Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Update on the Author: Erica The Amateur Fan

It's the Catch-22 of following the Philadelphia Flyers: The team keeps losing and you want to look away but you can't, because what if they have an amazing game like Saturday's 5-2 victory over the New York Islanders. Game action including: breaking their 2 point barrier, a hat trick for Vinny Lecavalier and their first back to back win of the season. What if you miss what could have possibly been the best game of the season for the Flyers? What if your DVR just doesn't come through for you? Meanwhile you are diligently watching the Hershey Bears game from the Press Box, taking in the action of the AHL affiliate of the Washington Capitals? Needless to say, I missed Saturday's game while I was at the Hershey Bears game.

Every once in a while I suffer from too much hockey and not enough time in the day. I thought for today, instead of another story about how the Flyers gave up their 2 goal lead to lose against the Ducks last night, that I might bring you a more personal update. As many of you know I am a freelance hockey writer and my journey did not start that long ago. You can read about my hockey journey at my sister blog: The growth of The Amateur Fan over the past few weeks has been momentous. Not too long ago I returned from a road trip to Toronto, which for a hockey fan was by far the best experience of my life. It is hard to even put into words the beautiful experiences I had while I was in Canada and upstate New York. Now back in the States, with the hockey season in full swing, I have been fortunate enough to meet some great people that have been influential in my writing and hockey journey. I recently have been sitting in press row at the Hershey Bear games, getting a birds eye view of the games and writing about the top AHL affiliate of the Washington Capitals. Also, I have added an official logo to The Amateur Fan.

From the idea of writing down my observations after a hockey game to all the accomplishments thus far, The Amateur Fan has spread wings and taken me on this incredible journey from my couch to the press box. I look forward to the coming months where I will be attending my first NHL game (Flyers v. Penguins in Pittsburgh November 13) I will be creating an Instagram to visually take you on my journey and I will be adding more stories to The Long Road to Toronto Blog. Stay tuned, more great things to come!

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Monday, October 28, 2013

Hershey Bears Win at Home

Last night the Hershey Bears faced the Norfolk Admirals, a former team of head coach Mike Haviland. Prior to last night’s game, Haviland made adjustments to the line ups after Saturday’s loss and it paid off as the Bears beat the Admirals 4-2, clinching their second win of the season and first win on their home ice.

Some key differences in Sunday’s game against the Admirals were that the Bears played a hard 60 minute game and took shots on goal. Nathan Walker found the back of the net early in the first period for the Bears with an assist by the goaltender David Leggio, who was coming out of the net and actively engaging play. As the 1st period wound down the Admirals pushed for a goal and deposited a top shelf goal on Leggio to tie the game.

As the Bears look to take the lead, Leggio just missed getting his pad on the puck as it coasts into the net surrendering a 1 goal lead to the Admirals. Soon after, Hershey Bears Julien Brouilette took the liberty of sliding the puck right under Admirals Igor Bobkov pads, to tie the game. The Bears applied the pressure late in the 2nd as they push hard for a goal, in the attempt to go into the 2nd intermission with a lead. After a nice set up, Peter LeBlanc rocketed the puck through players into the back of the net, taking the lead as they headed to the lock rooms.

Heading into the 3rd period with a one goal lead, the Bears were looking to score an insurance goal. The energy and determination were high in the 3rd period, the Bears were pushing hard and taking the puck to the net. With less than one minute left in the period, the players gathered along the boards to fight for the puck, as the Bears won and passed it to Dane Byers he rocketed it top shelf into the net with 39.2 seconds left.

Goaltender David Leggio had an outstanding game last night, as helped to keep the Bears in the game with some major saves. He contributed to the early goal of the game, assisting on the play and actively pursuing the puck. The Bears have great goaltending and the line changes have been beneficial, optimistically this game could serve as the momentum for the Bears to spring board to many more season wins. The Hershey Bears will face the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins November 1 away and then November 2 on home ice.

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Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Hershey Bears fall to the Hartford Wolf Pack

The Hershey Bears returned home tonight after being on the road for much of October. They took the ice against the Hartford Wolf Pack, the top AHL affiliate of the New York Rangers and battled through a strenuous 60 minutes of hockey. The Bears had a thick layer of Wolf Pack players to penetrate and puck deflections seemed to end up everywhere but in the net. The Wolf Pack used every inch of their body to block the 23 shots on goal by the Bears; they certainly have a good understanding and application of traffic in front of the net.

Throughout the game the Bears had two 5 on 3 power play opportunities. Each time it took them a while to successfully enter the zone and set up their play. With the clock ticking and time a wasting, the only way to score was if they shot the puck. Only during the 1st period’s 5 on 3 power play were they rewarded when Jeff Taffe put the Bears on the score board, 1-0. The Bears were wining puck battles but losing pucks to interceptions and it was not long before the Wolf Pack found the back of the net to even the score, 1-1.

Adding a little momentum to the game, the 2nd period started with a fight but the excitement was short lived as the unusual lull of the Giant Center returned. The Wolf Pack ganged up in order to rocket the puck past Bears goaltender Philipp Grubauer and gained the lead. Finally, after applying copious amounts of pressure, Hershey Bear Chay Genoway found the top corner of the net, tying the game, 2-2. Not long after, Michael Latta navigated through the Wolf Pack’s thick traffic, taking the puck to the net twice, impressing a home crowd yet again with his puck handling skills, scoring on his back hand to reclaim the lead, 3-2.

With an early and a mid-3rd period goal for the Hartford Wolf Pack, they secured the game win, 4-3. The Bears just could not find the net with the puck due to the human shields deflecting shots. The Wolf Pack consistently added an extra layer of players in front of goaltender Scott Stajcer, forcing the Bears to work extra hard to navigate their territory. Whether there were 3 players or 5 players out on the ice for the Wolf Pack, they were able to cover the ice and appear to be everywhere.

Though still early in the season, the Bears appear to be working through some learning curves but will want to be on top of their game tomorrow as they face a former team of Head Coach Mike Haviland, the Norfolk Admirals.

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Flyers: A Break from the Losing Streak

The Philadelphia Flyers caught a break against the 2-6-0 New York Ranger, ending their 4 game losing streak tonight. Back on the ice after a week off, the Flyers looked a little rusty but with Vinny Lecavalier back by Claude Giroux’s side he was quick to make scoring opportunities right off the puck drop.

The MVP for the Flyers was Matt Read, who netted his first goal of the season, and got the Flyers off to a good start. As they looked to go into the intermission with a lead, Rangers’ Mike Richards snuck a goal in on Steve Mason with 1:04 left to play in the first period.

Steve Mason, outstanding in net for the Flyers, has been doing his job while patiently waiting for his team to have more goals than the other team. Tonight was no exception, Mason made 30 saves keeping the Flyers competitive and contributing to the big W.

Braydon Coburn scored 3:33 into the third period, breaking the tie while Mason fended off the Rangers securing the win. The Flyers still struggle to score goals and have yet to score more than twice in regulation. As the Flyers struggle to get back on track for the season, they will have to figure out how to score in order to compete with other teams around the league. Still without goals 9 games into the Flyers season: Giroux, Voracek, Streit, and Couturier. With big names still not scoring and Hartnell out of the game, others will need to step up to fill the gaps. Now that Read has ended his non-scoring streak, hopefully his confidence is back and he will consistently put the puck in the back of the net.

With a deep hole to dig themselves out of, the Flyers need to rally to create more offense. It was good to see the Flyers play a 60 minute game after a shaky start as they adjusted to some new lines, but they barely escaped with the win. Now that they have a win and can rebuild their confidence going into Saturdays game against the 3-3-3 New York Islanders, they have to start winning more consistently. Craig Berube had a smile on his face while talking to the press tonight and team Captain Claude Giroux is confident that the Flyers can turn their season around. With an unpredictable future, the Flyers will face the Islanders Saturday, hoping for their first back to back wins of the season.

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Friday, October 18, 2013

1-7-0 The Flyers Lose Again

Despite the fact that the Philadelphia Flyers don’t want to keep losing all season long, they definitely do not want to drop games to their cross state rivals the Pittsburgh Penguins. There is no mystery or new game analysis as to why the Flyers fell to the Penguins last night. All the same explanations, suspects and problems that started brewing with this team long before the season started is what keeps Giroux and company from winning.

Last night’s loss against the Penguins was not entirely due to a lack of effort. The Flyers have put a lot of effort into their game. In the first period the Flyers demonstrated a strong power kill and helped Steve Mason clear rebounds, which kept the game at an even 0-0 through the first period of play. Then, with a slow start to the second period, the Flyers suffered a series of turnovers that ultimately turn into a goal for the Penguins. The Penguins dominated the first half of the game but at the end of the second period the Penguins start taking penalties and giving the Flyers an opportunity to tilt the ice through the third period. The Flyers applied the pressure but only were able to tally one goal and eventually allowing the Penguins to rack up several more points before the final buzzer and a 4-1 loss.

The Flyers have been struggling to play a 60 minute game and in a case such as last night, when they can’t compete during the entire 20 minutes of each period, they will not be able to capitalize on opportunities. Going into the third period the score was 2-1, and the Flyers were on the power play and dominated the first half of the third period but they could never get the equalizer.

Turnovers and lack of shots on goal have been consistently killing the Flyers opportunities to win in the NHL. If this team cannot figure out how to score more than 2 goals per game, they will never be a competitive NHL hockey team. After eight games Giroux, Read, Couturer and Voracek still remain scoreless. Steve Mason has been excellent in goal and remains the MVP of the team keeping the Flyers competitive. Now that the Flyers have seemingly solved the goaltending issue that plagued them, they have a new scoring issue.

The Flyers have a week off before they face the New York Rangers on Thursday. It is still likely they will be playing without: Hartnell and Timonen but maybe Lecavalier, a critical play maker will be back to help the Flyers score.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Another Loss, Flyers fall to Canucks

The Flyers have the worst start yet to their season going 1-6-0. Last night’s game against the Vancouver Canucks looked promising but the Flyers lost the lead in the third period, much like in the past they have had issues maintaining consistency through the third period.

Tye McGinn has made an impression, as he is one of the only Flyers successfully scoring, twice last night and once during Sunday’s game. Also, Steve Mason, a consistent MVP for the Flyers this season has been looking better and better in net. The good news is that he is improving, but the bad news is he is still getting little support from the soft defense the rest of the team.

At times the team has been playing well with quality puck handling, getting deep into their opponents zone and taking shots. But, they are not getting pucks in the net. A consistent struggle for the Flyers has been playing a consistent 60 minute game, and if they continue to not be able to compete for an entire 60 minutes they will keep losing.

It’s early in the season, even though things do not look too hot right now, the Flyers are a team filled with experience, depth and a lot of talented/quality hockey players. There cannot be certainty as to what the missing element truly is for this team but it is frustrating to see the Flyers have such a struggle.

McGinn, recently called up from the Flyers AHL Phantoms affiliate, has been a dominate goal scorer for the team. There is a short list of players who have scored goals this season for the Flyers and oddly absent are the names of: Captain Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Matt Read and Sean Coturier. With their top players not being able to make the puck in the net and Scott Hartnell, as well as Vinny Lecavalier out of the lineup for the next few weeks the Flyers are in a rough situation. Berube was correct when he said someone would step up and fill in the Hartnell/Lecavalier gap, McGinn has done a great job of that but who is going to fill the Giroux and company gap?

Last week Flyers head coach Craig Berube advised his team: “Relax the goals will come.” But, not for a lack of shots on goal or opportunities, the goals are not coming for the Flyers. Today during morning skate the coaches were replaying the Higgins goal over and over, practicing defensing. Regardless of what the coaching staff makes them practice, they need to be able to score goals and have confidence. This coaching staff needs to get their head out of the sand.

The Flyers will face the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday. Of course the Penguins are on a roll and looking to demolish the Flyers with a 6-1 game. No better time than now for everyone to step up, play Zac Rinaldo for more than 4 minutes, fore-check, stay out of the penalty box and have a stronger defense and offense.

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Disapponting Weekend for the Flyers

The Philadelphia Flyers entered there weekend games with hope and anticipation that their team chemistry and energy was going to make their losing streak a thing of the past. Chief (Craig Berube) did not dwell on his debut win because he knew that the team still had a lot of work to do.

“It’s over,” Chief said of the first win of the season for the Flyers. “We’re worried about tomorrow and practice.”

During their downfall on Friday, 2 key players were benched with injuries and going into Saturday, a different team emerged. A more serious team, without Scott Hartnell and Vinny Lecavalier, the Flyers would have to call up players from their AHL affiliate to fill the gaps.

“We have to get better, we have to have more an attack. I know we do have good offensive players here. It’s just a matter of getting them confident,” Chief said.

Attack is exactly what the Flyers demonstrated on Friday against the Phoenix Coyotes. Zac Rinaldo, the Jerkly and Hyde player of the game, always aggressive and strong on checks did everything possible, good and bad, to help the Flyers. From his 1st period fight with tough guy Paul Bisonette, to his go ahead goal assist in the 2nd period. Then, just as it appeared that the Flyers would be ending the 2nd period with a tie, an error in judgment on part of Rinaldo, he took a reckless penalty. The penalty sent him to the box, affording Phoenix a power play where they scored the game winning goal. Holmgren comment on Rinaldo’s aggressive play saying:

“Zac’s the kind of player that needs to play on the edge. Tonight, I thought he was probably a little bit over the edge. But he’s trying to get things going.”

While the Flyers still lack offense, they lost two proven goal scorers and play makers, Hartnell and Lecavalier who will be out for several weeks but, Chief said:

“Well, it’s tougher, but it doesn’t matter does it? I mean, we’ve got to win hockey games. People will come in and fill in for them.”

And that they did. Tye McGinn and Michael Raffl, both whom made positive contributions to the momentum of the game, were called up from AHL Phantoms. The Flyers team that took the ice on Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings were a much different team than Friday’s. They were not playing with the same hard edge but they were still playing a smart and simple hockey game. Regardless, the outcome was the same —another loss. The Flyers spent too much time in the penalty box and had too many turn-overs, which contributed to all the goals during the game.

Commenting on the team’s performance last night Chief said: “...we played a solid game, a lot of urgency. We were competitive, but it wasn’t enough.”

I don’t have any answers for this team, who is suffering from the fewest goals ever scored during the first five games in franchise history; previously the lowest was 9 in 1999-00 (0-4-1). The Flyers are playing well, they just need to get the puck into the net more often; there is no a lack of opportunity, just a lack of scoring. With the record not getting any better, 1-4-0, who is next to be put on the hot seat by Flyers management, or maybe firing people, even Laviolette, isn’t/wasn’t the answer.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Berube's first win as Flyers Head Coach

The Flyers took the ice last night against the Florida Panthers under new leadership of: Craig Berube, Ian Laperriere and John Paddock. The coaching staff had one morning skate to make adjustments to the team to get them into winning shape for Tuesday night’s game and were able to make an impression, as the Flyers beat the Panthers 2-1. It is too early to say that the firing of previous head coach, Peter Laviolette was 100% the right move for Paul Holmgren to make, the Flyers will have to win more consistently and fix their problems for that conclusion to be made. But, this win must certainly reinforces the decision in the minds of Flyers management.

Last night during the first period the Flyers took a lot of quality shots on goal, they were finding the opportunities and setting the pace of the game. Their power play, which had been embarrassingly unbearable to watch on Sunday, looked improved last night but still needs much work. Five minutes into the game Branden Schenn scored the first goal getting the Flyers on the board and soon after that the Flyers scored again, breaking their one goal a game slump. Steve Mason got support from the defense in clearing rebounds and for the first time all season, the Flyers were a team that could hold a 2- goal lead through an entire period. The first period for the Flyers was impressive but they generally play their best hockey in the first period of the game.

In typical Flyers form, they took their foot off the gas in the second period and the Panthers came back with a goal, making it a one goal hockey game. The Panthers were doing everything but getting the puck in the net; they took every opportunity to shot the puck at Steven Mason and it was dangerous for the Flyers to slow down but Mason was solid in the net.

"We have to get better, we have to have more of an attack," Berube said after barely beating one of the lower ranking teams in the NHL. "I know we do have good offensive players here. It's just a matter of getting them confident."

The third period got sloppy for the Flyers. They started taking reckless penalties and it was pure luck that the Flyers drew beneficial penalties near the end of the period. After several minor and major penalties called against the Flyers giving the Panthers a 5 on 4 man advantage and forcing the Flyers to work extra hard on the power kill, they got a game changing break. With 2:37 minutes left the Flyers got a 2-minute power play and were put in a great position to defend their 1-goal lead. The Flyers kept the puck in the Panthers zone for the remainder of the power play, preventing the team from adding an extra man. Smart play by the Flyers to end the game.

The Flyers are now 1-3 with three days to work with their new coaching staff before they face the Phoenix Coyotes on Friday. The coaches and players know that they have a lot of hard work to do and are not out of hot water yet. Last night, the Flyers could not generate sustained pressure during their 5 minute power play and they went 0-5 during their power plays with only 5 shots on goal. If this team thinks they are going to recover and head to the play-offs this year they will have to get their power play under control. I think that the line changes were beneficial to the team and with the talent the Flyers have, they have the potential to clean things up and turn their season around. Another disappointment last night was their lack of emotional toughness, they really did take some reckless penalties that could have changed the direction of the game, but thankfully that did not happen. The Flyers always have the “talent” to lose a lead right at the end, and although they came away with a win last night in the future they will not be as lucky.

To end on a positive note, the MVP for the team has got to be Steve Mason. Mason has been a solid net minder for the team and has borne the brunt of keeping this team in the game, by being a stone wall in net. This season Mason is showing how calm and confident he is in the net, which is great to see for Philadelphia. He showed more control on his rebounds last night and the defense needs to work on supporting him more. With the talent and leadership on this Flyers team there is no reason why they should not be able to be successful this season.

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Monday, October 7, 2013

Philadelphia Flyers drama

This morning’s press conference really did not give an insight to the Flyers plans post Laviolette much more than naming the assistant coach, Craig Berube to the head coaching position. Everything Paul Holmgren and Ed Snider said was common knowledge, leading the on lookers to believe this team and management does not have a plan to get out of the hole that they have dug themselves into. In fact, with this decision they will either be successful or burry themselves at the bottom of the newly aligned very competitive metropolitan division.

Not a surprise that the Flyers named Craig Berube to head coach, as the Flyers always seem to draw from within their own organization. Historically, the Flyers organization has chosen coaches that have a connection with the Philadelphia Flyers, which is a reason the Flyers keep experiencing the same problems. Now that Holmgren is looking for a change, it would be imagined that he would draw from outside of the organization in order to find someone that could add new and different dimensions to the team and hurriedly get them looking like Stanley Cup contenders, which is no doubt the goal of this coaching change.

Over the past months, there have been conflicting messages coming from the Flyers team and management. During the off season Ed Snider gave Laviolette a strong vote of confidence and later denied that Laviolette was on the hot seat. But now three games in Laviolette is out. To end camp Laviolette took the team to spend bonding time in Lake Placid. Coming back from the trip, captian Claude Giroux had positive thoughts about the bonding and team chemistry from the time spent in Lake Placid. Then just today in the press conference Holmgren commented that he was not pleased with Laviolette during training camp but, management being excited about changes made to the team during the summer gave Laviolette the benefit of the doubt for a positive change but ultimately Holmgren did not like the way the Flyers have played. I don't think Holmgren or Snider have a game plan.

Starting the season with three losses and now a change in coaching staff, with foreseeable more changes coming, it is hard to look at this team and expect greatness when there is little stability. The Flyers are looking for a fresh voice and new ideas but they are choosing a coach that was bread within the organization, there is nothing fresh or new about that. Ultimately the Flyers are still on the down turning road to destruction and there is one common thread: Paul Holmgren. During the press conference today, Ed Snider seemingly voiced his support of the GM but historically his support is wavering and short lived. What is in store for the Flyers this season and better yet, is Paul Holmgren the next victim on the chopping block. Ilya Bryzgalov is in Vegas having a nice laugh at this Flyers saga.

There are no doubts that Peter Laviolette will land on his feet with another hockey team; previously he has coached the Carolina Hurricanes and the New York Islanders. Laviolette is a great coach and has done great things with the Flyers. After relentless frustrations the Flyers are now looking for a change and although it seems to lay heavily on the shoulders of Berube, I think that is a temporary situation to relieve a snap decision made by Holmgren. Could we be hearing the names of: Hextall, Recchi, Dejardins or Murray returning to the Philadelphia ice as coaches?

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Laviolette is out

Peter Laviolette did more yesterday than just lose another game, making the Philadelphia Flyers 0-3 to start the season; he was fired as head coach. This was an inevitable move by the Flyers, who missed the playoffs last year for the first time since 2007 under the leadership of Laviolette. Craig Berube, the assistant coach of the Flyers will replace Laviolette but it is unclear if he will be an interim head coach, the questions around this snap decision should be cleared up at the 11 a.m press conference being held by GM Paul Holmgren and team president Peter Luukko.

During the off season Ed Snider gave Laviolette a strong vote of confidence and later denied that Laviolette was on the hot seat. But, the Flyers are a team that wants to make the playoffs and Laviolette was not giving them any reason to believe he would be the coach to help take them there. Laviolette was hired in 2009 and lead the team to the Stanley Cup play-offs in 2010. I am sure that Laviolette will land on his feet just like Bryzgalov; previously he has coached the Carolina Hurricanes and the New York Islanders.

To watch the press conference live at 11 a.m go to:

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Hershey Bears Home Opener

The Hershey Bears battled the Adirondack Phantoms last night, who ultimately took hold of the game in Chocolatetown dropping the Bears 4-3 during their home opener. The Bears struggled with an ineffective power play, although they were granted 5 opportunities throughout the game they could not keep the puck in the Phantoms zone. The Phantoms dominated the power kill and had a strong fore-check that the Bears could not overcome, as they battled back from a first period deficit to hold a one goal lead for a short period of time.

The Phantoms dominated the first period, walking two goals into the Bears net by team captain Ben Holmstron and next by top prospect Tye McGinn. The Phantoms claimed their 2 goal lead only 3:48 into the contest and held it through the first period, meanwhile the Bears went 0-3 on their power play opportunities. The Phantoms were playing a very physical game, not very surprising being that their affiliate is the Philadelphia Flyers, they forced Joel Rechlicz to drop the gloves twice with Zack FitzGerald and Derek Mathers.

“We looked so nervous and I didn’t know why. We were grabbing the sticks tight, it was everyone. Our nerves got to us. We had forty minutes to go and we had to start chipping away,” said the Bears’ coach of the first period deficit.

Early in the second period, Nate Schmidt blasted the puck, getting the Bears on the board with a top-shelf goal, cutting the Phantoms lead in half. Michael Latta had the crowd on their feet as he grabbed a turn-over and scored a beautiful break-away shorthanded goal. The Phantoms took their foot off the gas and Bears Left Winger Derek Whitmore upped the ante to score and closed the second period with a lead for the Bears.

Haviland spoke highly of the chemistry between Derek Whitmore and Michael Latta saying, “I liked him a lot. He and Latta had some sort of spark together so we put them together right away. They for sure will be a pair going forward into our next game. He plays hard and he works, when you work you get results. Those two guys were our best two forwards tonight for sure.”

The Bears were suffering from turn-overs all over the ice and a thin line of defense in front of Grubauer made turn over turn into easy scoring opportunities for the Phantoms. The Phantoms were anticipating moves very well and they were everywhere the Bears were trying to go, making it impossible for the Bears to get across the blue line. Tying the game, the Phantoms pushed this contest into overtime. The Bears suffered an offensive turn over in front of the net during OT and a goal off a rebound by Phantoms Brandon Maning ended the Bears home opener in a loss.

Recording his first game behind the Bears bench head coach Mike Haviland said, “Our compete level has to go way up. We got outworked in the first, I liked that we battled back in the second, but way too high risk on the backend. We turned pucks over [and] we made some poor decisions on our pinches and our reads. That has to change, more of a simple game and more of a complete game from everybody.”

The Hershey Bears will not face the Adriondack Phantoms again until January 3, 2014 by then Haviland will have taken care of the power play and turn over issues, and hopefully they will settle into a chemistry on the ice that will lead to more wins and a run at the Calder Cup. As the Bears first game goes into the record books for the 2013-14 season, the coaching staff has a good bit of video to review and learn from before the Bears hit to road October 12th to square off against Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins, whom they beat in pre-season.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Ilya Bryzgalov Saga

Earlier this summer I wrote this about Bryzgalov:

“Russian goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, our favorite “love to hate him” netminder is having a tough summer. He was released from his contract with the Philadelphia Flyers and after submitting a statement, disappeared for the summer and has been absent from the Russian hockey Olympic team roaster. Just two summers ago this guy was one of the top goaltenders in the league, now still a free agent in late July and by the looks of it will be watching the Olympics on TV. Bryzgalov has played bad from time to time and had his run-ins with the Philadelphia media but overall he is a skilled goaltender. I was sad to see him leave Philadelphia, although excited to see a door open for Steve Mason. Bryzgalov’s exclusion from the Olympics and possibly from the NHL 2013-14 season speaks volumes of what his peers in the industry think of him. Bill Meltzer took to twitter and put it best that Bryzgalov is his own worst enemy. Who knows what the outcome of the Bryzgalov saga will be but I am hoping that he comes out on top or reappears in the next few years.”

Now Bryzgalov quietly appears back in the headlines days after the 2013-14 NHL season has started. Still a free agent, there has been whispers of interest from the Pittsburgh Penguins, KHL and SEL but Bryz is not headed to the KHL or NHL instead a professional try-out with ECHL Las Vegas Wranglers. What a kick in the pants for Bryz, who just three years ago was a Verzina nominee. The Wranglers, two leagues below the NHL, are an unaffiliated team since 2009-10 season when they were last affiliated with the Phoenix Coyotes. Although unaffiliated, over the past few years they have sent players to the NHL, including Deryk Engelland, Adam Cracknell and Adam Pardy.

Hats off to Bryz who is taking this as a positive opportunity. In his official statement he said:

“ ..this is critical for me to be ready for NHL play, and I can’t wait to get on the ice. Everyone’s motivation here is largely driven by an unparalleled passion for the game, and this will offer me a very interesting perspective and be a great opportunity for me to reflect why I started playing this great game in the first place…”

Later he went on to say that he has all intention on returning to the NHL and that this is an example for his children, young fans and future NHL teammates, whom he hopes will come to rely on him again.

Only a few months ago Bryz’s agent was making negative comments on an Edmonton radio show about the situation in Philadelphia, saying:

"…Sergei Bobrovsky, who struggled, leaves Philadelphia, goes to Columbus and wins the Vezina Trophy. Yeah, Ilya has to take some responsibility for his performance ... at the end of the day, I think there is more wrong with Philadelphia's goaltending than just the goaltending."

And the last we heard from him, after being released from the Philadelphia Flyers was in a press release in July that ended with: "for further comment, please feel free to walk up to Ilya Bryzgalov next year at training camp. He and his advisors will have no further comment until that time."

Now we are seeing a more humble and hardworking Bryzgalov, who is putting his ego aside to make the necessary changes to his career in order to improve. Only time will tell if Bryz has truly changed but this is a positive step in revamping his imagine among his peers and the hockey community. Going to ECHL camp on a professional try-out cannot be the easiest pill to swallow for a goaltender like Bryz, but you have to respect his determination and love of the game. Wishing you the best Bryz!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Philadelphia Flyers Home Opener against Toronto Maple Leafs

The Philadelphia Flyers started off last night’s home opener with a fast pace and quick feet. Brayden Schenn opened up scoring during the power play late in the first period for the Flyers, grabbing the first lead of the game.

During the second period the Flyers still had a strong hold on the game, out doing the Leafs; Flyers were winning races to the puck and they were over all stronger on the puck. Halfway through the second period the Leafs gained momentum and with 3 more power play opportunities for the Flyers they lacked the ability to score during the power play. Phil Kessel picked up the rebound to score, tying the game at 1-1.

The third period began and ended with a goal by Dave Bolland, securing the lead and win for the Leafs. In between all the Leafs had to do was hold the blue line and prevent the Flyers from setting up in the offensive zone.

For the season opener it was unfortunate that the Flyers could not pull out a win for the home crowd especially when they started off with so much vigor, but there is potential. Last night was not a bad first game for the Flyers, they continue to struggle in sustaining high energy for a full 60 minute game – they start the game strong and sizzle out by the third period. The power play has potential for this team which has players with a ton of pp talent. The Flyers were only about the make the magic happen on one out of their seven power play opportunities last night. On a positive note, the new additions to the Flyers: Vincent Lecavalier and Mark Streit were looking excellent and a great additions to the team. Steve Mason was good in goal and had a few excellent saves. The Flyers consistently were out shooting the Leafs with quality scoring opportunities and 7 power plays throughout the entire game but couldn’t make the magic happen.

Against a team like the Flyers that start strong and sizzles out, the Leafs were outstanding. Jonathan Bernier kept the Leafs in the game early on during the Flyers dominance. He showed great control and skill in net. The Leafs played a consistent game and were able to take control once the Flyers defense broke down and took their foot off of the gas.

The Philadelphia Flyers and Toronto Maple Leafs will not face each other again until March 8, 2014 in Toronto.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Stanley Cup Champions continue to dominate

The Chicago Blackhawks did not miss a beat as they took on the Washington Capitals during their home opener last night. After a moving Stanley Cup ceremony and banner raising, the Blackhawks got right back into it as if no time had lapsed during the off season. This game had the Capitals on their heels from early on in the first period and they only managed to hold a lead for a short period of time during the third period.

Crawford’s glove hand remains a weak spot but he made 28 saves, contributing to killing off the 5- on -3 power play with a couple huge stops. Holtby made 29 saves and several mistakes; a stop he would have liked to have, was on a fluttering shot by Oduya that went off Holtby’s glove on its way into the net.

“It just completely fooled me,” Holtby said. “I had a clean look at the shot, it was just one of those sinkers. It happened. It was one I would love to have, but I think there are a couple of others in the game that I should have done a better job on, more than that one.”

The Blackhawks look as strong as last season and are going for a Stanley Cup repeat. The Capitals have every possibility to be contenders, their turnovers gave the Blackhawks momentum and a strong finish. Patrick Kane and associates started the season off strong, reminding the NHL how they won their title last season. The target on the back of the Chicago Blackhawks only got bigger, they are the team to beat. The Washington Capitals and the Chicago Blackhawks will not face off again until April.