Holdin on to Orange & Black Mettle

Holdin on to Orange & Black Mettle

this the final Flyers gamethread of the 2011-2012 season? With no reason
to obfuscate the obvious, we need to accept the possibility that unless
the Flyers can dramatically turn around the trends of the past three
games, it will be. 

Even some diehard Flyers junkies are calling this
series over already. We're definitely not ready to do that, but we can
understand the perception of lifelessness. The series with the Devils
has been like a four-game methadone dose after two weeks of sped up junk
in the Pittsburgh series. Dramatic highs and excruciating lows replaced
by a gradual dulling of the senses. We still want what nearly killed us
in the first round, but we can barely remember it. 

Without his best player, who has been suspended for a
possible series-deciding game, Peter Laviolette is tasked with
establishing a gameplan that can penetrate an amazingly efficient
forecheck, then generate something resembling sustained pressure. Since
game 1, the Flyers have rarely been able to do so. Failing again tonight
will mean the golf clubs and another early departure from the
postseason—the hallmark of my hockey-watching life. 

Can they turn it around not only tonight, but the next three games?
No GamObviously
the odds are against them. Taking Claude Giroux off the ice doesn't
help matters, although the optimists among us will hope it causes a few
other faces to step up and take control of a listless, toothless

It's been said that perhaps G was trying to do too
much on every shift, a draining exercise if the shift proves futile.
Were others perhaps waiting for his heroics to emerge like they did in
the Pittsburgh series? 

How to beat the Devils' forecheck is something that
eludes me. Fortunately, I'm in great company, as Lavvy hasn't figured it
out yet either. Dumping and chasing isn't working, as the Devils are
either winning the race to the end boards or having the puck volleyed
back to them by Martin Brodeur, if icing isn't called. It's like trying
to play dump-and-chase against a team that has a third defenseman
sitting behind the net. 

Simply put, the Devils have been outstanding at
taking away the time the Flyers have to advance the puck. As soon as a
Philadelphia player touches it, a Devil is on him. Once they cross their
own blue line, it's like watching a full-court press, only it lasts all

If the Flyers can't find an offensive strategy to
get through the gauntlet, perhaps the answer is a different style of
play when the Devils have the puck. Overall this series, they don't seem
to finishing checks well or making a point of taking the body whenever
possible. True this can, and has, lead to being out of position, but
maybe being more aggressive without the puck (within reason) will wear
the Devils down while ratcheting up the Flyers intensity to levels
rarely seen in this series. 

It's not a plan, just a place to start. The Flyers
have more talent, but they have not been the better team. The Devils
adherence to their system is the primary dividing line, but their
intensity has been a huge difference too. 
We'd add "Get traffic in front of Brodeur," but that too is pretty obvious, and anyway, they're not generating the shots that would benefit from traffic anyway. If there's time and space to wind and fire, then by all means, put a body in front of the old man. 

Mesz News Ever?Andrej Meszaros could return to the blue line in a last-ditch effort to stagnate an opportunistic Devils attack. No idea how effective he'll be after spending time on the shelf, or how close to 100% he is. 

Coming Up BryzOne thing's for certain,
regardless of what happens in this series, if the Flyers depart, it
won't be the sole fault of Ilya Bryzgalov. Depending on tonight's
action, virtually nothing can be blamed on him. Goaltending was the most
frequently cited concern in last year's playoffs, and ownership wanted
that silenced. For most of the season, it certainly was not, and Bryz
even drew criticism in the opening round, when he was on the ice for
what felt like a series-long shootout. 

But in a series showing far more measured pace, Bryz
has kept his team alive in games during which they've otherwise been
dominated. He hasn't stolen them the proverbial game yet, but it's hard
to ask for much more than he has given.

No one can go into this game thinking the season is over. We've seen the Flyers come back from worse and beat better.

7:30 start time on NBCSN. South Philly get loud.

Flyers-Sabres 5 things: Forget about Monday's final result

Flyers-Sabres 5 things: Forget about Monday's final result

Flyers vs. Sabres
7:30 p.m. on CSN, Pregame Live starts at 6:30

After a hard-luck 3-1 loss in Montreal to the Canadiens on Monday, the Flyers (2-3-1) return home Tuesday to the Wells Fargo Center to face the Buffalo Sabres (1-2-1) for the first time this season.

The Sabres are struggling early on this year, so Tuesday night could be a prime opportunity for the Flyers to get back on the winning side of things.

Let’s take a closer look at the matchup.

1. It’s a new day
Despite the result, the fact of the matter is the Flyers played a very good road game on Monday in Montreal against the Habs. Shots on goal were just about even (Montreal held a 33-32 advantage) and the Flyers had excellent opportunities to tie late in the game, but a fully healthy Carey Price had other ideas. Steve Mason was great with 31 saves, many of the difficult variety, and he had no chance on Brendan Gallagher’s winning deflection late in the third. It was a seesaw battle and the Habs wound up on top when the final buzzer sounded. It goes that way sometimes.

But Tuesday is a new day, and the Flyers have a chance strike right back against the Sabres. Forget Monday’s final result. If the Flyers play the way they did Monday, they’re going to win plenty of games.

“Overall we played a pretty good game,” head coach Dave Hakstol said after Monday’s loss. “Certainly we can do better, obviously not coming out with the points. We’ve got to turn the page real quick and get ready to go for a home game tomorrow night some 19 to 20 hours from now.”

Even though Monday night’s result is still fresh, sometimes it’s good to get right back out there and try and keep the momentum of strong play going.

And the Flyers will get some reinforcements on the blue line Tuesday as Radko Gudas will return from his six-game suspension and be in the lineup. No word yet on who will sit.

2. Can’t stop Jake
Move aside Matt Read and Wayne Simmonds. Jake Voracek is the new hottest Flyer.

With his slick deflection on Monday, Voracek now has three goals in his last two games and is riding a four-game point streak. As matter of fact, he has a point in all but one of the Flyers’ six games this season. He’s posted three goals and five assists for eight points so far, which is tied for fourth in the NHL in the early going.

Perhaps most encouraging about Voracek’s play early is the fact that he’s shooting the puck frequently. A natural passer, the 27-year-old forward has 21 shots on goal so far this year, which ties him for 10th most in the league. He has a nice shot when he wants to use it and he’s certainly using it this year.

Considering Voracek’s struggles last season, it has to feel good for him to get off to this kind of solid start. And it has to be reassuring for Hakstol and the Flyers. The second line with Voracek, Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny is playing well as a unit, too.

3. What’s up with Buffalo?
Things got off on the wrong foot, almost literally, for the Sabres the day before the regular season started when stud sophomore and franchise pivot Jack Eichel went down during practice with a high ankle sprain. He’s likely out for about another month or so.

And things haven’t gotten much better as the Sabres have scored just 11 goals in four games this season. Those 11 goals are tied for second least in the entire league and six of them came in one game in Edmonton. It’s tough to judge the Sabres based on the small sample size of games they’ve played so far, but it’s not a good sign when more than half of a team’s goals come in one game.

Starting goalie Robin Lehner is out of Tuesday’s game with an undisclosed illness. Backup Anders Nilsson will make his first start of the regular season. Nilsson has played in three games against the Flyers in his career and owns a 2-0-0 record against them with a 2.26 goals-against average and .906 save percentage.

4. Keep an eye on
Flyers: Brayden Schenn has had the Sabres’ number with six goals against them in 14 career games. That said, Schenn is still trying to find his footing this season as he’s pointless in three games since returning from his three-game suspension that opened his season. Tuesday could be a perfect time for the Flyers’ 24-year-old forward to have the breakout game he’s been looking for.

Sabres: Buffalo’s offense begins and ends with Ryan O’Reilly. He leads the Sabres with three goals this season and is tied for the team lead in points with five. He’s got nine points (six goals and three assists) in 10 career meetings with the Flyers.

5. This and that
• The Flyers went 1-1-1 last season against the Sabres. The Sabres did win in Philadelphia in overtime last October.

• The Sabres enter Philadelphia on the end of a four-game road trip that saw them tour Western Canada. But the Sabres have had four days off while the Flyers played Monday night in Montreal and had to travel home.

• The Flyers haven’t lost to the Sabres at home in regulation in the regular season since March 5, 2011.

• The Flyers have been lethal in the second period this season, scoring 13 of their 20 goals.

• He hasn't found the back of the net yet this year, but Claude Giroux comes into Tuesday’s matchup on a five-game point streak with six assists over that stretch.

Watch: The Phillie Phanatic trashes ESPN, Skip Bayless

Watch: The Phillie Phanatic trashes ESPN, Skip Bayless

The Phillie Phanatic is just like you and me. He hates being stuck in an office.

ESPN posted the below video of the Phanatic being forced to wait around an office for some sort of interview and an idle Phanatic is a mischievous Phanatic.

He starts out by trashing former ESPNer Skip Bayless, finds some Mets' swag to desecrate, and finishes off by going all Office Space on a desk chair.

It's fun for the whole family.

Not sure why the ESPN people didn't just let him post for the Body Issue like the people over at Sports Illustrated.