the streak than the present.
  2. "Back With a Vengeance" is more than just an advertising slogan (What Comes Down Goes Back Up Big). When the Flyers go a season or more without winning a playoff game but then recover, they're at their most dangerous. In 1973, the Flyers followed up not making the playoffs in 1972 by winning a playoff series for the first time. In 1985, the Flyers followed up two first round sweeps in 1983 and 1984 by making the Stanley Cup Finals. In 1995, after missing the playoffs for five straight seasons from 1990 to 1994, the Flyers got back on track by making the conference finals. And in 2008, the Flyers recovered from finishing dead last in the league in 2007 by making the conference finals. This is a team that knows how to bounce back.
  3. Improvement comes often, rarely stays around. Only three times in their history have the Flyers done better from one year to the next in consecutive seasons. The Flyers improved in both '73 and '74, both '99 and '00, and both '03 and '04. The improvement in 1999 is pretty minor, though, as the Flyers only improved in that they lost their first round series in 1998 in five games, but lost their 1999 first round series in six. I don't think anybody really saw that as a step in the right direction. Never have the Flyers improved three years in a row, though 1973-75 saw the improvement end in '75 only because the Flyers could not have possibly improved on their '74 Cup win--they merely repeated it.
  4. Three Clearly Defined Eras, and now. The years/stretches when the Flyers won zero playoffs games split the history of the team pretty cleanly into three major eras, which can be accurately referred to as the Clarkeian Era, the Poulinian Era, and the LeClairian era, as those three players' stints with the team match up best with the team's runs of consecutive playoff-winning seasons, even if Poulin and LeClair weren't necessarily the faces of the franchise. The pre-Clarke era didn't see much playoff success, and the Richardsian era is too young as of now to really say much about it. I skipped over the lockout season in doing the line, but if it was there there would be a clearer demarcation between the LeClairian and Richardsian eras (with that odd Forsbergian 2006 season in-between).
  5. Problems with this method are that it doesn't differentiate between missing the playoffs and getting swept in the first round, and that games won don't always reflect series won. The Flyers got swept in the first round four times, in 1969, 1971, 1983, and 1984. Getting swept in the first round is much better than missing the playoffs, but looks the same on the graph as the disastrous, cellar dwelling seasons of the early 1990s and 2006-2007. As for the second problem, it's best illustrated by the fact that the graph shows the Flyers as closer to winning the Cup in 2000 and 2004 when they lost in Game 7 of the conference finals than it does in 1976, when they got swept in the Stanley Cup finals.
So there you have it. History says that the Flyers will not be able to repeat their conference finals run of last season this year, but I choose to ignore that information. This is the dawning of the Richardsian Era, boys and girls, in which the Flyers improve every year and Stanley Cups will rain onto the streets of Philadelphia like satellites crashing down to earth. You might want to wear a helmet.

The Secret Revealed

The Flyers are 23-0-3 in their last 26 games in which Jeff Carter has scored. That's unreal. So for the playoffs, it would be a good idea to make sure that Carter scores at least once a game. It's apparently that simple. (H/t Inquirer)