Flyers Descend on Tortured Hockey Haven Toronto

Flyers Descend on Tortured Hockey Haven Toronto

My annual Eagles road trip in 2011 took me to Buffalo, and I don't really feel like talking about what happened there. But as you might imagine, we didn't pick Buffalo because we were interested in spending a weekend there. Instead, we wanted to check out Toronto, which isn't terribly far away. We booked roundtrip travel to Buffalo, but drove a rental across the border, stayed downtown, and did a bunch of touristy stuff I'd highly recommend. 
Toronto is a pretty cool city and a place I'd love to see again soon, hopefully catching a Maple Leafs game the next time around. The major arenas are situated close together, right on the shore of Lake Ontario with the CN Tower looming overhead. After a trip up to the top of the needle, we were in need of some liquid refreshment and a good TV so we could watch some college football. We followed up on a recommendation for the city's best sports-watching experience and checked out Real Sports, which is just across the street from the Air Canada Centre, where the Leafs will host the Flyers tonight. 
Below, a look at Real Sports, Xfinity Live, and what's become another lost Maple Leafs season. 
At Real Sports, we caught a glimpse of what is hopefully to come in south Philly at the end of this month. There are some retail stores inside the complex, sports gear, etc., but its centerpiece is a a huge high-end sports bar with an enormous TV screen and countless others all around the room.
The prices were high, but the beer was great and the atmosphere lively. Early in the afternoon, many seats on the floor tables in front of the huge TV were still empty, or more accurately, they were reserved. (We found this odd, as others were being turned away or made to stand in the bar area for hours.) That night, there'd be a Maple Leafs game, and fans had reserved tables for both before and during it. By 6, the place was packed, with every other person wearing a Leafs jersey. 
Say what you will about the team (it's not hard for Flyers fans to conjure their hate for Toronto), but their gear is pretty fantastic, and a room full of it was quite a site. There were two floors and multiple viewing areas, including private party spaces and a balcony bar. Overall,  Real Sports was pretty impressive. Even the rest rooms had a flat screen TV over each urinal and larger TVs in the sink area, some playing college football while others played the last game between the Leafs and that night's opponent, the Ottawa Senators. 
Hopefully Xfinity Live draws a similar crowd when it opens up. After seeing Real Sports, I wondered if it wasn't in some way the inspiration for XL (think 'XL' catches on?). From what I've been told, it will blow Real Sports out of the water, which after seeing some of the expected amenities, it certainly may. However, XL could still have a bit more challenge drawing non-gameday crowds in south Philly, which isn't next door to the city's most popular tourist attraction. 
ETERNAL FALLBack to the Leafs, and the city that, to be honest, deserves better. Maple Leafs hockey is number one in Toronto, and it's not even close. Imagine how painful it must be to have the team be so bad for so long… 
A promising start to the current season has gone up in flames, costing head coach Ron Wilson his job earlier this month. Amazingly, Wilson was given an extension in December. Perhaps a victim to his club's overachievement, he was canned just over three months later. 
The Leafs slid to fourth place in the division, 12th in the conference, and appear likely to miss the playoffs for the seventh straight season. Yes, since the lockout, the hockey team from the largest city in Canada has not made the playoffs once. 
And yet, they're still among the league-leaders in attendance. Of course they are. 
Tonight the Toronto fans will see their club host one of the hottest teams in the league, as the Flyers come in on a four-game winning streak. Ilya Bryzgalov will start his 11th straight game, facing Jonas Gustavsson, who is starting his fifth in a row. James Reimer has hit a rough patch, and new head coach Randy Carlyle is staying with the Monster for now. 
One of the bigger surprises of the Leafs' early surge was the play of former Flyer Joffrey Lupul, who was among the league's leading scorers before getting hurt. Loops separated his shoulder in a loss to the Bruins on Tuesday, and he'll miss 3-4 weeks, which is likely the end of the line for Toronto. Colby Armstrong was also hurt that night (broken nose), but he's expected to be ready to go against the Flyers. 
Toronto has won only one of their last nine games, and only two of their last 14. They're in a complete free fall, which hopefully continues tonight. 
The Flyers will again be without Kimmo, Mesz, and Kubina, which so far hasn't been a problem, but the Leafs do pack some scoring punch, so Bryz could be busy if there are any issues on the back end. 

Ivan Provorov's 8-year-old brother is already really good at hockey

Ivan Provorov's 8-year-old brother is already really good at hockey

Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov made his NHL debut just four games ago, and while the 19-year-old is surely tackling a lot of new experiences, he has always had his younger brother, 8-year-old Vladimir, by his side.
Ivan was seen at practice today with his much younger, and eye-poppingly talented, brother working on his skills.
This is not the first time Vladimir has been seen on the ice with his older brother. Last season with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL, Vladimir showed off his puck-handling and shooting skills in a video posted to their Facebook page.
There’s nothing like family bonding and having an older sibling as a role model.

Travis Konecny getting rookie introduction to physicality of NHL game

Travis Konecny getting rookie introduction to physicality of NHL game

VOORHEES, N.J. – There are some things in the NHL that are expected to happen on the ice with rookie players.

They will be challenged. They will be tested. And they will be hit – clean or otherwise.

Four games into Travis Konecny’s career, teams are taking target practice on the Flyers’ smallest player. The London, Ont. forward is listed at 5-foot-10 but 5-9 or less is closer to the truth.

On Thursday night, Josh Manson’s elbow made contact with the back of Konecny’s head during the opening minutes of a 3-2 Flyers loss to Anaheim. Manson served a minor for elbowing.

Konency admitted on Friday afternoon that he placed himself in a bad situation by “ducking” to avoid Mason’s check on the boards.

“That was my fault,” Konecny said. “I tried to duck under the hit and make room for myself. He came through and put a check on me and I got underneath him.”

Konecny doesn’t feel teams are targeting him. At the same time, he doesn’t deny he is taking some hard licks out there. He has four assists, tied for the rookie lead in the NHL.

“It’s part of the game,” he said. “Part of being a young guy, too. Being in the league, I am trying to make space for myself and hit guys.

“Obviously, some guys who have been in the league 10 years, don’t like guys doing that. So I expect it. Doesn’t bother me.”

His linemate, Jakub Voracek, said all of this has to be expected.

“I don’t think he is the only one in the league who is getting this kind of treatment,” Voracek said. “He is a good player. He is small and shifty. They try to get under his skin ... That’s the way it always works.

“You are a new guy, a young guy, especially if you have a good start like he did. You’re gonna get that treatment. He’s a big fellow and he can handle it ... Sometimes you can be small, but if you can handle things, better to handle it when you are 5-11 than 6-4 and being a p---y.”

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol doesn’t feel Konecny is being targeted.

“I haven’t seen anything out of bounds,” he said.

With Radko Gudas serving a six-game suspension for a head shot during pre-season, the Flyers don’t have a big, punishing player that opponents fear on the ice to balance things out on the scoresheet.

Would Gudas’ presence alleviate the questionable hits on Konecny?

“No, I haven’t seen any difference there,” Hakstol replied. “A night like last night, I mentioned after the game, that’s a big, heavy team we’re playing … you certainly miss a big, heavy body like Gudy on the back end that just naturally matches that physicality.”

Gap coverage
The Flyers didn’t show any lineup changes during Friday’s practice in preparation for Saturday’s game against Carolina.

One element they worked on and saw video was gap coverage between their forwards and defense. It burned them against the Ducks and even Chicago.

“That’s a fair assessment,” Hakstol said. “I don’t think we were very good in that area [against Anaheim] and had been extremely good in that area during the first, couple games of the year. It’s an area we have to do a little better job at.”

The challenge there is that Carolina has some speed and the Canes will attempt to exploit holes in the Flyers’ gap coverage, especially, off transition.