Philadelphia Flyers

PP, controversial call doom Flyers in loss to NJ

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PP, controversial call doom Flyers in loss to NJ

BOX SCORE

There was a ton of anger in the Flyers' dressing room following Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils (see Instant Replay).

The Flyers had a right to be angry over yet another goal disallowed, one that would have sent the game into overtime.

Referee Tom Kowal ruled that Scott Hartnell had made contact with goalie Marty Brodeur before the puck crossed the line.

It didn’t matter that defenseman Anton Volchenkov had made contact with Hartnell, knocking him into Brodeur.

Toronto called Philadelphia to ask for an explanation. Usually, it’s the other way around.

League officials there were told by Kowal the goal was denied on the ice for contact with the goalie. When a goalie is “pushed into the net,” to quote Rule 78.5 (ix), the goal is not subject to the league overturning or even reviewing. Toronto made the correct call based on the information given.

Here’s the thing. As much as the Flyers were wronged, the game should not have come down to a replay or a call on the ice as being the ultimate difference between a win or a loss, especially during a stretch run to the playoffs.

Not when the Flyers had not one but six -- count ‘em, six -- chances on the power play and did almost nothing offensively on four of them.

That’s why the Flyers lost -- not because Hartnell’s goal was denied.

“Our power play should have been difference,” said Hartnell, who played his 500th game in orange and black. “The biggest difference was Brodeur. We had several chances.

“Kimmo [Timonen] had probably a dozen chances from the top. There were rebounds there and we couldn’t seem to get one. Their penalty kill did a great job.”

And his non-goal?

Volchenkov hit Hartnell from the side and the Flyers winger ended up hip-checking Brodeur as the puck went into the net. It was the Russian defenseman’s fault but …

“He said I might have made contact, but the defender was right on me,” Hartnell said. “He made contact with Brodeur first. If you see the puck, well behind the goal line. That wasn’t the issue. Frustrating. It’s a quick sport. But I don’t think it was the right call.

“If they call it no goal with contact, they can’t overrule that in Toronto. Even last night we had [a goal] taken back … definitely wasn’t our best game, but it would have been nice to get a point though.”

And they would have like their power play to be even halfway decent.

Four of their six chances saw poor setup, poor containment, a lack of shooting lanes, etc. The Devils’ second-ranked penalty kill was outstanding with sticks in the lane, blocked shots and just one clear after another after another.

The non-goal should not have been the difference on a team as talented as the Flyers. That’s how it has to be viewed.

Six power plays?

“That probably should have been the difference,” coach Craig Berube said. “I thought the first period and third period the power play looked good. Shot the puck, had some good looks. Second period, not so good. Six power plays? You got to make it happen.”

Berube said Toronto didn’t know the exact reasoning behind the disallowed goal other than “contact” and once that word enters the picture, it becomes a moot point. It can’t be overturned.

“It’s a 50/50 play,” Berube said of Hartnell driving the net and Volchenkov defending him.

There was contact from the defender.

“Well he probably was,” Berube replied. “A 50/50 play that could have gone either way.”

Jakub Voracek wasn't as diplomatic. He said the call was "f------ incredible" (see story).

There were a number of calls in this game that could have gone either way against either team. The officiating between Kowal and Mark Lemelin left much to be desired.

New Jersey won the game because one player made the offensive difference and one made the defensive difference. Brodeur provided the defensive edge and the ageless Jaromir Jagr was the offensive edge.

The Devils’ leading scorer (57 points) assisted on New Jersey’s first goal early in the game and then found a teeny-weeny hole inside the right post at 7:42 on the third period for the game-winner.

It was vintage Jagr because only that kind of player can find a hole that goalie Steve Mason was sure he had covered up. That is why Jagr has 702 career goals. Players like him always find the open spot in the net.

“Just a little jam play and he was able to sneak it through,” Mason said. “He just found a little hole and chipped it and it snuck through there.

“He’s a big body, strong when he has the puck on his stick and he was able to protect it. He’s a natural goal scorer, but at the end of the day you got to make the save.”

Brodeur summed things up nicely.

“It was typical Devils-Flyers game,” he said. “Enjoyable game. Always nicer when you finish on top, but it was a fun game to play.”

The loss dropped the Flyers to fourth in the Metro and eighth in the Eastern Conference. If the playoffs began today, the Flyers would meet Pittsburgh.

Call-ups
Rosters expand after the deadline and the Flyers called up another goalie in Yann Danis along with forward Chris VandeVelde, who ended up playing anyway, because Zac Rinaldo was announced out late in the day with an upper-body injury.

NHL Notes: Rangers ink Mika Zibanejad to 5-year extension

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USA Today Images

NHL Notes: Rangers ink Mika Zibanejad to 5-year extension

NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers have signed center Mika Zibanejad to a $26.75 million, five-year deal.

Zibanejad will count $5.35 million against the salary cap through 2021-22 as the Rangers count on him to take on a bigger role following the trade of Derek Stepan. General manager Jeff Gorton announced the contract Tuesday morning, before the team and Zibanejad were set to go to arbitration.

The 24-year-old Swede had 14 goals and 23 assists for 37 points in 56 games last season, his first with New York. The Rangers acquired Zibanejad from the Ottawa Senators for Derick Brassard a year ago.

Zibanejad has 188 points in 337 NHL games with the Senators and Rangers since Ottawa drafted him sixth overall in 2011 (see full story).

Olympics: Team Canada names Burke GM for 2018 Games
Sean Burke will be the general manager and Willie Desjardins the head coach for Canada at the first Olympics without NHL players since 1994.

Hockey Canada named its management and coaching staffs for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics on Tuesday. St. Louis Blues assistant general manager Martin Brodeur will work under Burke on the management side, while Desjardins will be assisted by Dave King, Scott Walker and Craig Woodcroft.

Canada has been grooming Burke for this responsibility for some time as he served as assistant GM for the 2017 world championships, GM for the 2016 Spengler Cup and Deutschland Cup and director of player development for the 2016 worlds. Desjardins coached Canada's 2010 world junior team and assisted in 2009.

USA Hockey has not yet named its GM or coach (see full story).

Sabres: Goalie Lehner re-signed to 1-year deal
BUFFALO, N.Y.  -- The Buffalo Sabres have re-signed goaltender Robin Lehner to a $4 million, one-year contract.

The team announced the deal Tuesday. Lehner was a restricted free agent.

The 26-year-old Swede showed he could stay healthy last season, setting career highs with 59 games played, 23 wins and two shutouts. He ranked third in the NHL with 1,758 saves and finished with a .920 save percentage and 2.68 goals-against average.

Bothered by injuries and concussion problems, Lehner had never before played more than 36 games in his NHL career. The Sabres took a chance on Lehner when they traded a first-round pick to the Ottawa Senators for him at the 2015 draft.

Lehner will again be a restricted free agent next summer when this contract expires.

Devils: 3 restricted free agents re-signed
NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils have re-signed restricted free agent defenseman Mirco Mueller, forward Joseph Blandisi and goaltender Scott Wedgewood.

Mueller got a two-year deal worth an average of $850,000 a season, Blandisi a two-year, two-way deal worth an average of $680,000 in the NHL, and Wedgewood a one-year, two-way deal worth $650,000 in the NHL. General manager Ray Shero announced the contracts Tuesday.

Re-signing Mueller for two years was the most significant move after New Jersey acquired the 22-year-old from San Jose before the Vegas expansion draft. The Swiss defender has just six points in 54 NHL games with the Sharks, but still is considered a good prospect after being a first-round pick in 2013.

Mueller will make $775,000 next season and $925,000 in 2018-19.

There's a new game in town: The Philadelphia Rebels

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John Boruk/CSNPhilly.com

There's a new game in town: The Philadelphia Rebels

The opportunity to watch a Briere play again in Philadelphia will be an exciting reality for hockey fans this season.

No, Danny Briere isn’t coming out of retirement as the former Flyers forward has committed to handling the day-to-day operations of the organization’s newest ECHL team.  

However, Briere will be keeping close tabs on his younger son, Carson, who’s currently on the Philadelphia Rebels' 30-man roster and is setting his sights on making the team’s final cuts during training camp.

“It’s great,” Briere said Monday. “Growing up here for most of my life, I love Philly. It’s fun getting to play in the same city that [my dad] did. Whenever I think of him playing, I always think of that playoff run [in 2010] for the Flyers.”

After spending the past two seasons at IceWorks in Aston, Pennsylvania, the NAHL’s (North American Hockey League) Rebels are moving their operation to the Penn Ice Rink at the Class of 1923 Arena, where they made the formal announcement on Monday. It will be the organization’s third different home rink in the past four seasons after relocating from the Rio Grande Valley in 2015.

“It was a no-brainer,” team owner Marko Dundovich said. “When the opportunity presented itself, it was very easy. I think it will give the boys a better opportunity to play, get them seen and I think it’s going to continue to grow here, and our business and organization will do much better here.”

The Rebels and junior hockey simply didn’t attract a broad appeal in the Philadelphia suburbs like ownership had hoped, and as a result, attendance lagged as the team typically averaged around 125 fans a game.

“It was the first time we tried Junior A hockey here,” Dundovich said. “If we had a 300-, 400- or 500-person fan base, we would have been OK in Aston, but I think it was tough to sell a junior hockey ticket in Aston. It’s a difficult sell in a small town.”   

Conversely, hockey fans in Philadelphia haven’t had much of an alternative to the Flyers since the Phantoms left the city in 2009 for Glens Falls, New York. Rebels forward Aaron Maguyon, who stays with former Flyers captain Keith Primeau throughout the season, feels the team cannot only fill the 2,500-seat ice rink, but the players will greatly benefit from the college vibe.  

“I think it prepares us for the future and playing college hockey, for sure, so in that way, it’s like a sneak peek for what’s to come," Maguyon said. "I think it helps pull guys closer together. We have restaurants we can go to or just activities we can do in the city."

According to the league website, the NAHL set a new single-season NCAA record with 280-plus commitments, and the Rebels had 12 commit to Divison I programs. Head coach Joe Coombs has built a tier-II junior hockey powerhouse over the past two years. Last season, the Rebels finished with the NAHL’s best regular-season record, advancing to the championship game of the Robertson Cup in Duluth, Minnesota, where they came up short in a 2-0 loss to the Lone Star Brahmas. 

“This is business,” Coombs said. “Let’s bring the game to the people. Over the last two years, we struggled with our attendance. I didn’t even know this place was here — UPenn hockey rink — and we couldn’t think of a better venue right here in University City to try and market our brand of hockey and bring our game to the people.”  

And who knows? You might just see a few former Flyers in the seats, as well.