The Flyers open the front end of back-to-back games this weekend this afternoon, hosting the Ottawa Senators at 1PM before heading to Pittsburgh for a possible first-round preview tomorrow. The Senators currently hold the seventh seed, having fallen off the Northeast-setting pace of the Bruins, who appear locked into the 2-slot. Ottawa can still be caught from below though, with Washington and Buffalo each only 2 points behind them and battling for the final spots in the East. Unlike the recent games against Tampa, Montreal, and Toronto, today's opponent has something huge to play for.
The Flyers can hit the 100-point mark with a win, but they'll have to do it without Ilya Bryzgalov, who will also likely miss tomorrow's game.
No Bryz Kid This WeekendThe Flyers say Ilya Bryzgalov is doubtful for this weekend, but he did put in a practice yesterday and could return for Tuesday night's game against the Rangers. With little to play for outside of momentum and a shot at home ice, I'm pretty sure no one in any Flyers circle is interested in rushing Bryz back. It would be nice to get a win against the Rangers though, and keep him sharp for what's bound to be a tough opening round.
Sergei Bobrovsky was solid in the 7-1 win over the Maple Leafs on Thursday, but he wasn't tested much. The Flyers have been effective in sealing off opposing shots, a fine goalie-independent trend heading into the playoffs. But, they did also allow some dangerous chances on turnovers and found their way behind the defense a few times. Jason Bac-a-chihuahua will likely be the backup again today.
Kimmo Ready?Homer also said Kimmo should be good to go after getting some rest. Comes a time in every player's career where he'll need a break here and there to mend, and we're there for Kimmo. Fortunately, that's all for now.
Offense Is Alive and WellTrue it was only the Maple Leafs, but the Flyers were downright menacing in their attack on Thursday. Danny Briere's goalless drought is over, and the combination of the attention he's drawing and his slick puckhandling/passing meant great things for his linemates.
It also allowed the top line to log fewer minutes. Scott Hartnell took a shot in the lower body and winced hard in pain, so we're not sure if that factored into his paltry playing time. But, his linemates also saw little of the ice as the game wore on, so it's probably nothing to worry about.
I Kinda Hate the SenatorsMaybe it dates back to the epic line brawl in 2004, but there seems to be a fair amount of bad blood between these teams despite no real reason for rivalry. Let's take a break and watch those, shall we?
Their games almost always get chippy, so today's should be interesting. Will the Sens be conservative in their quest to stay out of the box (the Flyers are 5/15 in power plays in the season series), while the Flyers try to stay healthy and not take the bait of a lesser team?
Those things may be planned for, but plans have a way of disintegrating after a few facewashes and slashes.
G vs. HartsEA Sports is pitting teammates against each other in their voting for cover of NHL 13. For the Flyers, that means Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell... Hartnell has a pretty funny twitter campaign going for fans creating covers (mostly #hartnelldown's), but he has some stiff competition with G in his bracket. Who you voting for?
We'll be at the Union and Sixers tonight, so you guys can be in charge of the recap. Cool?
All week on Philly Sports Talk on CSN, we examine how our teams got to this point and where they are in the rebuilding process.
Today, we finish up by taking a look at the Flyers.
How did we get here?
The Flyers' rebuild had begun when Ron Hextall returned to his old stomping grounds in the summer of 2013 as the team's new assistant general manager.
He took over GM duties after one season and the philosophical change was in place. Paul Holmgren was made president and Hextall's imprint, which had already started, was ready to become bigger.
What Hextall inherited was a cap-stricken team fresh off a first-round playoff loss, an organization that had tried to spend its way to immediate results instead of putting greater focus on the long game.
Some of the past decisions are well-documented: signing enigmatic goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year, $51 million deal in 2011 after trading for him. With a buyout, the Flyers are still paying Bryzgalov through 2027. Signing veteran center Vinny Lecavalier to a five-year, $22.5 million contract in 2013. And signing imposing defenseman Chris Pronger to a seven-year, $34.55 million extension — nobody could foresee the unfortunate concussion issues that suddenly derailed Pronger's career, but it was nonetheless a hurdle for the Flyers moving forward.
Hextall has adeptly maneuvered through much of those rocky waters.
Now, the Flyers are a more cost-efficient (partly because they have to be in this salary cap world), draft-oriented organization planning for the future while not ignoring the present. This rebuild hasn't been a total demolition, but more of a retooling — a smart but tricky process, especially down the line.
Are the Flyers on the right path back to prosperity?
The youth is coming.
Hextall, oftentimes close to the vest, made that abundantly clear at his end-of-the-season press conference.
"Our young players, they've done enough," Hextall said in early April. "Our young players are going to get a long look. We don't plan on going out and signing veterans on the back end. Our kids, it's time to give them a shot, and we're going to do that."
But the really hard part is just beginning — results. Can the prospects catch up and meet the current core? The pressure for it to start has never been higher.
Help does appear to be on the way, though, for a team that regressed this season and missed the playoffs for the third time in the past five years.
Anthony Stolarz, Alex Lyon, Felix Sandstrom and Carter Hart give the Flyers future options in net.
Two promising prospects are expected to join Ivan Provorov, Shayne Gostisbehere and company on the blue line.
Oskar Lindblom, a dynamic 20-year-old winger, could crack the Flyers' group of forwards, which should have Jordan Weal and Valtteri Filppula for a full season.
Also, don't forget forward Mike Vecchione, a Hobey Baker finalist who signed with the Flyers out of Union College in late March.
Oh, and the No. 2 pick of the draft — likely a talented center — is in the Flyers' grasp.
The 2017-18 season will be a telling time for the Flyers. Patience has been required, but when will it be rewarded?
The clock is ticking.
There are times in all of our Internet lives when we come across a piece of content that we don't quite understand, that we didn't really know we needed, yet fills our black Philadelphia sports fan hearts with joy anyway.
Today is one of those days.
And that piece of content is this Game of Zones x Embiid mashup.
If you're unfamiliar, this is the latest in Bleacher Report's fun take on a Game of Thrones / NBA mashup.
There's the mountain of a man that is Joel Embiid laid up with a presumably bum knee. There's the Temple of Shirley potion to give him life. There's the maester Sam Hinkie shouting off his analytics spells. There's Hinkie talking about growing the seeds and reaping the harvest. There's a terrifying looking Dario. There is a raising of the cat.
Perhaps the best part is Jahlil Okafor attempting to hold the door.
What does it all mean? I don't know. But I trust it.