Flyers' season comes to a close with sweep

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Flyers' season comes to a close with sweep

Friday, May 6, 2011
Posted: 10:42 p.m. Updated: May 7, 12:20 a.m.
By Tim Panaccio
CSNPhilly.com

BOX SCORE

BOSTON A season that began with unbridled expectations and a rookie goalie in Pittsburgh ended Friday night at TD Garden with far more questions than answers about the collapse of the Flyers.

For Bostonians, the nightmarish 3-0 collapse of the Bruins in last years Eastern Conference semifinals to the Flyers was quickly eradicated with a four-game sweep. This time, it was 5-1. Boston will face Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference finals.

Theres no easy dissection of what happened to the Flyers after the All-Star break except to say, the collective mentality of being bored with the regular season and well turn it on when the playoffs begin, was pure fiction.

Its disappointing to end on a loss every year, with high hopes, with the team that we had, with the confidence that we had in each other, team captain Mike Richards said. It sucks. Theres no other way to put it really.

On paper, this was once again a Stanley Cup contender, albeit one that won't make it back to the Final. Nor will reigning champ Chicago, for that matter. In reality, the goaltending again collapsed like a house of cards, becoming the first Flyer team to start three different goalies during a first-round playoff series. Six times their starter didnt finish in 11 postseason games.

Meanwhile, a power play that ranked in the top 10 in November plummeted to the bottom 10 by March while missing Chris Pronger and failed miserably right through the playoffs.

Prongers absence (backhamstring) against the Bruins was as big as Zdeno Charas presence for Boston, but not the sole reason for the Flyers ouster.

You notice the impact a guy like Chara has on the other side, coach Peter Laviolette said. When you dont have your big guy in there who plays the same style, the same way, we certainly missed him but I wont use injuries as an excuse.

Indeed, general manager Paul Holmgren said his biggest disappointment was that the remainder of his defense failed to raise their game to compensate for Prongers absence.

The Flyers lacked scoring across the board, lacked the ability for a goalie to steal a game and were simply dominated by the more physical Bruins in many puck battles, right down to faceoffs in two of the games.

Had they pulled out Game 2, theyd still be playing.

We didnt play our best hockey against Boston and its disappointing, Claude Giroux said. Its not where we want to be. Its our fault. We have to learn from it. I really think they outworked us and won more battles.

The Flyers got too comfortable coming from behind during the regular season and it caught it up to them in postseason.

It seems like this team enjoys getting our backs to the walls and then responding, Sean ODonnell said. I think it took a little more out of us in the first round than it should have.

Thirty-six years since the Flyers last won a Cup, fans are left to argue that even though Sergei Bobrovsky, who started and finished the playoffs, might represent the future, this club was built by Holmgren to win now.

Unless the Flyers get a proven No. 1 goalie this summer to bide Bobrovsky and their other young goalies time, their window of opportunity will slam shut while the acquisitions of Pronger, Kimmo Timonen, Danny Briere, etc., will have been for naught.

Thats the sobering reality.

Laviolette started Bobrovsky, explaining he liked how he played in relief in Game 3. He played very well and gave the Flyers a chance.

The Flyers worked harder, but didnt play all that much better and certainly didnt generate enough quality scoring chances on Tim Thomas to win.

Defensively, we werent able to generate what we had done all year, Laviolette said. They did a good job in the neutral zone, a good job in their end. We couldnt penetrate. Defensively, they did a good a job.

The third period began tied 1-1 and the Flyers killing off one of eight penalties, as Bobrovsky had several strong saves in the crease, even after the penalty expired.

Minutes later, Jeff Carter won a faceoff against Chris Kelly, but the puck came back to Michael Ryder, who fed Johnny Boychuk at the blue line. His slap shot deflected, giving the Bruins a 2-1 lead.

A turnover by Matt Carle led to Milan Lucics second goal of the evening. That iced it.

Im not sure where it went wrong, Richards said. You know, its a slippery slope when you stop playing your brand of hockey. I give the Bruins a lot of credit, they played extremely well. We just didnt have an answer for it.

The Flyers started strong but faded in the opening period as they were badly outshot, 13-6, and worse, out-chanced. Bobrovsky had a number of quality stops a couple on Chara alone and got some needed help from his penalty killers, who did a good job a shot blocking on Bostons three power plays.

It could have been a scoreless period, but Dan Carcillo took a needless cross-checking penalty on Bruin forward Greg Campbell at 11:30. If Campbell were on his feet, Carcillo probably gets away with it, but he had already been checked to the ice as play stopped when Carcillo gave him an added shot and thats a penalty.

As bad as the Bruins power play has been this postseason, they made this one count with some precision passing down low as Lucic finally scored a goal in these playoffs off cross passing across the crease from Nathan Horton for a 1-0 lead at 12:02.

David Krejcis line with Lucic and Horton had eight goals, 11 assists for 19 points. They single-handedly destroyed the Flyers.

The Flyers went almost 14 minutes without a shot that opening period, thanks to taking five penalties.

We got into some penalty problems, ODonnell said. I think it kind put us on our heels a little bit.

Their best chance came early during a Carter power-play entry zone slapper, which Thomas handled. There was a brief scrum where both Carcillo and Richards had rebound chances, but couldnt finish. That was it.

Now, despite having 1:53 of a power play carry over into the second period, the Flyers didnt even get a shot on Thomas. The Flyers went 2 for 14 in the series with the extra man.

Bobrovsky faced a lot of traffic and shots as the period wore on. Boston was outshooting Flyers 19-9 at one point.

Like Lucic, Kris Versteeg had not scored in the playoffs, either. That changed at 11:22 when Brad Marchand turned the puck over at the blue line trying to make a play with both teams skating 4-on-4.

Richards and Versteeg came up ice against Dennis Seidenberg with the latter backhanding the puck past Thomas, tying the game.

Yet through two periods, the Flyers had eight penalties versus 13 shots. You cant expect to win games with that kind of ratio.

We put a good effort, it just seems we werent hitting on all cylinders, ODonnell said. It seemed like when we did get a chance it was jumping over a stick or they were getting a stick in the lane.

Their second goal to go up by one went off a shaft. Im not taking anything away. They deserved the series, but it seemed like we were a little bit off and they were playing real well.

The Flyers werent playing well for most of this series.

Well spend a lot of time over the next little while evaluating and see what went wrong, Holmgren said. But we got beat by a better team in the series.
E-mail Tim Panaccio at tpanotch@comcast.net

Related: Flyers hope added aggression can prolong series Buy Flyers Gear

Rick MacLeish's Flyers teammates react to his passing

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Rick MacLeish's Flyers teammates react to his passing

PITTSBURGH -- Former Flyers captain and Hockey Hall of Famer Bob Clarke was Rick MacLeish’s teammate for 12 years and two Stanley Cups.
 
“Ricky was the most talented player the Flyers had during the 1970s,” said a saddened Clarke on Tuesday, after the announcement of MacLeish’s death at 66 late on Memorial Day (see story).
 
“Life after hockey wasn’t fair to Ricky. He left us far too soon.”
 
The center from Lindsay, Ontario, had been hospitalized in Philadelphia since mid-May while suffering from multiple medical issues, according to his daughter Brianna.
 
Here’s what other teammates had to say:
 
“Ricky was a special player for the Flyers,” said Bill Barber. “He always came up with scoring the big goals and he was instrumental helping us win two Stanley Cups. He will be greatly missed.”
 
Gary Dornhoefer was MacLeish's linemate with Ross Lonsberry for almost six seasons.
 
“I’ll tell you what, he was probably the fastest player on the ice,” Dornhoefer said. “As far as a wrist shot is concerned, there was no one better at getting that shot away and accurate. Ross and I would talk and say ‘let’s just give Ricky the puck and he’ll put it in.’
 
“If you look at the amount of goals he scored [328 as a Flyer], well, that’s why we kept giving him the puck. Ross and I had cement hands, so we’d pass the puck to him. The Flyers could have a mediocre game, but because of his skills as a player and the athlete that he was, he could carry us.
 
“He was that gifted. I always felt that during the years he played, he never got the recognition that he properly deserved. He was that good. It saddens me that he was such a young man and is no longer with us. That really hurts.”
 
Bob “The Hound” Kelly agreed.
 
“Rick was probably the most gifted, natural centerman that the Flyers have ever had,” Kelly said. “He was a tough kid who skated and worked hard.
 
“Although he played in the shadow of Clarkie, he was every bit as good as Clarkie. Clarkie was more of a natural leader where Rick was just quiet and simply went out there and played his heart out. He was a great guy and it is very sad that we had to lose him at such an early age.”
 
Joe Watson made a few comparisons.
 
“I’d put him up there with [Claude] Giroux, [Eric] Lindros and [Peter] Forsberg in terms of natural skill,” Watson said. “He was a great player and we’ll certainly miss him.”

Flyers 2015-16 Redux: Defensemen - Part 1

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Flyers 2015-16 Redux: Defensemen - Part 1

Too many bodies and not enough room at the inn.

That pretty much describes the dilemma the Flyers will face this offseason in addressing their defense, which dramatically improved once Shayne Gostisbehere arrived in November.
 
If there is one thing the Calder Trophy finalist showed, it's you can't have enough quick, young feet with the ability to create offense on the back end.

Gostisbehere gave Flyers fans a glimpse into the defense's future — it's loaded with young talent. The line behind Gostisbehere is long — the deepest pool of young defensive talent in club history.
 
All eyes will be watching this fall to see whether Ivan Provorov can catapult himself ahead of Travis Sanheim, Sam Morin and Robert Hagg and win a roster spot, which means at least one blueliner must go from the 2015-16 roster.
 
“We're not going to change philosophically in terms of young players,” general manager Ron Hextall said April 27, the day after the players cleared out their dressing room stalls following the playoff loss the Washington Capitals.
 
“They have to come in and be better than someone else that's here and, if that happens, we proved last year that we'll make room in our roster for a young player that proves to us that he's ready to play at this level and make our team better.
 
“I'm not putting a player on the team so we can say we're a young team. They're going to come in here and earn a spot.”
 
Here is a deeper look back on this year’s defense:
 
Michael Del Zotto

Age: Turns 26 on June 25
Stats:52 GP; 4G, 9A, 13 PTS, -8, 23:24 MIN
Cap hit: $3.875 million.

Missed the final 28 games of the regular season following surgery to repair a broken left wrist that had been bothering him since being injured initially on Dec. 21 against St. Louis. No doubt the injury played a pivotal role in limiting Del Zotto's offensive effectiveness just one year after rejuvenating his career with the Flyers with 10 goals and 32 points and earning a two-year contract extension. Del Zotto's best years are still ahead of him. He hit his 400th career game in November. He seemed to get it this year, as to when not to join the attack. Just imagine a lineup with Del Zotto, Gostisbehere and Provorov. The 2016-17 season will see what kind of contract he can earn as an unrestricted free agent.
 
Shayne Gostisbehere

Age: 23
Stats: 64 GP, 17G, 29A, 46 PTS, +8, 20:05 MIN
Cap hit: $925,000.

What can you saw about the most dynamic and impactful Flyers rookie since Mikael Renberg, who was the franchise's last Calder finalist back in 1993-94. With bonuses, Gostisbehere earned over $1 million this season. If Mark Streit never gets injured, chances are we don't see Gostisbehere until late in the season. Yet, the way things turned out, he became a Calder finalist.

His offense from the back-end includes things fans have been yearning for: speed, agility, youth and a great shot, as well. He quickly began to quarterback the power play in Streit's absence. "Ghost" led all NHL rookie defensemen in points while setting a couple franchise records, including goals by a rookie blueliner (17).

His rawness on the defensive end was evident all the way through, yet that was expected. It's a fair tradeoff for what Gostisbehere produces at the other end. He had strong chemistry with defensive partner Andrew MacDonald. Offseason hip/abdominal surgery should not be a concern.

The sky's the limit with this kid.
 
Radko Gudas
Age: Turns 26 this June 5
Stats: 76 GP, 5G, 9A  14 PTS, -3; 19:50 MIN.
Cap hit: RFA who earned $991,666 last season.

In the beginning, there seemed to be no middle ground with Gudas. You either loved him or you hated him depending upon whether he threw a questionable hit and was faced a suspension or used his physical edge to the Flyers' advantage. By season's end, however, Gudas seemed to settle in as a consistent defensive presence.

Still, you worry about his questionable hits. His 304 hits were second in the NHL this season. He's the only defenseman the Flyers have who scares people on the back end.

His 157 blocks were second only to Nick Schultz's 174. Gudas is surprisingly mobile given his girth. He played his 200th career game in April and spent much of the season paired first with Del Zotto and then Brandon Manning. He was effective in the playoffs against the Caps.
 
Andrew MacDonald
Age: Turns 30 on Sept. 7
Stats: 28GP, 1G, 7A, 8 PTS, +10; 20:07 MIN
Cap hit: $5 million

The Flyers didn't want to pay Matt Carle $5 million per year in 2012. The fans never appreciated him and when Carle left for Tampa as a free agent, it took a while for the organization to realize Carle gave them what they wanted on the back end, which is why the Flyers overpaid in trading for and then re-signing MacDonald.

The problem was MacDonald lacked on the defensive side and quickly got caught up in a numbers game, which resulted in his starting the season with Phantoms.

Del Zotto's injury allowed MacDonald's re-entry to the Flyers and he played very well as Gostisbehere's partner right into the playoffs. He was among the team's best players in postseason. MacDonald's time spent in the AHL also saw him improve his defensive play.

MacDonald deserves a chance to remain a Flyer, but again, numbers and cap hit will again stand in his way.

Flyers legend Rick MacLeish dies at 66

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Flyers legend Rick MacLeish dies at 66

Rick MacLeish, the smooth-skating centerman with a potent wrist shot whose goal lifted the Flyers to their first Stanley Cup, died late Monday night.

MacLeish was 66.
 
The center from Lindsay, Ontario, had been hospitalized in Philadelphia since mid-May while suffering from multiple medical issues, according to his daughter Brianna.

“With the passing of Rick MacLeish, the Flyers have lost one of their legends,” Flyers president Paul Holmgren said. “A good father, grandfather, teammate and friend, Rick will be missed by all who were fortunate to come and know him over the years.
 
“His happy and friendly demeanor was front and center everywhere Rick went. Today, our thoughts and prayers are with Rick’s wife, Charlene, his daughters, Danielle and Brianna along with his grandchildren. May he rest in peace.”
 
MacLeish was the Flyers’ first 50-goal scorer and second 100-point player behind Bobby Clarke, with both milestones achieved in 1972-73. A three-time NHL All-Star, he won two Cups with the Flyers.
 
He will forever be known for his power-play-tip goal in front of Boston goalie Gilles Gilbert in the first period of Game 6 of the 1974 Cup Final. Bernie Parent made the goal stand the remainder of the game.
 
MacLeish played 16 seasons, including 12 as a Flyer. He was an integral member of the Flyers’ 1974 and 1975 Cup squads.
 
MacLeish's 697 points are second only to Clarke (1,210) in club history among centers, and he ranks fourth in all-time points (697), fifth in assists (369) and sixth in goal-scoring (328).
 
His 741 games in orange and black are tied for sixth overall, and his 12 hat tricks are second only to Tim Kerr (17). MacLeish scored 54 goals with 53 assists (107 points) in 114 playoff games.
 
After leaving the Flyers, he also played in Pittsburgh, Hartford and Detroit, amassing 759 career points in 846 games.
 
Drafted fourth overall by Boston in 1970, MacLeish became a Flyer as part of three-team trade involving the Bruins and Toronto that same year.
 
Known for his effortless motion and blazing speed on the ice, MacLeish had a reputation as an unmotivated player early in his career until his breakout season in 1972-73.
 
“You can’t motivate someone who doesn’t want to play, and the Flyers didn’t keep you if you weren’t committed to winning,” teammate Gary Dornhoefer once said.
 
“It might have taken MacLeish a few years to mature as a hockey player, but he earned his keep as a member of the team.”
 
MacLeish was the Flyers’ first legitimate sniper, often wristing his deadly shot from the circles.
 
During the 1974 playoffs, he led the Flyers in both goals (13) and points (22) and finished second to Parent in the Conn Smythe Trophy voting for playoff MVP.
 
After his retirement, MacLeish dabbled in owning race horses and worked with the Flyers' alumni.
 
Among his last major public appearances with Cup teammates in Philadelphia was at the closing of the Spectrum party on Jan. 16, 2010, hosted by Flyers chairman Ed Snider, who died in April.