Flyers v Penguins Preview

I didn’t want Pittsburgh.

Washington, Tampa Bay, Boston.  All finished with better records.  But I didn’t care.

I didn’t want Pittsburgh.

So much for that.

Continue reading

Advertisements

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: 2017-18 Flyer Edition

There’s actually a Flyers book with this title.  The cover is of Jason Smith with his face cut, dripping blood onto his white Flyers jersey.  It’s badass.

My edition will be shorter, for many reasons (as it focuses on a single season and not the franchise as a whole) and certainly not as well written.

A lot of this will focus on players, for obvious reasons, but in my view, this was the good, the bad and the ugly from this season.

Continue reading

Player Spotlight: Travis Konecny

It’s been awhile, eh?
The Flyers are heading into the All-Star break in much better position than they were a few months ago.  Since they went ten games without a win (earning five points, though) they’ve hit their stride going 16-6-1.
There’s plenty of bright spots on this team, most notably the offensive outpouring from Sean Couturier, but the player I’ve been most happy to see producing in the last few games is Travis Konecny.
Last season, all the chatter was about Konecny making the team.  He put up tremendous numbers in the OHL and the injection of a young winger into the lineup was certainly appealing.
His rookie season was far from bad, finishing with 11 goals and 28 points in 70 games, but all the hype didn’t quite meet with the performance.
This season, it’s been a little of the same.  No. 11 is in good position to finish with more goals, assists and points from last year, but he still isn’t producing as much as I’d hope.  21 points in 48 games isn’t terrible, but I view Konecny as a more offensively talented player than other guys in the league with the same output—Jason Spezza, Justin Abdelkader, Tomas Tatar, Trevor Lewis.
The last few games, though, Konecny has shined in one area—overtime.
He gets paired with Couturier and Ivan Provorov for the 3v3 period and the last three times the team has been in the extra frame, Konecny has made outstanding plays.
Against Toronto, he picked up the puck deep in his own end, turned up ice, drew both defenders and made a strong pass to Couturier for the win.
Against Washington, Konecny avoided a big hit by John Carlson, made a sweet move around Evgeny Kuznetsov and buried the shot against Braden Holtby.
And then Tuesday, against Detroit, he lost the puck to Dylan Larkin, but backchecked and pestered him, narrowly getting onside before touching the puck and again finished the play with a game-winner.
These are the types of plays 20-year-old when he was expected to make the team last year.  His tenacity and speed make him dangerous and his shot is dangerous.
I’ve expressed my views on Dave Hakstol and how I don’t feel like he’s developing players that well, but it’s possible the reason Ron Hextall has been so patient, is because he knows it’s coming.  He’s riding a four-game goal scoring streak and January has been a very productive month for him.  Maybe we’re starting to see it with Konecny, who knows?
We’ll see how the rest of the regular season plays out, but if Konecny keeps playing like this, it’ll only spell good things for the Orange and Black.

Time for a Change

I hate when people blame the refs.

Why?

Because even if they make bad calls, the team could have done one of 100 things to not be in that position.  Yet, sometimes, it really is justified.

I feel similar to coaches.

Players need to play.  Coaches can only do so much when it come to preparing and in-game management, but players need to perform.  Yet, sometimes, it starts behind the bench.

And with the Flyers right now, that’s where I think it starts.

When Dave Hakstol got hired, I loved that Ron Hextall went outside of the organization.  I was excited for something fresh and new and though I knew nothing about Hakstol, I was more than ready to give him the chance.

But now that we’re in his third season and the team continues to face the same problems without, seemingly, any hope of them getting better.

I said the Flyers would be a playoff bubble team before the season started.  They’re still in good position to finish the season that way, but the problems they face are the same as ever.

Despite a resurgence from Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek and a great start from Sean Couturier, the team has been shutout five times in 19 games.  In the month of November, the team has split a pair of games with the middling Blackhawks, shutout the Central-leading Blues, been shutout twice by a struggling Minnesota team and lost in two shootouts in winnable games.  They also gave the lowly Coyotes their first win of the season at the end of October.

I get that there’s a lot of rookies and young players on the team.  There’s inherent problems with that.  But good coaches don’t let that affect them.  Look at Toronto.  Mike Babcock got them into the playoffs last year when their team was basically all rookies.

Outside of the Flyers top line, secondary scoring hasn’t really been happening.  Hakstol has tried mixing the lines, but his decisions are baffling.  Dale Weise should never sniff the second line and, though he’s been much improved before his injury this year, Andrew MacDonald isn’t deserving of top line minutes.

It seems weird, in a way, to say a coach with an 88-68-27 record isn’t succeeding.  But watching this team play, they sometimes seem to win despite their flaws.

Hextall went out on a limb when he decided to bring Hakstol in from North Dakota.  It’s probably why he’s been patient.  But this team suffers from the same problems it did a year ago–playing down to lesser teams, inconsistent play, a lack of scoring depth and shaky team defense.

The players, of course, deserve some of the blame when it comes to certain problems.  And who knows–maybe today’s game against Calgary is the beginning of something beautiful

But if I’m being honest with myself, most of the problems start with Hakstol and the organization needs to move on from him if this team is going to take any major step forward.

Flyers Preview 2017-18

The Flyers open up their season with a West Coast swing

It’s finally time.  Hockey is back.

Cue the angels singing.

Cue the celebrations.

Philly will be….well, honestly, the Eagles are in season, so most of Philly is preoccupied.  I, on the other hand, am chomping at the bit to see what the NHL season has in store.

Don’t read my excitement the wrong way.  I don’t have high hopes for this Flyers squad.  I think they’ll be a bubble playoff team again.  But their infusion of talented youth has them moving in the right direction and I wouldn’t be surprised if that youth movement turned a few heads.

Let’s take a look at the squad and where its strengths, and weaknesses, lie.

The biggest aspects of the Flyers offense are the top line and the addition of their first round pick from this year.  Claude Giroux has centered the top line for the last several years, but in the preseason, he played wing and will likely start out as a flank with Sean Couturier in the middle.  It may free up Giroux from his defensive responsibilities, which may in turn help him pick up his production.

The other big news is Nolan Patrick centering the second line.  The second-overall pick was expected to make the team, but it’s still good news that he did.  He didn’t have the best jump in preseason, but he’s still overcoming offseason surgery.  Hopefully the youngster will get some jump—if he does, he could have a heck of a year.

Defensively, the Flyers have gotten younger, fast.  Robert Hagg is definitely playing on the blue line and one of either Samuel Morin or Travis Sanheim will be up there too.  Both will be up for a time as Shayne Gostisbehere may have gotten hurt in the final preseason game.  It doesn’t seem to be serious, but the team has been pretty mum about it.  Sanheim will likely be the one heading to the AHL.  It’s not because he didn’t play well, but they’re chock full of blue liners and some time in the AHL will only help to continue his development.

The new guys will be joining Ivan Provorov and Ghost, giving them plenty of youth back there.  Andrew MacDonald is still (unfortunately) back there too, along with Radko Gudas and Brandon Manning.  Manning is likely the odd man out for much of the season, but don’t be surprised to see him still get some game action.

There’s lots of hope both offensively and defensively.  Then you get to the goalies and…well, why would the Flyers want to improve there?

Honestly, the Flyers are banking on some of their prospects panning out.  Carter Hart is a big hopeful and Felix Sandstrom has looked really good in Sweden.  They there’s the former Yale standout Alex Lyon.  Ron Hextall is bidding his time and using his acquisition Brian Elliot and Michal Neuvrith to span the gap unti they’re ready.

Elliot was BAD to start last season in Calgary but bounced back strong.  His numbers in the playoffs fell off again, so it’s hard to tell how he might play.

Meanwhile, Neuvirth is looking to get back into form from two years ago.  Last year he was unimpressive, though he shows moments of brilliance.

Overall, the team should be improved.  Without Matt Read in the lineup (in the AHL) and a new-look fourth line with lots of potential, they should improve on their point total from last year.  I can’t see them being any more than a bubble playoff team again.  Pittsburgh, Washington, Columbus and the New York Rangers are all better teams.

If I had to guess, they’ll finish in the 90-point range and again be on the outside looking in come mid-April.