Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Moving blogs again

I just joined up with some friends over at WordPress to start writing a general sports blog. I'll still make Flyers posts once the season gets back in swing, but if you're so in love with my writing ;-) be sure to check me out over at

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I Should Be the Flyers GM

I looooove playing GM Mode in NHL 10. I started a career with the Flyers (prior to roster updates so no JVR). I'm in season 2 of the game and here's the move's I've made so far:

Dealt Danny Briere for Robyn Regher (cleared a lot of cap space)
Signed Alex Tanguay
Traded Robyn Regher for Andrej Meszaros
---- End Season 1 ----

Didn't re-sign Ray Emery
Didn't re-sign Dan Carcillo
Didn't re-sign Ian Lapperriere
Re-signed Blair Betts
Signed Raffi Torres
Dealt Jon Matsumoto and a no-named goalie for Cory Schneider
Dealt Scott Hartnell for Rene Bourque and a 3rd round pick
Dealt Kimo Timonen for Marek Svatos and a 4th round pick
Signed Marc Savard to a 4 year deal
Signed Vesa Toskala
Sent Brian Boucher to the Phantoms (he apparently cleared waivers)

So now my lines look like this:




Pretty solid team imo. Patrick Kane is apparently still a FA, so I gotta figure out how I'm going to fit him in.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Phillies Spring Preview

So this week I had the opportunity to participate in a "Blogger's Round Table" preview of the 2010 Philadelphia Phillies. A few of my answers made it into the final post over on Crashburn Alley. I'll post all the questions, and my answers here.

1. How concerned are you about Cole Hamels going into 2010?

I’m a little concerned about Cole Hamels this season. I would like to believe that last year was a season of unluckiness and distractions for him, but now he really has to come out and prove that last year was a fluke and 2008 wasn’t. He’s looked good in spring training so far, but that doesn’t mean much as far as the regular season goes. However, Happ, Blanton, Kendrick and Halladay have all looked great in spring training as well. If they keep this up into the season, the Phillies won’t have to rely on Hamels to be the stud he was in 2008. Maybe that will help him relax and get comfortable again. One thing’s for sure, if he struggles again this year, he had better not make anymore comments like the ones he made in the World Series this past season.

2. Give the Roy Halladay/Cliff Lee mega-trade between the Phillies, Blue Jays, and Mariners a letter grade and explain your grading process.

Phillies: B
I can’t give the Phillies an A for this trade for one reason: they gave up essentially seven prospects for one guy. However, I can’t really give them a low grade for this trade either because they brought in the best pitcher in baseball and managed to sign him to a reasonable contract for the next three years. In hindsight, it would have been nice if the Phillies had decided in July that they could part with Drabeck, because then we might still have Lou Marson or Travis D’Arnaud. But I can’t really complain that the Phillies gave up Marson and some lesser prospects for Lee when the Halladay trade originally fell through because that trade sparked us for the second half the season and the playoffs.

Mariners: A
They got a fantastic pitcher in Lee, while giving up no great prospects in return. This was a very good deal for them, especially if they can re-sign Lee to a long term deal, and he continues his dominating ways.

Blue Jays: A-
Credit the Blue Jays for holding out on trading Halladay until the Phillies caved and gave up Drabek. It was a risky move on the part of the Blue Jays to not deal Halladay at the deadline last July, but the risk paid off for them. They also plucked prospects Michael Taylor (who they then sent to Oakland for a different prospect) and Travis D’Arnaud. This puts them in a nice position to move forward as Drabek and D’Arnaud can contribute to them for a long time. I have to give them an A- on the deal though because they were unable to build around Halladay and knew that they wouldn’t be able to re-sign him, which ultimately led to them having to deal the best pitcher in baseball.

3. What should the Phillies do about Jayson Werth and his impending free agency?

I would love to see the Phillies re-sign Jayson Werth if it’s feasible. Werth has been a very valuable member of this team for the past two seasons, and it’s great that he had such a solid year in 2009. I would not want to sign him to a big money deal if it means that we can’t re-sign Ryan Howard in a couple of years. Howard is a bigger part of this team than Werth is, and the Phillies have Domonic Brown waiting in the wings. The ideal situation would be to re-sign Werth, and move either him or Brown to left field to replace Ibanez, but my guess is that the Phillies won’t have enough money to make a move like that. So as much as it pains me to say it, it is probably best to let Werth walk in free agency. I’d rather see the Phillies be successful for a long period of time, than to get too attached to some of the more expendable players.

4. Jimmy Rollins says he wants to hit .300, accrue 200 hits, score 150 runs, steal 50 bases, and commit 3 or fewer errors. Give us your AVG, H, R, SB, and E predictions for Rollins in 2010.

Well hopefully Rollins’ goals won’t backfire and make him overthink things this year. The only thing on that list that he’s ever done is reach the 200 hit plateau (and he somehow still didn’t hit .300 that season). At 31, I think it’s possible, but unlikely, that he’ll suddenly throw up career bests in all those categories. Out of all these, I think Rollins is most capable of hitting .300, even though he’s never done it before. I see him returning to the .280-.290 range for sure though. The other goal I think he’s capable of reaching is the three error mark. Rollins has been a great fielder over his career, and last year he had a career low in errors with 6. Realistically, I think Rollins will hit .285, he’ll get about 190 hits, 120 runs, 40 SB and 5 errors. If he does this, it’s possible we’ll see his name in the mix for MVP again.

5. Is the duo of Ryan Madson and Danys Baez reliable back-up for ailing closer Brad Lidge?

Madson is definitely not a viable option as a backup closer to Brad Lidge. When Lidge went down last year, we saw how shaky Madson got in the closer role. Madson is a very very solid setup man, but loses all that confidence when he moves to the 9th inning. I’ll admit that I don’t know much about Danny Baez, so I can’t make a judgment about his ability to take over the closer role if needed. If Lidge does go down, I’d like to see Baez get a crack at the job, and then possibly J.C. Romero.

6. Which team in the NL East worries you the most?

The Braves are the team that worries me the most. The Marlins don’t worry me too much because I don’t think they’re that deep beyond Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco and Hanley Ramirez. The Mets, despite adding Jason Bay, are a mess (and are possibly without Reyes all year). The Nationals… well they’re the Nationals. The Braves will have their traditionally strong pitching staff, and they will also have a fairly strong lineup. Add in the X-factor that it’s Bobby Cox’s last year as manager and we could have an interesting race on our hands this season.

7. Teams have been approaching Ryan Howard with a steady diet of left-handed pitching and breaking balls and by employing the shift on the right side of the field. Will this trend continue in 2010, or will Howard make the appropriate adjustments?

I think opposing teams will continue to feed lefties and breaking balls to Howard until he proves that he can consistently hurt them when he tries that. The overshift on Howard doesn’t worry me too much because when Howard is hitting the ball well, he can go the opposite way just as easily as he can pull the ball. Hopefully he spent most the offseason working on hitting breaking balls because he’s just looked lost at the plate at times. I will be very disappointed if he doesn’t get better against the breaking ball this year, because he knows what’s coming and it’s up to him to work at it until he hit them consistently.

8. Placido Polanco is making the switch from second base to third base. How good will he be defensively?

I think Polanco will be just fine at third base. There will be an adjustment period for him, but I don’t foresee him being a liability at third base. I doubt he’ll play gold glove defense, and he won’t be as good as some of the other third basemen we’ve had in the past, but I don’t think he’s expected to be a phenomenal third basemen. As long as he’s not booting every ball in sight and produces consistently at the plate, the experiment will be a success.

9. Who should win the #5 spot, Jamie Moyer or Kyle Kendrick?

Kendrick hands down. Moyer may have won 12 games last season, but it was painful watching him deal sometimes. When he wasn’t getting his pitches called, he would have very poor games. I don’t want to rely on a generous ump in order for our #5 guy to have success as a pitcher. Moyer pitched really well in long relief last fall until he got hurt. I wouldn’t mind seeing him return to that role or return as a spot starter. Kendrick has looked very good so far this post season, and I absolutely love the fact that he is working his butt off with Halladay. I think Kendrick realized that it’s time for him to show the Phillies that he still has something if he doesn’t want to be shipped off somewhere else. If he continues to put forth the effort that he has so far, I think that he can be a very reliable 5th starter.

10. The bench was great in 2008 but disappointing last year. Will the additions of Brian Schneider, Ross Gload, and Ramon Castro help?

I think that Brian Schneider is a bit of an upgrade over Paul Bako (and he’ll also give the Phillies a left handed batter at every position :-p). The other two moves were less than inspiring. Castro is basically the same as Bruntlett, and I don’t know too much about Gload. He had decent OBP and SLG numbers last season, so it’s possible that he can be a solid contributor off the bench. I would bet on the Phillies having an average to disappointing bench again this year.

11. Will J.A. Happ come close to his 2.93 ERA from 2009?

Happ will probably regress a little this season. However, I think he does have the stuff to throw up an ERA that’s between 3.00 and 4.00. If the Phillies can get that sort of performance out of him this year I think they will be in a very good spot. Hopefully he won’t have a Kendrick-like regression, and my gut feeling says he won’t

12. The Phillies essentially swapped Chan Ho Park for Jose Contreras. Thumbs up or thumbs down and why?

Thumbs-down, but I can’t fault the Phillies on this one. Once Park moved to the bullpen last year, his stuff got so much better. I had no idea he could throw a 96 mph fastball, yet he did that consistently out of the pen. He was one of the best relievers we had all season last year and I was sad to see him go. He left because he still wanted to start somewhere, but ended up signing on as a long reliever with the Yankees… so I’m a little miffed about that. I’ll be happy if Contreras can come in and show that he’s a similar type of pitcher.

13. Which Phillie(s) is/are we most likely to see dealt by the July 31 trading deadline?

Jayson Werth. His contract is up this season and I’ll be willing to bet that Reuben Amaro Jr. will have decided by then whether or not he wants to re-sign Werth. If the answer to that question is no, then I have a feeling Amaro will want to see if he can get anything for him. This will all be affected by how well Domonic Brown plays when he gets the chance. A darkhorse candidate is Ryan Howard. I know Amaro has said that the reports of the talks about swapping Howard for Pujols aren’t true, but just seeing the report makes me wonder if trading Howard is something the Phillies are mulling over. I seriously doubt they would deal him this year though.

14. The Phillies have had one of baseball's best defenses for several years running according to most metrics. Does this trend continue?

I don’t see why this trend wouldn’t continue. The only change in the everyday lineup is Polanco at third instead of Feliz. While his defense won’t be as good as Feliz’s was, I don’t think it will be that much worse that it will majorly affect the team defense. But who knows, maybe Utley will get the yips again, and Ibanez will remember that he’s 37 and he’ll start playing defense like that.

15. What will the team get from Domonic Brown this season?

I can’t say for sure. I would hope that he plays well enough in spot starts and off the bench that the Phillies will be able to confidently trade away Jayson Werth by the deadline and not regret the move. But he has yet to play an inning in the major leagues. So it’s more than possible that he struggles throughout the year like other highly touted outfielding prospects such as the Reds’ Jay Bruce.


Phillies W-L, place in division: 98-64 (1st place)
Playoffs: Yes, they reach the playoffs as the 1 seed. I think they will make it back to the World Series again, the team hasn’t changed too drastically over the past two years, so as long as our bullpen holds up in the post season, there’s no reason to believe we can’t make it back again.
Team MVP: Chase Utley. His numbers have slid a bit over the past two years, but I think he’ll rebound and have a monster year this year, especially hitting behind Polanco.
Team Cy Young: Halladay. No question about this one.
Biggest Rookie Contributor: Domonic Brown. Hopefully he lives up to his hype.
Breakout player (Batter): Jayson Werth. I suppose last year was technically his breakout year, but I feel like he’s the only current starter that can reach new heights this year. We know what Victorino, Ibanez, Howard, Utley, Rollins, Polanco and Ruiz are capable of. Werth kind of surprised everybody last year when he put up the numbers that he did. I’m willing to bet he can do more this year.
Breakout Player (Pitcher): Kendrick. I think he will win the #5 spot in the rotation and will have a year closer to his rookie year rather than his disappointing sophomore year.
Under-the-radar: Do the Phillies really have one of these? The Phillies lineup is loaded with stars and it would really be hard to say that any of them are really under the radar. I guess I’ll go with Joe Blanton who has been our most consistent starter since he came to Philly. The Phillies win a lot when he’s on the mound, and you know he’s going to go out and give it his best when it’s his turn to start. I was a little upset when I saw so many Phillies fans get outraged that we gave him a $5 million contract. He earned it in my opinion.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

New Blog Colors

I used Phillies colors for about a year and a half... I figured it was time to install something new... so let me know what you think!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Discipline in the NHL (Does it Make Sense to Anyone?!)

So if you've been paying attention at all to the NHL the past couple of weeks you've probably noticed that the NHL has noooooo clue what it's doing when it comes to handing out suspensions. There have been four incidents that have occurred since the NHL resumed play that have warranted further action by the league disciplinarian Colin Campbell. In each case, Campbell has left everyone watching scratching their heads and wondering what he was thinking.

Case #1: Maxim Lapierre's hit on Scott Nichol

Lapierre ended up getting a four game suspension for this hit from behind on the Sharks' Scott Nichol. Lapierre is a pest/agitator type of player, yet prior to this suspension, had no previous suspension history. So while a somewhat dangerous hit, it's a type of hit that happens in the NHL from time to time without any serious injury, though Nichol ended up missing about a week with a shoulder injury. This suspension seemed to be based on Lapierre's reputation as a tough guy, even though he wasn't a repeat offender.

Case #2: Matt Cooke's elbow to the head of Marc Savard

This was the most puzzling of Campbell's decisions not to suspend someone. This hit happened the same week that the GMs in the NHL were gathering to discuss hits to the head in hockey. Campbell had an opportunity to send a message that he and the NHL are serious about eliminating this type of play, yet instead of sending that message, he chose not to suspend Cooke because he had not suspended Mike Richards earlier in the year for a similar type of hit (I would like to note that Richards did not appear to target the head the way Cooke did and that is a distinct and important difference in the two cases as Campbell has suspended players for their intent to target another player's head in the past). Cooke also had a history of dirty hits like that and had been twice suspended for dangerous hits on other players. So so far, Campbell has suspended someone who had never been suspended before for a borderline hit, and let a repeat offender walk despite his clear intent to hit Savard in the head. Confused yet? Savard, by the way, will miss the rest of the season with a severe concussion. He is Boston's best player, and Boston is a possible first round matchup for the Penguins...

Case #3: Alexander Ovechkin's hit on Brian Campbell

This was Campbell's most puzzling decision to suspend someone. Out of the three hits so far, this one was actually clean. Ovechkin hit Brian Campbell from the side, unfortunately, Campbell's skate got stuck and he twisted and hit the boards awkwardly. Ovechkin had been suspended earlier this year for a knee to knee hit on another player, but this play was clearly the result of freak accident, rather than a blatant dirty hit. Nevertheless, Colin Campbell decided to hand down a two game suspension to the Washington star, possibly so he could show that he isn't afraid to suspend league superstars.

Case #4: Steve Downie's takedown of Sidney Crosby

Here is another strange decision not to suspend. It's hard to defend what Downie did as anything other than an attempt to injure Sidney Crosby. It was well out of the play and he locked his legs up with Crosby's while pulling him backward. Nothing about that hit was unintentional. Downie also has a suspension history as he was given a 20 game suspension two years ago for launching himself at Dean McAmmond's head. However, Downie managed to escape a suspension, though he did get a small fine.

So as you can see, clearly there is no rhyme or reason to suspensions in the NHL right now. Each case took a lot of explaining as to why the player was or wasn't disciplined, and the verdict of each case just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. If the NHL is serious about player safety, they really need to have clear, strict rules on what will happen if you hit players in certain ways. Until that happens, I fear that these types of plays will become more commonplace. And that isn't good for the sport at all.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Welcome to the Sprint

Well the Olympics wrapped up in exciting style on Sunday with Canada eeking out an overtime win over the USA on a goal by cindy crosby. That was like a punch to the stomach. Despite that blow, the game was still one of the best hockey games played in a long time. The NHL schedule started back up last night and teams have 34 days in which they will play 19-22 games. So if you like hockey, you're going to get to see a lot of it this month.

The Flyers start off with Tampa Bay tonight, so I'm expecting 2 goals from Blair Betts as that's been his trend this year. Then they play in Florida tomorrow. The Flyers have 22 games left, they're sitting at sixth place in the conference with 67 points. They have games in hand over every team chasing them except for Boston and Atlanta. My guess is that if they go about .500 in their last 22 games, they will make the playoffs as a lower half seed. If the Flyers stay on fire and win say 15+ games, they have an outside shot at winning the division. They're 10 points behind the Devils and 9 behind Pittsburgh though they have a game and two games in hand over each team respectively. The one thing the Flyers cannot afford to do is go on a prolonged losing streak. They only have a four point lead over Tampa Bay (and a game in hand) who they play tonight. Their next three games are all against teams who are in the hunt for a playoff spot, so picking up wins against each of them would go a long way to shoring up their playoff spot.

The Flyers schedule couldn't be much easier for these last few weeks of the season either. They play 16 or 17 teams that have fewer points than they do. So if they miss the playoffs, something seriously wrong happened. So here's to a good stretch run for the Flyers!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Preliminary Round Recap

In case you've been living under a rock for the past two days, on Sunday the US upset Canada to steal Pool A and the #1 overall seed for the medal round. While I left the door open for this upset to happen, I still didn't think it would. So now I'm going to examine my predictions from the preliminary round, and rework my predictions for the medal round.

Group A (W-L-OTW-OTL, Pts):
USA (3-0-0-0, 9)
Canada (1-1-1-0, 5)
Switzerland (0-1-1-1, 3)
Norway (0-2-0-1, 1)

I predicted Canada to win the pool 3-0, yet they struggled against Switzerland, and blew it against the US. The US team played well enough to win all three games, and managed to lock down the #1 seed for the medal round. I was right that Switzerland would lose to Canada and the US, though I didn't see them taking Canada to OT. I also thought they would beat Norway in regulation.

Group B (W-L-OTW-OTL, Pts):
Russia (2-0-0-1, 7)
Czech Republic (2-1-0-0, 6)
Slovakia (1-1-1-0, 5)
Latvia (0-3-0-0, 0)

I predicted the order this group would finish in perfectly, however, I didn't foresee Russia's OTL to Slovakia.

Group C (W-L-OTW-OTL, Pts):
Sweden (3-0-0-0, 9)
Finland (2-1-0-0, 6)
Belarus (1-2-0-0, 3)
Germany (0-3-0-0, 0)

Finland was actually leading this group (due to goal differential) until they were dominated by Sweden last night. Sweden only won by three goals, so they finished with a lower goal differential than the US and ended up with the #2 seed for the medal round. Finland finished as the 4th seed due to a better goal differential than the Czechs. I didn't expect Germany to lose to Belarus either.

2 Sweden
3 Russia
4 Finland
5 Czech Republic
6 Canada
7 Slovakia
8 Switzerland
9 Belarus
10 Norway
11 Germany
12 Latvia

Qualification Round Matchups (Predicted winners in Bold):
5 Czech Republic vs. 12 Latvia
6 Canada vs. 11 Germany
7 Slovakia vs. 10 Norway
8 Switzerland vs. 9 Belarus

(Predicted winners in Bold):
1 USA vs. 8 Switzerland
2 Sweden vs. 7 Slovakia
3 Russia vs. 6 Canada
4 Finland vs. 5 Czech Republic

(Predicted winners in Bold):
1 USA vs. 5 Czech Republic
2 Sweden vs. 6 Canada

Bronze Medal Game
2 Sweden vs. 5 Czech Republic

Gold Medal Game:
1 USA vs. 6 Canada

It's hard to pick against USA after their huge win last night over Canada, and I think they will make it back to the gold medal game because I like the possible matchups they have from here on out. However, I think Canada will be riding a huge wave of momentum if they can get past Russia, and since they are playing on home ice, I have to give them the edge. However, as Team USA proved yesterday, with Ryan Miller in net, anything can happen. So go USA!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Olympic Hockey

Men's Olympic Hockey begins today with USA playing Switzerland. I for one am really excited to see this tournament get underway. Seeing all the skill some of these teams are going to be able to put on the ice at the same time is just astounding. The favorite to take home the gold, is obviously the Canadian team, but stranger things have happened, and there are several teams that will push Team Canada for that gold medal.

The Pools

Group A:

Group B:
Czech Republic

Group C:

The Breakdown

Group A:
Canada should win Group A. They are the most talented and deepest team in the group. However, they have a ton of pressure on them to perform well since they are playing at home, and hockey is Canada's national sport. Team USA could win the group if they play a tight checking game against Canada to limit their scoring chances, while taking advantage of the ones they get against Roberto Luongo and Martin Brodeur. Switzerland already lost their opener to Team USA, so they have a very slim chance at winning the group. I don't know much about Norway, but they'll be fighting Switzerland for third place in the group.

Group B:
This is the toughest group out of the three in my opinion. The Russians are the favorite as they have assembled possibly the best offensive team Olympic hockey has ever seen. I am incredibly excited to watch Malkin and Ovechkin play together. But the Czech Republic will field a solid team with players like Martin Havlat and Tomas Plekanec. Slovakia was dealt a blow today when they found out that Marian Gaborik will miss their first two games, but they still have a dangerous roster. Latvia is filled with a bunch of no-name players (though the Flyers' Oskars Bartulis is on the team!), and they get a stiff test against Russia tonight. But if they play well, it will give them a lot of confidence in their games against Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Group C:
The Swedes are the defending gold medalists and the favorites to win their group. Finland is the defending silver medalists and should finish second to the Swedes in Group C. Germany will provide a tough test in their games, but I don't expect to see them upset Sweden or Finland. Belarus will face an uphill climb in these Olympics as two of their four NHL players are out with injury.

Projected Finish

Group A:
Team (W-L-OTL, Pts)
Canada (3-0-0, 9)
USA (2-1-0, 6)
Switzerland (1-2-0, 3)
Norway (0-3-0, 0)

Group B:
Team (W-L-OTL, Pts)
Russia (3-0-0, 9)
Slovakia (2-1-0, 5)
Czech Republic (1-1-1, 4)
Latvia (0-3-0, 0)

Group C:
Team (W-L-OTL, Pts)
Sweden (3-0-0, 8)
Finland (2-0-1, 7)
Germany (1-2-0, 3)
Belarus (0-3-0, 0)

Medal Round

Seeds (Top 4 get a 1st Round Bye):
1. Russia
2. Canada
3. Sweden
4. Finland
5. USA
6. Slovakia
7. Czech Republic
8. Germany
9. Switzerland
10. Belarus
11. Norway
12. Latvia

First Round (Projected winners in Bold):
5 USA v. 12 Latvia
6 Slovakia v. 11 Norway
7 Czech Republic v. 10 Belarus
8 Germany v. 9 Switzerland

Quarterfinals (Projected winners in Bold):
1 Russia v. 8 Germany
2 Canada v. 7 Czech Republic
3 Sweden v. 6 Slovakia
4 Finland v. 5 USA

Semifinals (Projected winners in Bold):
1 Russia v. 5 USA
2 Canada v. 3 Sweden

Bronze Medal Game (Projected winner in Bold):
3 Sweden v. 5 USA

Gold Medal Game (Projected winner in Bold):
1 Russia v. 2 Canada

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Few Thoughts Before the Olympic Break

A week ago I was wondering if the Flyers were a playoff team. They have done well to put themselves back in the playoff picture this past month, but they had a possibility to come away with six points on an easy road trip last week and they only got two. A last second (literally) loss to the worst team in the league (Edmonton), and a lethargic looking loss to Minnesota last Saturday really made me wonder if the Flyers could hang tough with some of the better teams in the league and secure a playoff spot. With a home and home coming up against New Jersey, and a tenuous grasp on the 8th seed, things did not look good. A period and 15 minutes into the first game against the Devils, the Flyers were down 2-0 and looked lifeless. The Flyers had one goal in the past 7 and a half periods... it was ugly. And then JVR happen. Van Riemsdyk lumbered up through center, split the D and fired a wrister over Brodeur's shoulder. A minute later, Carter one-timed a Hartnell pass past Brodeur to tie the game. Richards scored a late PPG in the third period to win the game.

This was the first time this season that the Flyers came from two goals down to win a game. That is a scary statistic. If the Flyers want to make a deep playoff run this year, they're going to need to be able to come from behind to win occasionally. Playing against teams like Washington and Pittsburgh, two goal deficits are easy to come by. However, Wednesday night's game in New Jersey (in front of an announced crowd of 5500 thanks to Snowmageddon 2010) provided a lot of encouragement. The Flyers again dug themselves into a 2-0 hole thanks to a couple of flukey goals. But Arron Asham scored 30 seconds after the Devils' second goal and Carter tied it in the second. The Devils controlled the 3rd period (outshot the Flyers 7-1) and the first two minutes of OT until Gagne turned in his best shift all year. First he faked Brodeur out of his skates and had a wide open net to shoot at, but the defenseman was able to poke the puck off his stick before he could score. Instead of giving up on the play, Gagne picked the puck back up in the far corner, skated out to the blueline and around two Devils. Then he moved down the slot and floated a wrister over Brodeur's shoulder to win the game and snap his 13 game goalless streak. Those of you that follow me on Twitter know that I've been calling for Gagne to be traded lately as he's just looked horrendous. I still think it's in the Flyers best interest to trade him, but that goal bought him a little more time.

So now the Flyers have one last home and home series with Montreal before the Olympics start. It is incredibly important for the Flyers to win both games. They're one point behind Montreal for 6th place in the conference, so wins in both games would put Philly in firm control of the 6th spot (they have three games in hand and one more win than the Canadiens). The Flyers are also playing with a ton of confidence right now, so they need to take advantage of it since they have no games from Feb 14 - March 2.

Another thing I wanted to comment on was the play of Michael Leighton. When Emery got hurt again two weeks ago, I'll admit that I was worried that Leighton's magic was gone and that he would revert to the play that got him cut by Carolina (and Carolina sucks this year). However, he has proved me wrong yet again. He's 2-2 and has given up seven goals in four games, and he only got one goal from his own team in those two losses. I think it's time for the Flyers to cut Boucher (when Emery comes back) and make Leighton the starter for the rest of the season. Emery has been fine since his return from injury, but Leighton has been lights out. In 16 games with the Flyers, he's given up more than two goals THREE TIMES. He has a 2.21 GAA and a .925 Save %. Emery has a good GAA (2.64) but his save % is only .905, and Boucher has a 2.84 GAA with a .896 save %. It's clear to me who the goalie should be going forward.

Anyways, the Flyers face off against the Canadiens at 6 PM tonight, and the Olympics opening ceremonies are at 7:30 PM, so it's gonna be a good night for me :)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Getting Back into the Swing of Things

Well... it's been about a month since I last posted. It's now a new decade, and I'm less than four months from graduating college. Scary.

In the sporting world, the Flyers have rebounded nicely (like I said they would!) as they've gone 9-3-1 since December 23rd, and are pinballing between the 8th and 9th spots in the conference. Tonight they have a tough game against the New York Rangers, before playing Carolina and Pittsburgh over the weekend (seriously, it seems like we play Pittsburgh on the tail end of back to back nights every time this year). Wins in all of these games will firmly put us in the playoff picture, so hopefully the Flyers take advantage of that.

I'm really liking the way the Flyers have been playing recently. Their offense is simply on fire right now, as they've scored three goals or more 10 times in the past 13 games. The best part about that is that it's not just one or two guys doing all the scoring. Everyone is contributing including some of the grinders like Asham and Carcillo. Carter has been white-hot lately and he's a goal away from reaching the 20 goal mark again. The only player who's been conspicuously quiet lately is Mike Richards. He only has three goals and 8 points in the past 11 games, and one of those was an empty net goal. He just hasn't been as consistent as he's been in the past. I haven't even noticed him making the big hits he's capable of.

One of the better moves Laviolette has made since become the head coach was moving Giroux to take over the third line center duties. His passing abilities and the way he creates space when he has the puck makes him a natural center. He made a beautiful no-look-behind-the-back-spin pass to Asham for an easy goal on Tuesday. I'm hoping he continues to make JVR and Asham look like stars.

The one player who I can no longer stand watching is Coburn. He has been absolutely terrible this year. He's become a cross between Chris Therien and Randy Jones... he doesn't hit anyone and he turns the puck over as soon as he's pressured. Hopefully he can turn it around because he has been a solid defenseman the past couple of years and it's been hard to watch him regress the way he has.

Two of the biggest reasons the Flyers have made such a turnaround in the past few weeks (in my opinion) has been the return of Darrol Powe from injury, and a major improvement in our penalty killing. During the 3-13 stretch, the Flyers were absolutely awful on the penalty kill as their PK% dropped from the top 10 in the league to the bottom 5. During the 9-3-1 stretch, the Flyers killed off something like 25 straight penalties and brought the PK% back to respectability. The return of Darrol Powe was also a huge boost (in my opinion) because he was the spark that drove the 3rd and 4th lines. Powe is easily the fastest skater on the team, and is the most offensively skilled player out of the Carcillo/Asham/Laperierre/Betts group. Having him back in the lineup gives the Flyers the ability to control the play when their third line is on the ice.

Anyways, in short- the Flyers have looked a lot more like the team we thought they would be back in October. Once Emery starts playing up to his potential again, the Flyers could be very tough to stop.