Flyers Goalie Watch 2011 Is in Full Swing

Flyers Goalie Watch 2011 Is in Full Swing

You don't have to have been a Flyers fan since the mid-80s to know that hockey off seasons in Philadelphia almost always include waves of speculation and conjecture as to who will be in net the next season. After the team rode three goalies to an early playoff exit that included a sweep, we are in for quite a storm this spring and summer, with even more information to sift through than ever.

Fans and media alike have never been more tapped in than they are now (although not always with correct information). With a multitude of blogs, twitter, and easier access to player information than ever—including international players—we're bound to see the Flyers linked to more than a few trades and signings in the coming months, and people want to know more about that possible next #1 out there.

Making Sense (and Nonsense) of the Unknown
Some of the stories we'll cover, others we won't. Some we'll take seriously, while others we may poke fun at. As we've said in previous off-seasons and trade periods, it's always a time filled with misinformation. Even some of the stuff that means well ends up being off-the-mark, but a lot of it really seems to be written just to get a click or some cheap links. When the team actually does make the big move and/or the FA period ends, if you look back at all the names that were electronically stitched onto the back of a Flyers jersey, you will probably have enough guys to play against the actual team.

This was certainly true last year, when the Flyers reminded us that we won't always know what to expect from them. The other thing we learned (hopefully) is that we can't predict what many goalies will do from one season to the next.

We spent last FA period going through names of guys who ran the gamut of productivity in 2010-2011. Evgeni Nabokov went to Russia, then... the Islanders. Dan Ellis' biggest headlines were that he was a twitter phenomenon-turned-fiasco (and then he got traded). Tim Thomas, as it turns out, is not washed up or "the second best goalie on his team." Antii Niemi is actually alive and trying to make his second Stanley Cup run in as many seasons. I won't keep trotting out all the names that were linked to the Flyers last season, mostly because there are too many to remember and I don't feel like looking them all up.

Point is, I don't remember many (any?) stories that predicted Sergei Bobrovsky would start the majority of the Flyers' games on their way to being a first-place team for most of the season. From the experts to the fans, no one pegged the actual outcome of Goalie Watch 2010 until it was already happening. Part of that was due to the Michael Leighton injury, but "the unknown" is a big part of all of this—for GMs and fans alike.

Goalie Watch will be intense this year. The Bruins are barely into their third round series with the Lightning after dispatching the Flyers, and we've already witnessed a very busy week of The Next Flyers Goalie coverage. It kinda feels like seeing Christmas commercials the day after Halloween or back-to-school savings in early August.

But it's understandable. People want to know where this Flyers team is headed.

And it's not just media, fans, bloggers, and the chatter on Twitter. The Flyers' own Chairman made the rounds and expressed his own displeasure at the current goaltending situation, officially ushering in goalie hunting season. He did say that Bob is still the goalie of the future, but the bell had been rung. Ed Snider obviously wants more success than we saw this season, but he also doesn't want his organization publicly flogged the way it was in the wake of trotting out three goalies in a single series, then getting swept in the next.

Ship 'Em Out!
Dovetailing with the always well-fueled goalie talk is quite a bit of speculation over which players might be traded in order to create space under the salary cap. If the team is to add a new mask to the ranks, he likely won't come cheap, requiring the team to free up some money. How much, we don't yet know. If they are truly after a big name goalie, the market will be high. We'll probably steer clear of this topic for the most part until there is actually something to report.

But with the warmer weather here and shore houses booked for the summer, Goalie Watch 2011 is underway in Philly. As usual.

Sixers draw high praise from Warriors after loss to NBA leader

Sixers draw high praise from Warriors after loss to NBA leader

BOX SCORE

The Warriors are the blueprint of a total team in the NBA. They have a star-studded starting lineup and a top sixth man with the positional versatility that creates hard-to-combat matchups.

Yet, as the Warriors notched their 50th win of the season, 119-108, in a collaborative effort against the Sixers, they gave credit to the potential they see in their opponent, even when Brett Brown didn't have his key pieces on the court Monday (see Instant Replay).

"They play hard," Stephen Curry said. "They have some talent to work around. Hopefully they have some consistency with their roster going forward and getting guys healthy. One thing about them, you've got to compliment their energy and effort and fight every night they play."

Facing the Warriors with a full squad is challenging enough. The Sixers did it shorthanded without Joel Embiid, who is out indefinitely with a left knee contusion (see story). They also are less than a week removed from trading starting power forward Ersan Ilyasova and the defensive-minded Nerlens Noel.

"You've got to give this team a lot of credit," Draymond Green said. "They're going to be really, really, really good. I mean, they're missing Embiid and Ben Simmons and they're really on their way."

With 10 available players, including Justin Anderson, who has had just one shootaround to actually get a run in with the team, the Sixers fought until the final buzzer sounded. Dario Saric led the Sixers with 21 points and seven assists, while also collecting seven rebounds. Gerald Henderson scored 16 and both Robert Covington and Richaun Holmes added 15 (see feature highlight). Covington also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.

"They play the right way," Klay Thompson said. "They made it tough on us tonight. I'm excited to see their team when Embiid and Simmons are healthy. It should be a scary frontcourt, and with Saric. They're heading in the right direction. They'll only get better this June because they have some high picks. It's a bright future in Philly."

The Sixers held the Warriors to 6 for 29 three-point shooting (20.7 percent), including an 0-for-11 outing by Curry. This was the third time this season and only the 37th time in his career Curry missed all of his three-point attempts.

"I think he had an off night," Brown said. "I think at times we got lucky with them as a team. They didn't shoot it the way the team normally would shoot it. Some of it is I give our guys credit."

Curry took his uncharacteristic performance, which included a pair of air-balls, in stride.

"The weatherman said it was a low-pressure system that was coming and I forgot to adjust," Curry said. "One thing, [I] don't ever get down on myself. Obviously that's why I got 11 of them up and not make one. You still have confidence the next one's going in."

Still, the Warriors turned to team basketball to pull away with the win. While they struggled from long range, they found other ways to run up the scoreboard, including shooting 33 for 39 at the free throw line.

Kevin Durant led all players with 27 points to go with eight rebounds. Green recorded a 14-point, 11-assist double-double and six boards. Thompson scored 21 points and Zaza Pachulia added 16. And at the end of the night, Curry still finished with 19 points in spite of his three-point woes.

"We've been doing this for a while together now and just try to find ways to get it done," Green said. "Obviously you've got to do a lot more on the defensive end to get stops, and try to create more offense. I think it was a good effort from everybody tonight to chip in."

Added Curry: "For us to still have the moxie to withstand that and still pretty much have the lead the whole game and allow our defense to get us a win tonight was kind of our M.O."

The Warriors are a perennial title contender thanks to their balanced roster and depth of weapons. The Sixers are in the beginning stages of working toward that goal. After Monday's game, the NBA's strongest example of "team" appreciated the direction in which Sixers are moving.

"Putting this franchise back together," Green said, "it's amazing to see."

Best of NHL: Ryan White scores in winning debut with Wild

Best of NHL: Ryan White scores in winning debut with Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Mikael Granlund beat two defenders to find open ice and wrap the winning shot around goalie Jonathan Quick just 12 seconds into overtime, giving the Minnesota Wild a 5-4 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night.

Granlund's 20th goal of the season gave goalie Devan Dubnyk his NHL-leading 33rd win and the Wild their 15th comeback victory. They answered all four goals in regulation by the Kings, from Nick Shore, Tanner Pearson, Jake Muzzin and Marian Gaborik.

Jason Zucker's spinning wrist shot midway through the third period tied the game for the Wild, who also had goals from Nino Niederreiter, Jordan Schroeder and Ryan White in his debut. White and Martin Hanzal were acquired in a trade with Arizona the night before (see full recap).

Kucherov's hat trick carries Lightning past Sens
TAMPA, Fla. -- Nikita Kucherov scored three power-play goals in the second period and the Tampa Bay Lightning kept their fading playoff hopes alive with a 5-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Monday night.

Kucherov had the second hat trick of his career and added an assist in the third period. Jonathan Drouin assisted all three of his goals and Victor Hedman assisted on two.

A day after trading goaltender Ben Bishop to Los Angeles and just hours after trading forward Brian Boyle to Toronto, the Lightning improved to 6-1-2 over their past nine games.

The Senators, who won at Florida on Sunday night, are 6-6 over their past 12 games (see full recap).

Galchenyuk lifts Canadiens over Devils in OT
NEWARK, N.J. -- Alex Galchenyuk scored on a power play at 2:54 of overtime and the Montreal Canadiens rallied from a two-goal third-period deficit to beat the New Jersey Devils 4-3 on Monday night.

Max Pacioretty scored twice in the final 11:23 of regulation to tie the game and Alexander Radulov added a goal for the Canadiens, who won consecutive games for the first time since early January. Al Montoya had 34 saves for Montreal.

Kyle Palmieri, John Moore and Travis Zajac scored for the Devils, who have lost four straight games (0-2-2), the past two in overtime. Cory Schneider made 29 saves.

Galchenyuk beat Schneider with a shot from between the circles less than a minute after Damon Severson was penalized for hooking (see full recap).