Hockey

With the calendar soon to turn to April, the NHL lumberingly rounds its corner into the true home stretch, with this Blackhawks season mercifully coming to an end in just 16 more games. As a general rule, the post-deadline undead period for those teams who have stripped the roster for parts such as the Hawks should in theory offer a look at some of the youth that has been toiling in the AHL for 6 months now. But as has been apparently for years now, the Hawks don’t necessarily follow conventional wisdom. The only forward worth giving a shit about, Lukas Reichel, is being artificially held back for contract purposes, as exceeding 9 games in the show will allow his first pro year to slide til next year, and if this team were going to be competitive, it could sort of be understood. But there is a very real chance that we are all also observing the final games of the franchise pillars in Hawks uniforms, and Alex DeBrincat certainly has no reason to stick around beyond next season if they don’t. Add to the fact that none of the defensemen that had ARRIVED last season under Coach Jeremy Bevington can seem to break the lineup here even beyond the trade deadline and with Connor Murphy hurt, and things are beyond desolate. There is literally no reason for Connor Murphy not to be shut down after being knocked out cold, or for pending UFAs Calvin de Haan and Erik Gustafsson to be on the ice anymore, yet the general public is subjected to them on a nightly basis because Derek King and his Sith Master Marc Crawford are laboring under the delusion that they could be brought back for next season. Which is to say that this is an entertaining product and can’t-miss television.

3/28 – vs Buffalo

Game Time: 7:30PM CDT
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago+, WGN-AM 720
The Pegulas Are Vile – Die By The Blade

Given the slow-motion Armageddon that has been the past two calendar years and the commensurate scheduling considerations, this will be the Sabres first visit to the UC since 2019. And for them, not much has changed other than sending their malcontent captain Jack Eichel to Vegas for Alex Tuch and some magic beans. To be fair, the Hawks are probably about the same level of bad as they were at that time two, but it’s been a far more eventful and circuitous path getting there. To their credit, LOCAL GUY Don Granato at least has this team playing hard even if they don’t do anything particularly well, and will occasionally jump up and bit a contending team in the dick as they did outdoors against Toronto, or just this past week against both Calgary and Pittsburgh while needing extra time to do so. The Sabres are finally getting something out of the lumbering and unfortunately named Tage Thompson, who originally came over in the Ryan O’Reilly deal and is likely to hit 30 goals while currently sitting on 27. It of course remains to be seen if this is something he can sustain at the NHL level or this is merely a function of SOMEONE having to score on a bad team. Former #1 overall pick Rasmus Dahlin is still here and doing well enough to apparently make the all star game, but again, it was mandatory the Sabres be represented. LOCAL GUY Craig Anderson will be 41 in May and somehow he has the most starts for the Sabres at 22 (along with Dustin Tokarksi), and has 12 of the Sabres 23 wins. He played yesterday afternoon against the Rangers so who knows if he’ll get one last hometown start or not, but it’s no guarantee he’ll be done after this year either.  These are two evenly matched bad teams, so it’s likely they pull off an improbably entertaining game this even as has been the case with the Hawks all year, but it means nothing to either team.

3/31 – at Panthers

Game Time: 6:00PM CDT
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, TVA-S, WGN-AM 720
Bienvenidos A Miami – Litter Box Cats

The Cats probably spent the most capital to fortify themselves for a long cup run in acquiring both Ben Chiarot from the Habs (for what reasons is anyone’s guess, he’s never been anything more than A GUY), and landing the prize of the deadline in prying Claude Giroux away from the Cold Ones about 10 seconds after his 1000th game with the club ended. Since the trades they’ve gone 2-1, most recently losing in Tronna to the Leafs 5-2, but beating the woeful Habs and Sens. While obtaining both of Chiarot and Giroux are nice additions to an already potent offense, they do nothing to address the two biggest issues that would preclude a deep Cats run – 1) how healthy is Aaron Ekblad going to be, and 2) will Sergei Bobrovsky shit himself again in the spring or not?

4/1 – at Tampa

Game Time: 6:00PM CDT
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, TVA-S, WGN-AM 720
Feel The Void: Raw Charge

Will Jonathan Toews give Brandon Hagel a tearful, emotional embrace at any point during the game, similar to any of the 45 times Frodo and Sam are reunited throughout the course of the Lord of The Rings? Tune in and find out! Do not tune in to find out if the Blackhawks will win or not, however, because they are not going to.

4/3 – vs Arizona

Game Time: 6:00PM CDT
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
Evicted Dogs: Five For Howling

So the Arizona Coyotes are basically a Ponzi scheme organization who have been evicted from their current arena in Glendale come season’s end and will have to rent time out of Arizona State’s new arena, which seats approximately 4-5K. They have been a Troubled Asset Relief Program for years where teams send millstone contracts of elderly players who are effectively retired but only exist as basically a no show job on their roster, like so many retiree “residents” of the state. They have been willfully trying to lose for years on a minimal payroll in order to maximize the profitability of league revenue sharing and taking advantage of Gary Bettman’s seemingly pathological need to keep this franchise afloat and in Arizona despite every shred of evidence they need to be relocated. As of the time of this writing they have the exact same number of regulation wins (15) as the Chicago Blackhawks, whose previous GM made moves last off season thinking they were going to be in the playoff picture.

Hockey

vs.

PUCK DROP: 1pm

TV: NBCSN in the 606, NHLN outside

WOOTER ICE: Broad St. Hockey

What seemed like a three-year offseason finally comes to an end this afternoon, or at least it sort of feels like it does. This still has an extended preseason feel to it, even though the points will be real. The Hawks don’t play for another week after this, giving it sort of an odd oasis-in-the-desert-of-West-Texas feel. Still, these points might matter come April, so you might as well get them.

We’ll start with the reason we’re here, and that’s the Hawks. The opener feels like new toy day in a way, though the Hawks will have to wait to unveil a couple. Calvin de Haan won’t make the bell, which allows Dennis Gilbert and Slater Koekkoek to be your third pairing and for you to wonder if maybe there isn’t a better way to spend your lunch break. Robin Lehner will cede the first net of the season to Corey Crawford, as he should.

So whatever’s “new” about the Hawks today is what you were kind of worried about before. Olli Maatta will debut next to Brent Seabrook, because of those preseason performances that apparently only the coaches could see. Alex Nylander will get to run with Daydream Nation, as the Hawks make every effort to prove he does in fact give a shit, or slightly more of a shit to actually get inside the circles. No one was actually “worried” about Zack Smith or Ryan Carpenter, because we know what they’re here for. So yeah…ok, maybe it doesn’t have the juice of a real “New Toy Day.”

As far as weird openers in a foreign country that don’t really feel like openers, there are harder landings than the Flyers. Except they do come with a fair amount of speed up front, which is something that will give the Hawks problems all season. And if you’re wondering, “Doesn’t every team have a fair amount of speed up front?” Well, now you see the problem.

The Flyers are in a strange place, where it feels like they’re rebuilding but most of their players have been around a while now, whatever their age. And to help take it a step forward, they have three failed coaches behind the bench. Alain Vigneault seems to get a bounce in his first year or two, but eventually drives everyone nuts and by the time he’s fired it’s usually just about the time his players are constructing a flammable effigy of him or two in the dressing room. He’s also an odd choice for such a young team. Beyond that, what Michel Therrien and Mike Yeo have to offer other than grunts and suggesting “MOAR HITZ,” I can’t tell you.

Still, the Flyers should boast a decent enough top-six, with Giroux and Travis Konecny flanking Sean Couturier up top, and new signing (and way overpaid) Kevin Hayes between Jakub Voracek and either James van Riemsdyk or Oskar Lindblom. It’s not the best top six, but it’s hardly the worst, even if Giroux is something of just a spot-up shooter right now. Joel Farabee turned some heads in camp at 19, and will start in the bottom six today, with the hopes of sticking around longer term.

The real hope for the Flyers is on the back end and especially in the crease, where Carter Hart is hopefully going to end the decades-long reign of all the goblins and evil spirits that have inhabited the Flyers crease. Hart was the only one of eight (!) goalies last year to look good, has been billed as the answer since arriving in the organization, and looks the part. The Flyers can only hope that he is finally the one strong enough to overcome the curse of anyone in orange pads.

The Flyers have promise on the blue line, though Ivan Provorov will have to overcome something of a plateaued year last year. Robert Hagg, Travis Sanheim, and Samuel Morin are all young, which is why Justin Braun and Matt Niskanen were brought in to be steadying hands (Niskanen was also brought in to make sure Radko Gudas didn’t turn them all into felons). Shayne Gostisbehere needs to prove he wasn’t just a one- or two-year power play phenomenon, because the Flyers have more than enough talent there to shuffle him along to save money.

Whatever it’s going to be, it starts now. The Flyers don’t have near the speed to destroy the Hawks defense, but they have enough that we can see what the plan actually is here. If they get snowed under by this, especially without de Haan or Connor Murphy in the lineup, we know how big the problems just might be. And whether or not Crow can keep Atlas-ing this team so that it’s scoring can make up the difference.

And…here…we….go.

Hockey

Gritty means clicks. Everyone knows this.

For the past seven years, the Flyers have been bouncing back and forth between a rebuild that never seems to get past the blueprint stage or a love affair with the #7 seed that always ends in a quick first-round exit that you have to be reminded happened in the first place. The Flyers don’t even generate nearly the amount of empty noise they used to, where they would get coverage and media love simply because it was a natural reflex from the past. Suddenly, the Flyers have become a team that’s just kind of there. And it looks like they’re going to be that again this year. Philadelphia never sinks into irrelevance in anything, simply due to the look-at-me obnoxious and yelling of any of their fanbases. But if any team can manage it, it just might be the Flyers. Let’s take a walk…

2018-2019

37-37-8  82 points (6th in Metro)

2.94 GF/G (18th)  3.41 GA/G (29th)

48.2 CF% (21st)  48.7 xGF% (18th)

17.1 PP% (23rd)  78.5 PK% (26th)

Goalies: If nothing else, the Flyers actually might have stability in net for the first time in a generation or six. Last year, the Flyers used eight goalies. Eight. Ocho. Acht. Huit. Their crease was almost literally a clown car, and definitely clown shoes. Things smoothed out when top prospect Carter Hart got the call, simply because he was a life-preserver in a rollicking sea of incompetence and silliness, and now he gets the con full time. And hopefully for the foreseeable future.

Hart put up a .917 while seeing almost 32 shots per game behind an porous defense, and he might have to do the same again. Still, at evens he was behind his expected SV% (.917 to .923), a difference that was only a touch better than Mike Smith‘s. If you’re in Mike Smith’s neighborhood on anything, baby you gotta move. But Hart did manage a .906 on the kill, even with the Flyers defensive problems, so that’s where they’ll hope roots grow out from. Clearly all the promise in the world, but life with young goalies can be treacherous. Remember they nearly chased Carey Price out of Montreal once upon a time, though in Montreal they chase just about everyone out of town in between drags of filterless cigarettes and a disdain for life.

Backing him up will be Brian Elliot, who’s been a backup for at least five years now but kept I Dream Of Genie’ing coaches and GMs into thinking he was a starter. Elliot has been pretty mediocre for three seasons now, but with a reduced workload and expectation, he probably can get the Flyers out of 20-25 starts. They’ll take it, considering what they’ve been through.

Defense: Clearly an issue last year as it feels like Shayne Gostisbehere has stalled out and to a lesser extent Ivan Provorov has too. Though Provorov is still only 22, and still needs re-signing as an RFA. The Flyers added Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun (who would have looked pretty all right here, but I digest) to smooth out things and provide an easier runway for their kids like Ghost Bear (if he’s a kid anymore), Provorov, Hagg, Sanheim, Morin, and Myers. Not all of them can play obviously, but all will probably get a look.

Ghost Bear had something of a strange year, struggling defensively and not totaling anywhere near the power play assists he had in the 60+ point season he had the year previous. His metrics were ok, though he gives up better chances than he creates, which might be a reason his name came up in trade rumors over the summer. That is if the Flyers were an organization that paid attention this kind of thing, not one that makes prospects fight to the death in a dark room to decide whom to draft.

Sanheim might be the real treasure here, as he put up the same points as Ghost Bear with glittering metrics and worse zone starts. Niskanen and Braun are clearly around to shield him, and with that sort of assistance this could be a real breakout season for him.

Forwards: The Flyers, in the most Flyers thing ever, traded for the negotiating rights to Captain Stairwell, then handed him $7M a year from here until Global Heat Death to watch him pile up 47-point seasons. The fascination with the younger and quite possibly dumber Hayes has always eluded this blog, though as a #2 or #3 center he probably doesn’t completely murder you.

The headliners are still Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier, who will always pile up the points and the latter can still mark any opposing center out of the game (Toews only sees him twice a year and probably wants to murder him). Jakub Voracek will continue to bounce between the first and second lines and continue to pile up secondary assists, leaving it a mystery to what he actually does. As is their way, the Flyers are paying premium for James van Riemsdyk‘s decline.

What they need is a leap forward from any of Scott Laughton, Travis Konecny, or Nolan Patrick (or Patrick Nolan, I’m not sure it matters), to lessen their dependence on the Garbage Bag Warrior. Konecny has taken a run at 50 points the past two seasons, and with just a nudge and better teammates he could probably get over 60. Though one or two of them might have to move to wing to accommodate Hayes. Konecny, like Provorov, still needs re-signing (we keep writing that. What a strange league).

There’s also Morgan Frost, Joel Farabee, and Isaac Ratcliffe, all candidates to make the team out of camp though more than likely to start in Allentown (what a fate) and perhaps be midseason reinforcements. All of huge promise, and perhaps as soon as next season make the Flyers really dangerous.

Prediction: Niskanen and Braun aren’t dead yet, but are getting up there so depending on them for shutdown or top-pairing roles is a stretch. However, if they can provide shelter for Sanheim and Provorov, and Ghost Bear can find the scoring touch again he has flashed, suddenly this blue line looks pretty tasty. The forward corps looks short, though a leap from one of the kids and a contribution from one of the trio mentioned above and suddenly it might not, even with Claude Giroux definitely on the back nine of his career. They need a full season from Carter Hart, and the Philly crease has swallowed many a kid before and spit back out a smoldering husk of an indistinguishable form.

It’s a lot of ifs, but none are complete fantasy. As stated before, this is a funny division with no truly dominant teams and a few teams that could be just about anything. They would need a 10+ point improvement to make the playoffs, but that’s not asking for the moon given the conditions stated. They’re highly unlikely to grab one of the automatic spots, but fighting for a wildcard down to the season’s last is hardly beyond them.

But again, this is the Flyers. Logic and reason died here long ago, and all we’re left with is a surreal and vulgar landscape. Your guess is as good as mine.

Everything Else

vs.

RECORDS: Flyers 35-30-8   Hawks 32-30-10

PUCK DROP: 7:30pm

TV: WGN

THEY BLEW UP HIS HOUSE TOO: Broad Street Hockey

Whatever this late-season charge is, and wherever it’s going, continues on Madison St. tonight as the Hawks host the Flyers. They have a chance to put a bad result behind them, and set themselves up once again for what would be a big weekend set against the Avalanche in an old school home-and-home. Essentially, after these three games (certainly four with the Coyotes after that), we’ll be as close to official word as we’ve had on what the last two weeks will be.

There was a moment there when the Flyers were also threatening to crash the playoff party in the East. They won 12 of 14 from January into February, but have been trading wins and losses since and have watched the Penguins, Canes, and Canadiens basically get away from them. They’re six points behind the Jackets with only nine to go, so that’s not happening. And really, this Flyers team doesn’t deserve a playoff spot. And neither do the Hawks, really. It’s one very much still in a rebuild/rebrand/transition/whatever term we use now.

The Flyers have suffered from the up-and-down nature of such a young roster. Not everyone takes a step forward at the same time, and Claude Giroux isn’t crashing in shots at to the tune of 18% anymore to even it out. 10 of the 19 skaters and goalie on display tonight are 25 or under, so the thought is the future is quite bright. And it may be, though it’s hard to see which of the neophyte set is going to be a true star. Nolan Patrick looks functional, but hasn’t yet popped or flashed that he’ll be inspirational soon. Then again he’s 20. Ivan Provorov has struggled under the weight of top-pairing assignments. Shayne Gostisbehere has looked like more than just a power play weapon, but also hasn’t really shown to be more than a second-pairing d-man. Maybe Travis Sanheim?

One who definitely has flashed being something that Philly fans will toast their lagers to before chucking the full glasses/cans at each other (it’s a sign of love there) is goalie Carter Hart. He’s also 20, but is carrying a top-10 SV% in the league and one of the better marks for a rookie in recent history. Flyers fans have been waiting for Hart ever since he started holding the entire WHL by the forehead and letting them uselessly swing their arms. He wasn’t supposed to be here, but thanks to injuries and incompetence from others he is and now he’s going to stay. If you’re any kind of hockey fan you know that the Flyers crease has been a succubus to anyone stepping into it decked in orange since Ron Hextall. Hart just might be the one to break the curse, but as it always is with the Flyers, one has to wait and see before fully committing. Odd things happen to men in masks there.

As for the Hawks, they seem intent on carrying on with this odd and frankly wrong set of forward lines, with Daydream Nation reunited and Dylan Sikura along for the ride. It’s too top heavy for no reason, as Sikura doesn’t really compliment these two in the way they need to maximize. They need a puck-winner like Saad or Caggiula. And that third line doesn’t really do anything. It’s not a checking line because Anisimov is too slow and too soft. It has no creator to score. Hopefully Beto O’Colliton realizes the error of his ways and goes back to what we had after no more than a period. Corey Crawford is your starter.

This one should be much more open than Monday’s what-have-ya. The Flyers don’t have the defense to trap, and it’s not what their young forwards want to do anyway. That should benefit the Hawks, but there’s some sneaky firepower down the lineup for Agents Orange, which means trouble for the trash on the third pairing for the Hawks. And Hart is capable of stealing a game here and there. So the Hawks can’t half-ass this. They can’t half-ass anything. They lost that right long ago.

If the Hawks are serious about this whole playoff push thing, and I’m not convinced they are, they basically have to take the next three, and probably in regulation when it comes to the weekend. Do that and they’ll be ahead of the Avs and at worst sitting on the shoulders of Minnesota and Arizona with the latter on the schedule the very next night. The Hawks have basically fallen in their own vomit every time they had a chance to turn their season serious, and this is probably the last one. Let’s see what they’ve got.

 

Game #73 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

If it’s the Flyers, that means we have to turn to one of our creatures of the internet. We found @FlyGoalScoredBy in 2010 during the Final. He’s been stuck to our shoe ever since. 

So the Flyers have fired a coach and GM. Are we to believe they’re finally on the right path forward? Because we’ve heard that before, y’know…
There was a ton of optimism when Hextall took over, and rightfully so!  He won Cups in LA with rosters he helped build.  We thought our Canada Dry baby had come home but all we got was a very good farm system and a Finnish drug kingpin playing the penalty kill.  Hakstol was, Hextall’s “guy” but bottom line is neither of them did anything net positive with regards to building a contender in this era.  Sure, Hextall’s fingerprints may be on the next Flyers playoff team but nobody gonna remember this time as a fun one.  Chuck Fletcher comes in and by all accounts, has a mandate to change the roster around quickly and decisively.  I guess that means we’re about to lock up Milan Lucic to a max deal.
Is Carter Hart finally going to end the generations of hurt in the crease or will you monsters chew him up and spit out a husk just like always? 
The only good thing about the season has been Carter Hart.  Yeah yeah Couturier looks like a player and some nice small contributions from younger guys, but Hart is it.  Something about his calm demeanor provides stability that I honestly haven’t seen since early Hextall late 80s teams.  I will give him infinite amount of patience and time because he is a good hockey boy who needs love and protection from the likes of you. 
Shouldn’t Ivan Provorov be better than this?
I’m willing to give Provy the benefit of the doubt in a  year as shitty as this one.  I think his positives far outweigh his negatives and besides having a down year when he needs a new contract may be good for business.  As long as MacDonald is on the roster, all other defenseman will be shielded from blame and harm.  Hey, maybe THAT’S why they still give ice to AMac. He’s like a human shield for the young D core.
The Flyers have a shit-ton of cap space next year, though with Konecny, Provorov, and Sanheim to re-sign. They’re going to do something utterly hilarious, right?
I’m thinking we’re locked into a “Player-Coach Vinny Lecavalier” scenario. The Flyers are boring and slow.  They need some juice on this roster to even register in a four-sport town.  Myself and all other zombies are praying from some elite talent to get excited about….or at least sign like eight goons and embrace who we really are.  Does anyone have Colton Orr‘s phone number?

 

Game #73 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

 @ 

Game Time: 12:00PM CST
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, NHL Network, WGN-AM 720
The Gang Welshes On A Bet: Broad St. Hockey 

With the first game of the Jeremy Colliton Era under the Hawks’ belt in less than thilling fashion, the team leaves for the East Coast for a two-game Metro Division swing. The Hawks find a team in the Flyers who could probably use the recently departed Joel Quenneville’s services.

Everything Else

For the longest time under the stewardship of Bobby Clarke and Paul Holmgren, the Flyera simply threw good money after bad in always chasing the name brand free agents and trade targets in search of a Cup that has eluded the franchise since 1975. But under the leadership of notorious red-ass as a player Ron Hextall, the team has taken a much longer view and trying to actually build consistent winner from scratch. The results so far have been middling, but at least it’s been consistent in its vision. But this team’s psychopath fanbase isn’t going to be particularly patient with a non-linear progression. To conclude, the Flyers are a land of contrasts.

’17-’18: 42W-26L-14OT 98PTS 251GF 243GA 20.7%PP 75.8%PK 49.7%CF 7.83%SH .9245%SV

Goaltending: The same way that Bears fans wouldn’t know solid quarterbacking if it bit them in the nuts, there has been an institutional bungling of goaltending by the Philadelphia Flyers for generations. They even had a future multi-Vezina winning netminder in their system in Sergei Bobrovsky, but of course traded him for a big bag of bullshit to Columbus. Which brings things to the present day where the crease is entrusted to Brian Elliott and Michael Neuvirth, two “1B” goalies in their 30s who have wilted either under expanded workloads or not having lock-down systems in front of them. Things got so bad last year that the team acquired the completely broken Petr Mrazek and promptly let him walk at the end of the year. Elliott was the defacto #1 getting 42 starts and throwing up an unacceptable .909 overall with a slightly more respectable .926 at even, but an .812 on the PK which dragged things down. Special teams numbers can spike both ways for factors outside of a goalie’s control, but at 33, Elliott kind of is what he’s always been, which is certainly not a long term solution. Neuvirth had a similar disparity in his numbers (.915 overall, .934 evens, .810 PK), so it does speak to something systemic with the Flyer’s penalty kill. Either way, even if these two stay around this level and the PK picks things up, there’s not a lot here to make anyone a long term believer, particularly with Carter Hart waiting to assume the starter’s spot in Lehigh Valley should one or both piss their pants.

Defensemen: On the Flyera blue line, there are certainly some foundational pieces here in Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gosthisbere, but what their respective roles are going to be once this team intends on mattering again remains to be seen. While Ghost’s offensive and possession numbers are all impressive and what a puck mover should put up in the modern NHL, he’s still a bit of a turnstyle in his own end and will need some manner of protection in the form of a center-field type partner, optimized zone starts, or both. Provorov’s possession rate is basically directly at the team’s while playing much harder minutes all while still putting up 40 points from the back end. And with the likes of likely future war criminal Radko Gudas and the perpetually hurt or bad or both Andrew MacDonald complimenting these two young defensemen, it does not appear that there are any long term solutions currently in the organization, and leading to an unbalanced group.

Forwards: Claude Giroux had 102 points last year and Jakub Voracek had 85, and absolutely no one gave a shit. Moving Sean Coutourier and his two way abilities to the #1 center role and in turn moving Giroux to freestyle a little more on the wing certainly had everyone reaping the rewards, as Coots himself had 76 points along with devouring the souls of whatever center he drew as an assignment on a nightly basis. But doing so drastically altered the Flyers’ center depth to the point where they actually had to rely on any kind of contributions from the now departed Valteri Filppula and Finnish punchline Jori Lehtera down the middle. They haven’t done much to address the issue over the off season, as bringing back prodigal son James van Riemsdyk certainly gives them another rugged set of hands on the wing along with Meat Train Wayne Simmonds, so it will be necessary for Travis Konecny to take the next step and spend more time in the middle.

Outlook: Much like the Devils across the River, the Cold Ones probably did themselves more harm than good by making the playoffs last year only to promptly go home, as they would have been better served getting into the lottery. But with their top point-getters all right around 30, another development year might not have been the best route either. So Ron might have to get a little spicy and trade some franchise cornerstones to restock the system and fully start over should things sputter a bit, because the development arcs of their kids and the aging curves of their vets don’t sync up.

 

Previous Team Previews

Detroit Red Wings

Buffalo Sabres

Boston Bruins

Florida Panthers

Montreal Canadiens

Ottawa Senators

Tampa Bay Lightning

Toronto Maple Leafs

Carolina Hurricanes

Columbus Blue Jackets

New Jersey Devils

New York Islanders

New York Rangers

Everything Else

It used to be tradition that playoff exits were complimented by eulogies on Puck Daddy. But with Wysh off in the Connecticut hinterlands and those who remain at Yahoo! being a bunch of Canadian giblets who take things far too seriously (and Lambert being angry and definitely not a Bruins fan), we don’t need them to do what we do best. So fuck it. We’ll eulogize all 15 teams that will eventually fall. And now, to the routine of Western PA…

If I were to ask you to sketch out what a Philadelphia Flyers crash-out would look like, you almost certainly would have presented something that looked a lot like yesterday afternoon. Even if the Flyers haven’t done this as much recently as their reputation suggests, you would know exactly what it looks like.

They would take a lead in the second period. They would be running all over the place trying to hit everything that moves, including their captain boiling over. Their crowd would be in a frenzy. They would be on the cusp of a real breakthrough by sheer fury. And then their superior opponent would inhale deeply and say, “Ok, enough of this bullshit.” Then there would be defensive breakdowns everywhere. They would treat the puck like it was covered in space herpes. Their goalie would have an existential crisis and have to stay in because the one on the bench is an existential crisis. They would give up an avalanche of goals in like four minutes, and then it would be over. Their still-Super-Bowl-drunk fans would hurl whatever garbage was hurl-able onto the ice, as the only garbage they couldn’t throw was themselves. But they’ll figure that out one day. It was ever thus.

It wouldn’t be complete without Flyers fans conspiracy/inferiority complex shining through, which I guess is what happens when your city is wedged between a bunch of other cities people would rather go to and your weather level switches from winter to sweat. By the time October rolls around, Flyers fans will have convinced you that the trip on Sean Couturier leading to Guentzel’s goal was a crime on the level of various Kennedy assassinations, even though Couturier looked like he was trying to moonsault a ghost and probably was having trouble standing up anyway thanks to his own teammate shredding his knee in practice. Something about Philadelphia and practice.

Only an organization and institution this rockheaded could just wave away their dumber version of Rocksteady and Bebop d-man, Radko Gudas, handicapping their #1 center in practice because “THEY’RE SO TOUGH.” This is a place that wears it as a badge of honor that they get their sandwiches out of a fucking gas station. You’d think the Flyers would know that running around and grabbing your sac for a whole game eventually is going to leave your defense and your goalie exposed, and yet they dive headlong into it every time. In Philadelphia it’s always 1976.

Lots of people will tell you Cold Ones have a bright future ahead of them. And they do, if you think being the Maple Leafs is a bright future. They could be loaded at forward in two years, but have exactly one d-man worth a shit in Ivan Provorov, assuming Gudas hasn’t broken  his will to live by passing him another hand grenade when he’s already covered. If this series proved anything it’s that Ghost Bear is just a cooler name for Marc-Andre Bergeron (stick tap to Anthrax for that one).

And the Flyers will continue to have a Gudas on their roster, because it’s what they do. Fuck, you can totally see Roman Polak ending up here when he’s finally forced out of the loving arms of Mike Babcock. If we can get Gudas and Polak on the same pairing we actually would have Rocksteady and Bebop on an NHL team.

And when it all goes belly up again because wearing orange turns every goalie into an actual traffic cone, there will be Claude Giroux yapping and running around like a frat boy on a coke binge, without actually scoring any goals that might help his team get anywhere. In his last 19 playoff games Giroux has three goals. But man, he sure got all of Carl Hagelin eight seconds after the puck was gone, didn’t he? And in the end, isn’t that the real truth? The answer, is no. Giroux joins the unfathomably long list of ultra talented Flyers that the city and fans turned into a slobbering dingus with granite for brains and then hands when it matters most.

So long to the Flyers, who definitely are the Flyers more than anyone has ever been anything else. It’s reassuring in a way, the dedication to their character. If the NHL were a movie they would be the scenery chewers. They live in this role and always have, and always will. And it’s always good comedy.

Everything Else

We now move to the eastern portion of Pennsylvania, a state which answers the question “Hey, what if we had TWO St. Louises?”. An entire state arguing over which gas station has better food. A state so in love with college football that it is willing to overlook decades of systemic child abuse in the name of a statue. A state with the two most horrific English language accents imaginable. A state whose Appalachian hilljackery was the nail in the electoral coffin a year ago. And Philadelphia is its crown jewel, with the Flyers bearing no small responsibility in fueling the city’s long standing sports psychosis. And based on their current trajectory, the Flyera aren’t going ameliorate that any time soon despite there kind of being a plan.

Everything Else

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Hockey Stats

On a day that started with possibly the first ever combination of the words “NHL” and “Temple University,” the Hawks got a glimpse of the results their play has deserved lately but Crawford has kept from happening. That’s not to say Scott Darling was bad, he was far from it. But it’s an example of the other-worldly play Crow has had to put forth at time to get the Hawks two points consistently. When you go from other-worldly to just pretty good, the chances these Hawks surrender right now make for less than two points.

And it’s not even as the Hawks were 60 minutes bad. For long stretches they were better, though those came after they were down two goals and could be partially attributed to score effects and having to throw more and more caution to the wind. Given the lineup though, even when the Hawks have the upper hand there are some shifts where they are running around their own end like a kids birthday party where someone gave them all soda. Or they make a mistake at the other line or neutral zone to cause odd-man rushes. Crow’s expected absence for a couple weeks will be an excellent chance to shore this shit up.

Let’s clean it up: