Mon Mar 07 09:24am EST
Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
Prior to the season, many people thought the Flyers would be in good shape to make another run at the Stanley Cup Finals this season. For almost all of the time since, they've given fan and foe alike no reason to doubt that.
But if people had qualms about the Flyers' chances this season, it certainly rested with their goaltending. Being up against the salary cap as they were, Cup run hero Michael Leighton(notes) got demoted to the minors -- another veteran victim of a world in which effectiveness at the NHL level isn't always the top consideration for job placement -- and the Flyers opted to roll a tandem of replacement-level-in-a-good-year netminder Brian Boucher(notes) and rookie Sergei Bobrovsky(notes), playing his first season ever away from Russia.
And for a long, long time, the plan worked gangbusters. For a long time, Bobrovsky was in the Calder conversation, and Boucher was having just about his best pro season ever.
Lately, though, things haven't been the same.
It started with a one-off road game against Ottawa, the worst team in the Eastern Conference by a sizeable margin, where they lost 4-1. Then they returned home to face the 10th-place Maple Leafs, against whom they lost 3-2 in a game that wasn't really as close as that makes it sound.
The next game, they lost at home, again, to the ninth-place Sabres, 5-3. An ugly run by any stretch of the imagination; you can't be losing three straight to teams that aren't in the playoffs. Not when you're the defending Eastern Conference champions, and as recently as 10 days prior were leading the conference by eight points.
Losing like that, while Pittsburgh inexplicably kept winning, Washington made up ground and Boston rattled off seven wins in a row, is no way to keep the wolves from your doors, and they had a chance to get back on course against their long-time rival New York Rangers.
Instead, they steered straight for the rocks.
(Coming Up: Garth Snow's pro-Gillies silliness; Cal Clutterbuck(notes), actually injured; Ottawa stinks; Jeff Skinner(notes) experiment over; Jonathan Quick's(notes) diving hypocrisy; Shawn Thornton(notes) beaten up by Mike Rupp; Dany Heatley(notes) isn't helping; the secret to the Predators goaltending success; the Capitals are suddenly conference contenders; the glory of Jonathan Toews(notes); and how did you celebrate the Cooke/Savard anniversary?)
To call Sunday's 7-0 loss to the seventh-place team in the East one-sided is to call Chris Pronger(notes) "kind of" a jerk. There was never any point at which the team looked capable of competing with a team that's fighting off the likes of Carolina, Buffalo and Toronto for a playoff spot.
And that's not to lay the loss entirely at the feet of Boucher and Bobrovsky, both of whom got work(ed) in the game. Boucher and Bobrovsky have now given up 18 goals on the last 132 shots they've faced for a ghastly .864 save percentage and 4.52 GAA combined. But you don't give up that many goals in four games unless you're Brian Elliott(notes), and you don't face that many shots unless you're Cam Ward(notes).
The Flyers on the whole have looked disinterested for the last week or so; coasting through games against eminently beatable teams and getting absolutely clobbered.
But this is kind of what happens to every team for which a goaltender plays well above his head for too many games. It happened with the Avalanche last year (and this year and probably next year and maybe the one after that) and it'll keep happening as long as teams keep relying on mediocre goaltending for too long in the regular season.
It won't be this bad for the rest of the season, but Philly likely won't be as good as they were for the first five months either.
Playoff races are heating up and the teams jostling for position at the middle of the table are going to do their damnedest to make sure the Flyers go out of March looking rather more like lambs.
What We Learned
Atlanta Thrashers: How about Dustin Byfuglien(notes) assisting on three of four goals (he was originally credited with four apples) in the Thrashers' OT win against Florida? It was his first multiple-point game since Dec. 20.
Carolina Hurricanes: Jeff Skinner got moved to center a while back now, and has been getting killed at the dot ever since (he's running at 36.4 percent on 154 draws). So that experiment is over. However, Carolina is also dead last in the league in faceoffs at 44.1 percent, so really, what's the difference?
Chicago Blackhawks: Might be time to start quadruple-teaming Jonathan Toews on every shift. The Blackhawks have won eight straight, largely because he has eight goals and five assists in those games.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Scottie Upshall(notes) took exactly one game to make the Blue Jackets' top line. I'll leave it to you to determine whether that speaks well of Upshall or poorly of the Blue Jackets' wing depth.
Dallas Stars: Probably no Brad Richards(notes) again Monday night. He might skate. But that's it. Stars have won four of their last five though, so they probably don't care even a little bit. Just let the guy walk in July. Whatever.
Detroit Red Wings: Wings were up 4-1 in the third period against Phoenix, then coughed up three straight and lost in a shootout. Not normally a problem. The Coyotes are a good team, they were on the road, end of a long trip. But now the Wings haven't won in three games and that is troublesome.
Edmonton Oilers: Don't look now but even without Taylor Hall(notes), the Oilers are no longer last in the NHL. That honor, of course, goes to the Ottawa Senators, who are truly as terrible as I thought they would be.
Los Angeles Kings: Jon Quick on why the Kings lost to the best-in-the-league-since-Day-1 Canucks: "Maybe if I dive like they do, you get that call, but otherwise I guess you don't."
Minnesota Wild: Hey Cal Clutterbuck missed Sunday's game against Buffalo with what was only described as an "upper body injury" that resulted from the Trevor Gillies(notes) hit. But I'm sure he's just a big faker and this move doesn't scream "concussion" at all, right Don Cherry?
Nashville Predators: Pekka Rinne(notes) is one of the best goalies in the NHL (though no one really ever brings that up), and a lot of that is because of Preds goalie coach Mitch Korn. He's in his 13th year with the organization, meaning he's helped the franchise churn out a number of franchise goalies like it's no big deal. This guy is awesome.
New Jersey Devils: Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) may be playing out of his mind lately, but sometimes he still turns into the old stupid, lazy Ilya Kovalchuk who still scores goals all the time.
New York Islanders: You're right Garth Snow, the NHL shouldn't have tossed 10 games at Gillies. "Trevor is one of the most popular teammates in that room," Snow said. "He's probably the frontrunner when it comes to community events or visiting hospitals and elementary schools. He has done great things for this community and Long Island." Well he's still a garbage hockey player. And now he can visit all the elementary schools he damn well pleases for the next month. This is the dumbest pro-Gillies argument and if you make it you are literally an idiot.
New York Rangers: Mats Zuccarello(notes) turned out to be a nice little pickup that cost the team nothing. Two goals Sunday, his fifth and sixth of the year, and second and third in his last two games. He's getting it together big-time.
Ottawa Senators: Here is a terrible thing business columnist Mark Sutcliffe wrote. "The most precious commodity in a hockey franchise is an owner with deep pockets." What about a GM or coach who knows what he's doing? No? Sounds good.
Phoenix Coyotes: Don't criticize Coyote fans for not going to games. The team sucks! The management sucks! The owners suck! The building sucks! Why, it's almost like there should never have been a team in Phoenix in the first place.
Pittsburgh Penguins: You don't often see Shawn Thornton get his lunch handed to him in a fight, so good work by Mike Rupp here.
San Jose Sharks: Dany Heatley scored for Dallas to snap the Sharks' eight-game winning streak. Wait, what?
St. Louis Blues: Ben Bishop(notes) has given up 11 goals on 51 shots in the last two games, but Blues fans believe he's played better than that stat line shows. I'm just excited to hear the league now gives out A's for effort.
Tampa Bay Lightning: The Lightning have lost five of their last seven and have given up 23 goals in those games, while scoring just 20. Problem is, eight of those goals came in one game. Troubling times.
Toronto Maple Leafs: The original headline for this game story from TSN was "Falling Leafs." It was Toronto's first regulation loss since early February. Good work guys. How does this affect the Jet Meter?
Vancouver Canucks: Alain Vigneault says his team's third line is the best on the team. It's also the best in the league. Jannik Hansen(notes), Manny Malhotra(notes) and Raffi Torres(notes) are better than most third and fourth lines put together, and at least a third of the league's second lines as well.
Gold Star Award
Minus of the Weekend
Mike Milbury wants fighting out of the game at least as far the role of the designated tough guy goes. Stupid opinion. Without brainless thugs that get paid specifically to fight, players like Taylor Hall do it instead and injure their ankle or break their hand or pick up a concussion. Yeah, that's good for the game.
Play of the Weekend
Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week
User "Roof Daddy" has a real magnum opus here.
ALL SIDES SAY YES!
The entire movie is two hours of me standing in front of a brick wall. It cost $80 million.