Archive for 2017

Philadelphia Flyers Report

Flyers find their groove

Greetings Flyers faithful

Philadelphia at the game 30 mark

The Flyers have found some consistency over the Holidays. The boys from the city of brotherly love went 7-3 in their last ten. The first twenty games, saw a very inconsistent team take to the ice each night, you just never really knew what you would get. The last ten games have the Flyers play .700 hockey.

Recap of the last 10 unreported games

462 New Jersey Devils (4) vs Philadelphia Flyers (6)
451 Philadelphia Flyers (3) vs New York Rangers (2) - OT
431 Philadelphia Flyers (3) vs New York Islanders (5)
426 Ottawa Senators (3) vs Philadelphia Flyers (5)
400 Philadelphia Flyers (3) vs Dallas Stars (2) - SO
394 Carolina Hurricanes (5) vs Philadelphia Flyers (3)
369 Columbus Blue Jackets (3) vs Philadelphia Flyers (5)
346 New Jersey Devils (1) vs Philadelphia Flyers (7)
330 Pittsburgh Penguins (3) vs Philadelphia Flyers (1)
320 Philadelphia Flyers (4) vs Carolina Hurricanes (2)

Gm Bourque 

" Its been a nice turn around and we have been playing the kind of hockey we thought we were capable of playing. There are still nights when we seem to lose focus and the flood gates open. There are Divisional games we just have to win, if you look at the eight playoff teams in the East, five are from our division,with us just sitting outside, a good hockey team is going to miss the playoffs for sure,we are just trying to make sure its not us."

That is a true statement, the Flyers are in ninth spot and playing .700 hockey in their last ten, but if you look at the teams ahead of them in their division specifically they are simply just keeping up:

Carolina-8-1-1 in their last 10
NY Islanders-8-2
NY Rangers-7-2-1

As impressive as a 7-3 record is, it comes at a time when the whole division is playing excellent winning hockey.

Coach Gretzky

" We can only control our play and compete at our highest level and for the most part we have been doing that, but those head to head divisional games are the games you need to have,otherwise you just don't make up ground, we are only just past the first third of the season,there is a lot that is yet to unfold, but it never gets easy in this division,each year a new team or two rises and a couple fall,to be a consistent playoff team year in year out,you cant afford long periods of poor play or let, we have dug ourselves a little hole,we need to climb out of it, and the last ten has been a good start."

It may seem like the Flyers have struggled a bit but its worth while pointing out that the Flyers have three players in the top 20 in scoring league wide: Conner McDavid-number 8 with 36 points, Dustin Byfuglein-number 13 with 34 points Henrik Zetterberg-number 14 with 33 points. The Flyers also have to get their back up more minutes as to not put the team in a tenuous position later in the season when they will need Crawford.

Well Happy Holidays ya'all...out for now...peace to the world

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Florida adds trio in free agency

Florida knew they had to get creative with the cap this offseason. That's the price they were willing to pay to bring back deadline acquisition, and new team captain, Zdeno Chara for another year.

The experienced Slovakian leader signed a one-year deal worth $6,916,667, and is set to team up with Tyler Myers on Florida's top defensive pairing. 

The first sign of the Chara contract ripple effect was the trade which saw Paul Martin head to Minnesota in exchange for a fourth round pick.

The second sign was the announcement that Florida had bought out veteran D-man Mark Streit from his contract. Streit had one year remaining on a £3m, three year deal, and since he was due find himself on the third pairing (at best), Florida decided it best to cut ties early. 

That left Chara, Myers, Enstrom, Schenn & Cowen as Florida's five remaining pro D-men.

Of course, Finnish prospect Esa Lindell is working tirelessly to earn a callup from AHL Portland, and he can't be far away now.

But Florida remained active in its efforts to sign affordable bottom-pairing types, and earlier this week, they announced that UFA's Andrew MacDonald & Jason Garrison had both agreed to terms on £1.6m, one-year deals to join the Panthers.

Both MacDonald & Garrison offer experience & considerable shutdown qualities. 

And they'll both surely be delighted to be swapping a Columbus organisation in serious transition, for a Florida organisation that is quickly becoming a perennial playoff contender.

The move likely spells another season of learning in the AHL for Lindell. Of course, the fact that each guy was handed a one-year deal strongly suggests that Lindell won't be in Portland for much longer. 

In other news, Florida also agreed to terms with veteran UFA goaltender Anton Khudobin. The Kazakhstan-born goalie signed a three-year, $1.2m deal. 

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First round features interesting matchups

For the WCHL, Season 25 marks a milestone few fantasy leagues ascend to. It also marks a post-season which some teams are looking to use to overcome playoff failures. How will those teams fair in round one?

Vancouver vs Colorado

In the 1-8 matchup in the west, we see an annual playoff team, versus a team that seems to be on the bubble each season. Colorado had an extremely impressive 123 point season, finishing 2nd overall in the WCHL standings. They are led up front by Mikko Koivu, who eclipsed the 100 point plateau in his first season as an Av. The Av's boast an incredibly deep forward group, which almost every team in the WCHL is envious of. Vancouver's defence will be in tough this series, and the burden will be placed on their top pairing of Colton Parayko and Ryan Murray to stop the Av's attack. However, the Canucks also employ a goalie who is capable of stealing a series in Devan Dubnyk. When all is said and done though, the Av's should breeze into round 2. Prediction Colorado in 5

Nashville vs St. Louis

A team that is consistently in the playoffs, but is consistently written off, the Blues won't be catching anyone off guard this season. A veteran laden team, with loads of playoff experience the past few seasons, the Blues are ready to take on the role of contender. Led up front by Artemi Panarn, on defence by Kris Letang, and in goal by Craig Anderson, the Blues do have the star power to match up with most teams. The Predators are making their first playoff appearance under new GM Phin Liew, who has been putting his stamp on the team throughout the season.The Preds have an extremely deep blue line, but their weakness may be in goal. Scott Darling will be a real good goalie in the coming years, but he isn't quite where the Preds need him to be just yet, in order to make some noise in the playoffs. Prediction St. Louis in 5

Los Angeles vs Anaheim

The Ducks were the #1 team in the WCHL for most of the season, but faltered down the stretch. On the other side of things, the Kings were dead last in the WCHL near the halfway point of the year, but sizzled in the 2nd half of the season, to be arguably the best team in the WCHL in that stretch. The Kings had 6 regulation losses in their final 31 games thanks in large part to a balanced attack led by Blake Wheeler, Dustin Byfuglien and Bryan Little. The Ducks however have much more offensive firepower and a much deeper blue line. This series will come down to how well Kings goalie Tuukka Rask plays. Rask had a subpar year, and the Kings made the playoffs despite him. Prediction Anaheim in 6

San Jose vs Calgary

The young Sharks are finally starting to creep up to contender status, but they have drawn a terrible matchup in round 1. The Flames are arguably the best team in the WCHL, and they proved that by destroying the WCHL offensively this season. The Flames deployed 3 of the top 5 scorers in the WCHL this season in OEL, Jamie Benn and Nicklas Backstrom. If the Flames have 1 weakness this season, it is in goal. They have used a platoon in the pipes with Roberto Luongo and Cory Schenider. Schneider almost played double the games Luongo did, but Luongo had the far superior stats. For the Sharks, they will easily be able to match the Flames firepower in their top 6, with the likes of Jonathan Toews, Tyler Seguin and Jonathan Huberdeau. The Sharks weakness is on the back end, which will be their undoing, as they will be over matched facing the potent Flames offence. Prediction Calgary in 4

Philadelphia vs Florida

The Flyers have been a team which has flown under the radar a bit this season, over shadowed by the top 3 teams in the division, the Rangers, Capitals and Penguins. This team is not to be taken lightly, as any team which possesses the likes of Connor McDavid, Henrik Zetterberg and Ryan Johansen as it's top 3 centers, is a serious piece of business. On the other side of things, Florida is at the point of their rebuild, where they can start competing for cups. They won their division by 3 points over Tampa Bay, in what has become a much improved division over the past few seasons. Long gone are the days when the division winner was actually the 7th best team in the conference. Florida bulked up for this post season run by making probably the biggest splash around the deadline, acquiring #1 defenseman Zdeno Chara. Chara will likely draw the task of McDavid, which will be a great battle to watch. Up front Florida will be led by the likes of Evgeni Malkin and Nathan MacKinnon. This will probably be the closest series, but the Connor McDavid factor should push the Flyers into round 2. Prediction Philly in 7

Ottawa vs Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay has been the class of this division for the past few seasons, reaching the East finals 3 times, the cup finals twice, and winning the title back in Season 22. The Lightning are a veteran laden squad, with arguably the best top 4 defense in the entire WCHL. This team will go as far as Duncan Keith, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Jay Bouwmeester and Niklas Hjalmarsson will take them. The Senators are the complete opposite end of the scale from the Lightning. They are very youthful, and still gaining playoff experience. The team doesn't necessarily have any stars outside of Corey Perry, but the team has been coached well this season, and if it wasn't for Henrik Lundqvist, Robin Lehner may be taking home the Vezina. In the end, the Lightning's top 6 forward group and top 4 will prove to be too much for the Sens. Prediction Tampa Bay in 6

Toronto vs New York Rangers

The youngest team in the WCHL makes their return to the playoffs versus the President's Trophy winners, and reigning WCHL champions. This Maple Leafs team is full of young stars, who one day may be superstars. Unfortunately they run up against a team that has been there and done that too many times, and know how to make inexperienced teams pay in the playoffs. These games will be close, as the speed and youthful exuberance of the Leafs will cause the Rangers to have fits at times, however, there is still the calming influence of Henrik Lundqvist behind the Rangers. At the other end of the rink, the Leaf's young defence and goaltending will be in tough against one of the best groups of top 6 forwards in the league. Not only is the group skilled, but they are hulking, and are excellent 2 way players. The Rangers also have an extremely deep defense, who are very mobile, and as a group put up the most points as a defensive unit in the entire WCHL. This will be a good series for the Leafs to get their feet wet with playoff experience, but the Rangers are too deep. Prediction Rangers in 5

Pittsburgh vs Washington

In what seems to be a 1st round matchup year after year, the Penguins and Capitals play each other again. The Capitals will be looking to avenge the sweep the Penguins laid at their hands last season. The Capitals come into this playoffs with a Martin Jones, who is much better than a season ago. They also boats arguably the best 1st pairing in the league, with Brent Burns and Shea Weber. Up front, a deal around the deadline to bring in Steven Stamkos has given Vladimir Tarasenko another star to play with. The depth of the Capitals will be severely tested, as the Penguins are the one team in the league who can throw 4 lines of star players at you. Where the Capitals may have the upper hand, is the veteran experience their forwards possess over the Pens. On the Pens side of things, their key move this season was bringing in veteran goalie Pekka Rinne. Years of Marc-Andre Fleury in the playoffs hampered the team, as he seemed to struggle year after year. The Penguins again are stacked with superstars, but the question surrounding them every year is, "where is the veteran playoff leadership coming from". Hopefully this season that question will be answered with a stable veteran presence between the pipes. Prediction Pittsburgh in 7

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Rangers take second straight Presidents Trophy

For a second consecutive season, the New York Rangers have reached the pinnacle of the WCHL's regular season standings. The Ranger's finished Season 25 with a record of 61-17-4 for 126 points. A record almost identical to last season's record of 62-16-4 for 128 points. The Rangers went into the final game of the season vs the Philadelphia Flyers with a chance to tie last year's record, but fell 5-2, falling 2 points short of last season's record. This was an unexpected finish to the season to say the least, as GM Andrew Don expected a fall back in the standings after losing 4-5 key contributors to last season's team. The Rangers got younger and cheaper this season, but some unexpected performances carried the squad.

To start off, Henrik Lundqvist, again, was the backbone to this squad. Lundqvist finished first in wins (61), first in shutouts (8), first in GAA (2.30) and first in save percentage (.914). To say he is a lock to win the Vezina trophy, is an understatement. Henrik was expected to start taking a step back in his play, as he enters the twilight of his career. This may happen in the near future, but it certainly didn't happen this season.

Next, it was the defense that carried the squad. The Rangers had 4 defensemen finish with at least 18 goals and 59 points. Off season acquisition Trevor Daley led the way with 21 goals and 78 points, finishing just outside the league's top 10 defensive scorers. Daley also led the team with a +40 mark. The Rangers relied heavily on their top 4 defensemen of Alex Pietrangelo (who led the league in minutes played), Rasmus Ristolainen (who led the league in Penalty Minutes), Cam Fowler (who was the only defenseman to finish over a PP and the aforementioned Daley. The bottom pairing defensemen, Dennis Seidenberg, Matt Hunwick and Damon Severson also played admirably, just with a lot less icetime.

Up front, the team was carried by their top 6 of Mark Scheifele, Jakub Voracek, Mike Cammalleri, Anze Kopitar, Gabriel Landeskog and Patrick Eaves. The bottom 6 left something to be desired, and can be looked upon as the team's weakness heading into the playoffs.

The team will be looking to win their 2nd back-to-back titles in franchise history, and add to the 4 titles they have, which are tied with the San Jose Sharks for most in WCHL history. The Rangers currently do not know their first round matchup, as the battle for the final playoff spot in the east will come down to the final day of the regular season. It is simple, if Boston wins, in any fashion, the Rangers will draw them in round 1. If the Bruins do not win, the Rangers will face the upstart Toronto Maple Leafs. The Rangers will look to use their vast playoff experience in the matchup with either of these teams.

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Season 24 recap

A look back at a memorable 24th season in the WCHL

By Andrew Don

Season 24 is in the books, and it saw the New York Rangers capture their 4th WCHL title. The route to the title was a very difficult one for the Rangers, as 3 of the series needed 7 games to complete. The only series that did not go 7 games, was a 6 game victory over the rival Pittsburgh Penguins. It was an amazing season for the boys from New York, as the team also won the President's Trophy, going an impressive 62-16-4 for a whopping 128 points. It was a season that didn't have too many surprises in it, as teams that were predicted to finish strong, did so. It took 90 points in both conference to reach the playoffs, but the strength between the 2 conferences was very evident. The top 3 teams in the league were in the East and each division in the East had 3 100 point teams. The West also made up 6 of the bottom 10 teams in the league. There were a couple big turnaround years in the WCHL, the biggest one being the Winnipeg Jets, who went from 2nd last in the WCHL to 2nd in their division at 103 points. The other big jump was the New York Islanders, going from a 73 point team to a 90 point playoff team. The 73 point season may of been more of an anomaly than anything, based on the strength of their roster. Probably the biggest disappointment team wise this season was the Philadelphia Flyers. A team that has been a perennial playoff team, up among the top 10 teams in the league on a consistent basis. This season saw them in turmoil from the beginning with their long time GM stepping down, and the team unable to make up their mind with a replacement until late in the season. The Flyers look to be in solid hands now with new GM Rick Bourque at the helm. This team will likely see the biggest point turnaround this upcoming season. 

Moving along to the top players this season, they were a plenty. In a season which mirrored the mid 80's in terms of offensive production, there were a few players who really stood out. There were 6 players who topped the 125 point plateau this season. Those players were: Joe Pavelski, Ryan Kesler, Ryan O'Reilly, Anze Kopitar, Frans Nielsen and Brent Burns. Of course on the opposite end of this, was the sub par goaltending the league saw this season. Not one single goalie reached the .900 mark for save percentage. The top dog here was Thomas Greiss at 0.896. There were also only 2 goalies who put up sub 3.00 GAA on the season. Again Thomas Greiss, and other was Henrik Lundqvist. Judging by the trend the WCHL seems to follow, the upcoming season may see a much more defensive season on the whole. 

On the farm for the year, it was a tale of men against boys. There were 3 teams who finished the season with at least 137 points. All 3 of these teams were in the same division (Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers and Washington Capitals), which is unheard of, considering they play each other quite a bit. This implies that these 3 teams pretty much didn't lose to the rest of the league. Funnily enough, these 3 teams were also the same top 3 teams in their division at the pro level. It speaks to the pipeline that these teams have developed. It also means that at least 1 of these teams every year, will not make it out of the 1st round on both the pro and farm level. The Washington Capitals rode this amazing season all the way to the AHL cup title, as they defeated the #1 (Penguins ), #2 (Rangers) and #4 (Flames) on their way to the title. 

This was also the season where the WCHL had their entry draft, where there was a big winner in the draft lottery. New GM Rick Bourque was welcomed to his new position with the Flyers, with the #1 pick and generational talent Connor McDavid. Another big story of the draft was the Toronto Maple Leafs. A team which has been in a multiple season rebuild, the Leafs had 4 picks inside the top 10 and in one fell swoop, has set their team up for the next decade. The Leafs selected Jack Eichel, Mitch Marner, Ivan Provorov and Sebastian Aho. There were a few teams who were very busy on the trade front throughout the draft. Those teams were the Winnipeg Jets, Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers who all made more than 5 deals during the draft period. 

Looking ahead to the upcoming season, which surprise teams will emerge to the forefront this season? Will the farm see as great a discrepancy from the top end to the bottom end? Will the defence remember how to defend and keep the goals down? Will the Rangers and Capitals repeat on the Pro and Farm? Those answers will await us in the upcoming 6 months. 

Good luck to all teams for the upcoming Season 25!

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