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.

Best of NBA: Dwyane Wade hits dagger 3-pointer in Bulls debut

Best of NBA: Dwyane Wade hits dagger 3-pointer in Bulls debut

CHICAGO -- Dwyane Wade scored 22 points in a triumphant Chicago debut, Jimmy Butler had 24 and the Bulls won their season opener, beating the Boston Celtics 105-99 on Thursday night.

Wade nailed a 3 from the corner in the final minute to make it a five-point game. Taj Gibson added 18 points and 10 rebounds, and the new-look Bulls got off to a winning start after missing the playoffs last season for the first time since 2008.

Isaiah Thomas led Boston with 25 points. Avery Bradley had 16, and Jae Crowder 14 points, but the Celtics came up short after opening with a win over Brooklyn the previous night.

The Bulls remade their roster in the offseason, jettisoning one hometown superstar and welcoming another when they traded Derrick Rose to New York and signed Wade to a two-year deal worth about $47 million in a move that stunned Miami.

The three-time NBA champion and 12-time All-Star is off to a good start with the Bulls after 13 seasons with the Heat.

Wade hit 4 of 6 3-pointers in this game after making just seven all of last season (see full recap).

New-look Hawks roll past Wizards
ATLANTA -- Dwight Howard dominated the boards in his Atlanta debut, Paul Millsap scored 28 points and Tim Hardaway Jr. ignited the new-look Hawks to a 114-99 victory over the Washington Wizards in their season opener Thursday night.

Howard grabbed 19 rebounds to go along with 11 points, just what the Hawks expected from their new center, and it certainly wasn't unusual for three-time All-Star Millsap to lead the way in scoring.

But Hardaway's performance was totally unexpected given the way he struggled in his first season with the Hawks, when he was largely confined to the bench and even forced to spend time in the D-League.

He scored 21 points, matching his high in an Atlanta uniform, and broke open a close game with back-to-back 3-pointers in the fourth. The Hawks, who led only 81-80 heading to the final period, outscored the Wizards 33-19 over the final 12 minutes (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Canadiens rally past Lightning for 6th straight win

Best of NHL: Canadiens rally past Lightning for 6th straight win

MONTREAL -- Max Pacioretty scored the tiebreaking goal in Montreal's three-goal third period as the Canadiens beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1 Thursday night for their sixth straight win.

Alex Galchenyuk and Torrey Mitchell also scored to help Montreal improve to 7-0-1. Carey Price made 29 saves to win for the fourth time in four starts this season.

Alex Killorn scored the lone goal for the Lightning, who lost against an Eastern-Conference opponent for the first time this season. Ben Bishop stopped 23 shots.

With the scored tied 1-1, Pacioretty got the go-ahead goal at 10:23 by beating Bishop glove-side. Blown coverage by the Lightning left the Canadiens' captain all alone on the edge of the face-off circle, and Bishop couldn't see the shot with Andrew Shaw posted firmly in front of goal.

Montreal remains the only NHL team still undefeated in regulation (see full recap).

Crosby's late goal gives Penguins win over Islanders
PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby scored the tiebreaking goal late in the third period to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 4-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday night.

Patric Hornqvist, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel also scored -- each getting his third of the season -- to help the Penguins win for the third time in four games and improve to 5-0-1 at home.

Crosby, playing for the second straight game after missing the first six with a concussion, scored with 2:25 left as he caught a pass from Scott Wilson at the top of the crease and quickly turned to his forehand to put the puck behind Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak.

Kessel added a power-play goal to cap the scoring 32 seconds later.

Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 35 shots while starting for the eighth straight game.

Travis Hamonic and Shane Prince scored for the Islanders, and Halak finished with 31 saves (see full recap).

Streaking Red Wings win marathon shootout vs. Blues
ST. LOUIS -- Henrik Zetterberg scored in the eighth round of a shootout to give the Detroit Red Wings a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.

Zetterberg's goal gave the Red Wings a six-game winning streak.

In the shootout, St. Louis' first shooter, Alexander Steen, scored but then Vladimir Tarasenko, Kevin Shattenkirk, David Perron, Nail Yakupoc, Robby Fabbri, Patrick Burgland and Dmitrjij Jaskin all came up short.

Gustav Nyquist scored on Detroit's second attempt but Frans Nielsen, Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheehan and Darren Helm all missed.

St. Louis had the better chances in overtime. Center Jaden Schwartz missed a wide-open net early in the extra session. Jori Lehtera was stopped on a breakaway midway through the period by Detroit goalie Petr Mrazek (see full recap).