Five points back of the first-place Rangers and four points back of the fourth-place Penguins, the Flyers obviously can't catch either team tonight. But after watching the Rangers sit atop the conference for months, and after assuming a first round playoff matchup with either the Pens for the past few weeks, might the Flyers be faced with the Blue Shirts in the first round?
With New York sliding, just 4-6-0 in their last 10, the Penguins haven't lost a game in regulation over the same stretch, going 9-0-1, and have been further benefitted by the return of Sidney Crosby.
With a Ranger loss to the Maple Leafs and Penguin win over the Senators, Pittsburgh would move into first place in the Eastern Conference by night's end, swapping spots with the Rangers to drop the former-leaders down to fourth.
As all that's going on, the Flyers can do nothing except that which they've already been doing for weeks: take care of their own business and ignore the rest. And so, rather than focusing of its playoff future, Peter's Laviolette's club will once again be better off focusing on the task at hand -- namely, clinching a playoff spot of their own with a win over the Montreal Canadiens tonight.
Now, to matters specifically pertaining to the Flyers -- when, if ever, will this team get on the same page with its goaltender? When they were scoring, Ilya Bryzgalov couldn't stop the other team from doing the same. Now that he's stopping nearly everything sent his way, the pucks aren't going in at the other end of the ice either.
Bryz is the owner of a 9-1-1 record, 1.24 GAA and .956 save percentage in the month of March. The team around him, however, has scored just 7 goals in its last four games.
Fortunately for the Flyers, who are trying to accumulate as many points as possible down the stretch to maybe secure home-ice in the first round, Montreal has not won in Philadelphia in its last three attempts and is currently dead-last in the conference.
Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on CSN.
Is tonight the night they find a way to put it all together on home-ice, clinching one of those X's next to their name in the process?
Separately, with a surging Pittsburgh and a struggling New York vying for the top spot in the East, who are are you more (or less) afraid of in the first round? Does the prospect of either still have you hoping for a slide to sixth?
The NBA has determined a new date for the Sixers home game against the Kings, which was postponed on Nov. 30 because of unsafe playing conditions on the court.
The game has been rescheduled for Monday, Jan. 30 at 6 p.m. This will create back-to-backs for both teams.
The Sixers are playing in Chicago on Jan. 29. They will play consecutive games against the Bulls and Kings, then have a road back-to-back against the Mavericks and Spurs on Feb. 1 and 2.
The Kings will be on what is now an eight-game road trip. They will play a back-to-back against the Rockets the next night in Houston.
Bill Dineen, who had the distinction of being Eric Lindros’ first NHL coach, died early Saturday morning at his home in Lake George, New York. He was 84.
“Such a wonderful person, who got along with everybody,” Flyers president Paul Holmgren said. “I never played for him, but worked with him in scouting. Just a great guy.”
Dineen succeeded Holmgren as head coach during the 1991-92 season.
“When I got fired, a lot of our guys were squeezing their sticks,” Holmgren said. “They were tight. It shouldn’t be hard to play the game. When things got tough, they were a little under stress, Billy coming in, he loosened things up.”
Dineen coached parts of two seasons here from 1991-92 through the 1992-93 season, which was Lindros’ first year as a Flyer.
“Bill treated everyone with the utmost respect,” Holmgren said. “He was the perfect guy for Eric coming in here. That respect goes both ways. He was almost a grandfatherly figure for Eric at the time.”
Dineen served as a scout with the organization from 1990-91 until succeeding Holmgren as coach. He then returned to a scouting role in 1993-94 and remained with the Flyers as a scout through 1996-97.
Mark Howe, one of the greatest Flyers defensemen of all-time, played for Dineen as an 18-year-old rookie in the WHA with the Houston Aeros (1973-74), and also had him during his final year as a Flyer in 1991-92.
“He was one of the best people I ever met in the game of hockey,” Howe said. “He was a real players coach. Of all the guys I ever played for. Maybe a little Paul Holmgren, too.
“If you lost the game, he was one of the very few people if you went for a bite to eat or a beer after the game you lost, you actually felt poorly for letting the coach down.”
Howe said Dineen’s teams weren’t all about skill.
“He picked people that were about ‘the team,'” Howe said. “He made me earn my spot that first year in Houston.”
Dineen posted a 60-60-20 record with the Flyers. His son, Kevin, played on both of those teams before assuming the captaincy from Rick Tocchet in 1993-94.
A gentleman behind the bench, Bill Dineen was much the same person as a player. A former right wing who spent the majority of his six-year playing career with the Detroit Red Wings, he had just 122 penalty minutes in 322 games, scoring 51 goals and 95 points.
“I knew Billy for a long time," Flyers senior vice president Bob Clarke said. "He was a player and coach at the minor league level and the NHL level, but I think more importantly he was a really, really good hockey person and really good person.”
Dineen won two WHA titles coaching the Aeros and two Stanley Cups as a player with the Red Wings. A member of the AHL Hall of Fame, Dineen also coached the Adirondack Red Wings from 1983 through 1988-89.
Three of his five sons — Gordon, Peter and Kevin — played in the NHL. Sons Shawn and Jerry had their roots in the AHL.
“His boys are scattered all over the map,” Holmgren said. “Just a tremendous hockey family.”
Dineen is part of Flyer folklore trivia. He, along with Keith Allen and Vic Stasiuk, were all Red Wings teammates during 1953-53. They also shared something else in common: all three later became Flyers head coaches.