Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Surprise performance from the Flyers leads the series to Game 7

Much like their late start to the regular season, third period come backs and their last minute playoff push, the Philadelphia Flyers second wind has finally arrived. It is not too late and the momentum is welcomed in a series that will now be decided during Game 7.  The New York Rangers will take home ice in a game everyone has to win but only one team will be moving on tonight. Will we finally see some over time from this series?

 Last night, on home ice facing an elimination, the Flyers surprised everyone as they held as much as a 4 goal lead going into the third period. The Rangers started off the game dominating but by the end of 40 minutes looked disjointed and unorganized, they looked tired and were not playing as a team.  The difference of play between Game 5 and Game 6 was like night and day for both teams. After a very disappointing Game 5 that showed little promise for the Flyers, the comeback kids have risen and will take this series to Game 7.

 The Flyers have slowly regained their goal scorers. Claude Giroux netted his first goal during Game 5 and Wayne Simmonds made huge contributions in Game 6 with 3 goals. I think that when the top players are scoring for the Flyers it adds to their confidence, instead of building the frustration they get when they cannot find the back of the net. With Steve Mason's huge sprawling saves in goal the team is set to win Game 7 and move on. But, before we think about that let’s talk about what they have to do in Game 7: Keep it simple. Play the game. Exploit the Rangers weaknesses. Up until now the Rangers have been a solid competitor. Last night we saw a different side of the Rangers and with their confidence deflated the Flyers need to go into Madison Square Garden and dominate.

 Fingers crossed.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Game 4: The return of Steve Mason in time to tie the series at 2

The man, myth and legend returned to his rightful place in net tonight for Game 4 in Philadelphia.  Steve Mason had been out for two weeks, seemingly not missing a beat last night as he returned to block 37 shots and help tie the series.  Veteran Ray Emery had been holding it down and kept the Flyers alive in this series, while Mason was recovering.  Having their number one man back in goal gave the Flyers the added confidence that could now serve as their launching pad to win the series. The way that Mason defenses the net is outstanding, he has been able to reclaim his career probably largely in part to the veteran that has been backing him up all season.  Emery is largely important to the team as well but when it comes to incredible saves Mason is the guy that has shocked and awed us and has gotten the job done.

Looking forward to Game 5 in New York, the Flyers need to continue to build on the play that they exhibited during Game 4. During the playoffs they need to play better and better each game if they have their eye on advancing. I look forward to a line shuffle by Chief, his changes usually result in opportunities for their top guys to score goals. Speaking of their top scorers ,there has not been too much action from their top guys and all eyes are on Captain Claude Giroux waiting for a goal.  I think that Game 5 is when Giroux will notch a goal.

The Flyers have to keep it simple and stay patient on Sunday if they want to claim a win on the road. Mason has been a huge part of the teams wins all season and now that he is back in net he will be the reason that the Flyers are successful but they cannot only rest on him. All the elements need to be in place to make it past Round 1. In past games the Flyers seemed to try to spot correct some of their weaknesses instead of playing and even keeled game. The Flyers need to have everything working at once: good defense, puck control, great goaltending and keeping it simple for 60 minutes. They have yet to play a 60 minute game which is something they struggled with all season.

With Grossman’s future unclear, as he was taken out of the game with a lower body injury, there could be some additional changes coming to the line-up for Sunday. The big question is who should they put in for Grossman, I think that Hal Gill would be a great choice. Right now the Flyers have the momentum and if they play their game, they should be successful. Regardless of what is to come, the Flyers have a top of the line ace in goal for them and if they give him the space and the defense they could take it all the way. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Game 2: Flyers beat the Rangers to tie the series

After taking the detrimental penalty in Game 1 that doomed the Flyers to a defeat, Jason Akeson was a major part of the win last night during game 2.  Now officially a Flyers come back kid, he tied the game during the 2nd period and salvaged his reputation with the fans. Although the Rangers dominated in the beginning with classic puck control and a strong power play unit, the Flyers applied pressure and played the defense.

Leading from the top, the Flyers top line got in on the action, building up their team’s confidence. In the 1st period with a goal by the top line, Voracek helped built the momentum, as he notched the go ahead goal with the help of Giroux-Hartnell. Showing great defense, the Flyers went onto claim their first lead of the game and first win, tying the series.

The Flyers are most dangerous when they are determined to win, and Game 2 was everything that Game 1 should have been. I think that by getting their first play-off game under their belt and dealing with the initial jitters the veterans have been able to help calm the hungry team and focus in on their goals on a game by game basis. Last night the Flyers top line was performing, they were working together and hungry for the win. They exhibited some great defense and hopefully will build off of that in the coming days.

The take away from this game is that: The series is just getting started, the Flyers still need better puck control and less time in the box. As they claim their first road win during this series, hopefully they have rattled Henrik Lunquist enough to post more wins this week against the Rangers.  The Rangers are going to come hard on the fore-check, control the puck and dominate power play opportunities. By now, the Rangers are fairly consistent with how they play and the Flyers can use that to their advantage. The Flyers have ebbs and flows to their play and can rise up and surprise when they really are determined.

With Ray Emery posting a 50/50 split in the absence of Steve Mason should he continue to start in goal?   Potentially Mason is expected to be healthy enough to play on Tuesday and with a chance at a serious run at the Cup should they let Mason rest up for more challenging competitors to come. I think that Mason has been out of goal for long enough and if he is good to go he needs to get in on the action.  Too much rest is not a good thing, being in goal and blocking shots is going to be the best way for Mason to prepare for future games.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Philadelphia Flyers fall way behind New York Rangers in Game 1

With a fresh opportunity for new beginnings, the Philadelphia Flyers took the ice last night in Madison Square Garden. Although, they were already starting Game 1 playing their back-up goaltender, a hopeful team stood tall during an evenly matched first period. But that’s where the good news ends. After a tied first period they lost momentum in the second.  The nail in the coffin came from a penalty taken by Jason Akeson, which gave the New York Rangers a perfect opening and go ahead to score 2 goals during their power play.   The Rangers pulled away with the lead during the third period and the Flyers did not have the discipline nor the control to be able to catch them.

Game 1 for the Flyers was not too horrible. Minus the Akeson mishap, turn overs and lack of puck control, the Flyers showed some promise during the first period. In the coming games the Flyers will need to make a conscious effort to stay out of the penalty box. The Rangers’ power play may only be 15th in the league but there is a lot of talent out there on the ice and the Rangers were able to beat the Flyers last night. Serving a whopping 1,180 minutes in the penalty box during the regular season, the Flyers generally have a hard time staying out of the box, so when they are shorthanded they will be looking to Mason-Emery to come up big in net and the dynamic duo of Sean Couturier and Matt Read.

Claude Giroux is the backbone of the Flyers and there wasn’t much of a performance from him last night. Now that they have Game 1 under their belt G needs to come out big. As soon as he brings the energy and the momentum the team will do likewise.

One of the biggest challenges between the Flyers and a goal is the Gold medal goaltender blocking their shots: King Henrik, a consistent and confident goaltender who has gone 8-0-0 against the Flyers at Mason Square Garden. The Flyers will need to break that wall down and beat him in order to stay alive during the post-season. Lundquist is good and the Flyers will have to do their best to break down his confidence.

Last night, the goaltender in net would not have changed the outcome of the game for the Flyers. But, Steven Mason is magic and could have had a big influence. Mas has reclaimed his career this season, with a team that has been known as “where goaltenders come to die” I have complete confidence in Mas and it is unfortunate that he is out right now, but we have a veteran backup who brings playoff experience and all hope is with him now until Mas is healthy.

Now that everyone is off to the races, the Flyers will need to come back in a big was during Game 2. If the Flyers can’t perform better and they revisit their start from the regular season, they are in for a short post-season. Cross your fingers!! See you on Sunday!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Final notes from the 2013-14 regular season: Philadelphia Flyers

Over the final days, hockey fans have relished in the additional minutes of free hockey as the regular season concludes. In several games that I have watched over the last few days, teams like: the Flyers, Avalanche and others have gone into exhilarating overtimes during this regular season that ‘just won’t quit’, as a hockey analyst proclaimed this weekend. Several of these passionate final games were deemed of less importance and would not affect the playoff standings, but the players proved that no one likes to lose, as they vehemently took the ice and gave everyone a preview of the playoffs.

The Philadelphia Flyers have astonishingly made the playoffs and are now prepping for their postseason. But, this is not a surprise to everyone.  Their fearless leader, Captain Claude Giroux never lost sight of their end goal, as he made this audacious claim in late October: ‘We will make the playoffs’. At the time the Flyers sat at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, at the bottom of the league with their top scorers not performing, they had tallied a low 11 points and their record was 1-7-0. An epidemic early in the season were coaching changes and the Flyers were not immune, as they dropped three games they also said good-bye to Coach Peter Laviolette and Assistant Coach Craig Breube got a promotion. Just 6 days into a 195 day season, the immediate outcome was not overwhelming success, it took some time to turn the season around and it took 15 games for Giroux to net his first goal of the season.  The critics were brash but Giroux proved why he wears the C on his chest and he took his team to the top, after all the only direction the Flyers had to go was up.

Now the Flyers start fresh in the postseason, facing the New York Rangers on Thursday at Madison Square Garden. After overcoming a season of adversity the comeback kids have had the final say and they will be taking that energy into the post-season. On Thursday we are looking at a familiar lineup from a Flyers team that has remained fairly healthy all season long.  Zac Rinaldo will be back from his 4-game suspension and Steve Mason who left after a 2nd period mishap in the Flyers game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday will be playoff ready.  [Edit: Mason will be side-lined for Game 1 and Emery will start in Goal] The Mason-Emery tandem goalie team is a recipe for success and with a healthy team everyone is focused going into Madison Square Garden on Thursday.

Reflections on the regular season from my point of view: While I saw signs of Peter Laviolette’s early departure from the team, I do not think that it was completely necessary. Craig Berube stepped up and was able to make effective line changes all season long that padded the success of the team. But, I think the foundation for success was always in the locker room and once the Flyers figured it out and wanted it enough the momentum turned around. I could have never endorsed Giroux’s early season claims that they were headed to the playoffs as they sat at the bottom of the league. First because it was too early to tell and second because I thought that he was just doing his job, it would have never been right for him to be less than encouraging, motivated and optimist of his team. All in all, the Flyers have laid out some lessons for us to learn from this season: Lesson 1 Never get in a fight with a Boxer, Lesson 2 Keep your eye on the prize, Lesson 3 When you work together you can win. At the end of the day hockey brings communities and families together, even despite rivalries. Young athletes are looking up to these NHL players and I think that through a few bumps the Flyers set a great example this season.

I will be at my favorite bar with my Dad on Thursday, proudly wearing my Flyers shirt, downing some beer and eating wings as I celebrate the post season.  Win or lose I couldn’t be more proud of the athleticism, sportsmanship and motivation of this Flyers team this season.

For the 2013-14 regular season this is The Amateur Fan signing off. Welcome to the postseason.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Big win last night for the Philadelphia Flyers over the Buffalo Sabres

The Philadelphia Flyers were able to hold off the Buffalo Sabres long enough to notch a win last night. The Sabres sit in the 8th seed of the Atlantic division.  After a four game losing streak for the Flyers, line changes by Head Coach Craig Berube had positive effects on team chemistry and were the major contributors to the win.

Steve Mason had a confidence boost last night as the Flyers seemingly aim their sights towards the playoffs.  Recently a weak link for the Flyers, although he has been great in goal all season, there is no guarantee Mason will start in goal for the remaining games. With four games left we might see an appearance by Ray Emery to give Mason a rest before the playoffs.

Zac Rinaldo sniped his second goal of the season but minutes later left the game on a penalty that will also bench him for the rest of the regular season.  Now that Rinaldo has received a 4 game suspension could all that positive chemistry change? Every time Rinaldo steps on the ice the energy changes.  He finishes checks, applies pressure and is an integral part of the team. It is very unfortunate that such a suspension happened at this time in the season, especially since Rinaldo has been playing so well. Hopefully this lets him rest up for playoffs and puts him in a great frame of mind.

Although the Flyers did not play a perfect game last night they did claim those very important points that are keeping them mere steps in front of the Blue Jackets. The Blue Jackets have launched themselves up in the standings and they are knocking at the door, looking to edge the Flyers out of their playoff spot. With one wrong move the Flyers could slip out of their playoff spot. In the coming days I think the Blue Jackets will split wins and losses during their last games and the Flyers need to win 2 out of their last 4 games to stay ahead. 

I think the playoffs look very promising for the Flyers but just as they work to claim that official spot in the coming days the real work begins.  They will need to apply the pressure, get pucks deep and never let up during the playoffs.  A more consistent competitive edge that we haven’t seen the Flyers have on a steady basis all season. If they can figure it out, there may be hope for a playoff run but more than likely enjoy the first few games and a slightly extended season for the Flyers this year. Only time will tell how the end of the regular season will shake out, with everyone’s eyes on the playoffs we could still be in for a surprise in the very competitive Metropolitan division.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Philadelphia Flyers: Headed to the playoffs or not?

An improvement from the beginning of this season, the Philadelphia Flyers have come a long way from the bottom of their division. But it may not be enough, as the Flyers struggle to keep their head above water and in the 3rd seed of the Metropolitan division. The Philadelphia Flyers continue to fall short as they push towards the playoffs.

Facing fierce competition leading up to the playoffs, the Flyers lack the competitive edge that Stanley cup contending teams possess. Although the fairly healthy team has been playing well, their recent loses have left them slip to 3rd seed.  As they sit only a few points above the Blue Jackets and Capitals, they have a bulls-eye on their back to be knocked out of a playoff seat.

With only 11 days left in the regular season the Flyers have 7 games remaining and will need to start consistently winning in order to stay in a playoff spot. Although every game is anyone’s game to win, even if the Flyers manage to stay alive long enough to make it into the playoffs they will only be around for a round or two, at most. I do not expect that the Flyers can compete with those teams like the Kings, Avalanche, etc. that will be around to play for the cup.

This season started off shaky, with fans fearful of the Flyers sitting at the bottom of the division with a Captain that could not score. Thankfully that changed and the Flyers surged into the top of the division bouncing between 2nd and 3rd seed. With more promise than last season the Flyers appear to be headed to the playoffs but building the team back up to become Stanley cup champions could be a few seasons out, as they will face the fierce competition from the west.