Should Pronger, Richards play good cop-bad cop?

prongerichards.jpgIt always amuses me when writers come up with a cockamamie excuse to explain a team’s struggles. The Philadelphia Flyers, in particular, have dealt with strange (but sometimes one must wonder, truthful) rumors about infidelity and in-fighting in their locker room. Perhaps more down-to-earth excuses like “shabby goaltending” and “talent just a few strides behind New Jersey, Washington and Pittsburgh” can only be used so many times.

Either way, the laptop psychology comes from many areas, but one of the more reasonable takes is from Delaware County Daily Times columnist Anthony Sanfilippo. Instead of depicting a fractured,conflict-filled locker room, he looks at their group as more fragmented than anything else. Simply put, the team might be lacking a unified puck-based vision since Mike Richards is the captain but Chris Pronger seems to wear the pants in the Flyers family.

When Pronger arrived, he brought a different mentality to the locker room than existed with Mike Richards running the show. He had no qualms about calling a teammate on the carpet in front of the whole room. His approach was more brash and in-your-face. It was like bringing Metallica to the Academy of Music.

Yet it still hasn’t sunk in, despite the pangs of late-season success being shown … Maybe it’s because Richards hasn’t figured out how to be the good cop to Pronger’s bad cop … The safer bet is that once the team is retooled in the offseason and a second go-round with Laviolette and Pronger proves that nothing is different in the room, then the players will buy into the style and have the success many expected.

Just not now. Not this year.

I still think there might be an excessive amount of attention paid to the “personalties” of athletes and how they affect a team. Sure, hockey is far more of a team sport than baseball, but in any case it seems hard to believe that motivation is always the largest factor in a team’s success (or lack thereof). Really, if you want to look for what pushes players to achieve beyond their normal levels, don’t look to a locker room that seems like a utopia; instead, check and see if a player is in a contract year.

Nope, most of the time, it’s a matter of luck, coaching and talent. The Flyers don’t really need much in terms of leadership, they just need better players. Especially in net.

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    ‘It’s all my fault’: Mike Babcock takes responsibility for penalty box blunder

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    Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock is often regarded as the best coach in hockey, but even the best make silly mistakes sometimes.

    During last night’s game between the Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets, Babcock’s error forced his team to play an extra 1:54 shorthanded.

    Early in the third frame, Roman Polak was given a five-minute penalty and a game misconduct for boarding Oliver Bjorkstrand (Polak is scheduled to have a hearing with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety on Thursday morning). Instead of sending someone to the penalty box to serve the major infraction, Babcock decided to leave the box empty.

    Coaches aren’t obliged to send someone to the sin bin right away. During any stoppage in play before the end of penalty, they can send someone to finish serving the infraction. Unfortunately for the Leafs, Babcock never did.

    So when Polak’s five-minute major expired, the Leafs couldn’t simply throw someone onto the ice from their bench, they had to wait for a stoppage in play.

    Toronto players tried to ice the puck a couple of times, but that didn’t work. So finally, Brian Boyle flipped the puck into the Columbus bench to get a whistle, but not before his team spent nearly seven straight minutes shorthanded.

    They ended up winning 5-2, but they held a slim 3-2 lead at the time.

    Luckily for Babcock, his penalty killers did an incredible job, as they only allowed one shot on goal throughout the kill.

    After the game, he took full responsibility for what happened.

    “I’m doing better now, but can you imagine?,” said the Leafs bench boss, per the Toronto Sun. “It’s all my fault, me, the two assistants on the bench, two in the video room and 15 players on the bench. And we can’t get that done right? Often it happens and you just fire a guy in the box. It could have cost you. It will never happen in my lifetime again, I will never wait to put a guy in. But our penalty kill was really good.”

    PHT Morning Skate: Ovechkin will be rocking incredible custom skates for Russian Heritage Night

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    –With only a few weeks remaining in the regular season, we’re starting to get a better idea of who will be in and out of the playoffs. With that being said, The Hockey News put together a list of five players that could benefit from playing on another team. Devils goalie Cory Schneider is at the top of the list. Schneider’s been solid since joining New Jersey, but the team hasn’t had much success. (The Hockey News)

    Erik Karlsson has always been known as an offensive defenseman, but this year, he’s made several defensive improvements to his game. The changes have made him so effective that his head coach, Guy Boucher, believes he should be in the running for a Hart Trophy. (Canadian Press)

    –The Washington Capitals will be hosting a Russian Heritage Night tonight. During the pre-game warmup, Alex Ovechkin will be rocking these custom skates honoring his home land and his American home. He’ll be auctioning off the skates too. (CSN Mid-Atlantic)

    –The New York Islanders trailed the Rangers 2-1 heading into the third period, but thanks to goals by Nikolay Kulemin and Andrew Ladd, they were able to come out on top. You can watch the highlights from last night’s “Battle of New York” by clicking the video at the top of the page.

    –Vegas GM George McPhee chatted with Sportsnet’s Gene Principe about being able to build a team from scratch. McPhee called the experience “fantastic” and “really neat”. He also discussed his vision for the team and how he’s approaching the expansion draft. (Sportsnet)

    –The Detroit Red Wings have been a model franchise for quite some time, but they’ve on the verge of going through some pretty big changes. First, Joe Louis Arena will be closing its doors and secondly, their long playoff streak will be coming to an end this season. Sports Illustrated takes a deeper look at the old barn and the third-longest playoff streak in pro sports. (Sports Illustrated)

    –Many people feel like the Calder Trophy race will come down to Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine, but Bob McKenzie says there’s more than two worthy candidates because Zach Werenski has been equally good this season. But who is McKenzie leaning toward?

    Ducks take control of second in Pacific after edging Oilers

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    Connor McDavid was fantastic on Wednesday, but the Anaheim Ducks overcame his strong showing for a significant win in the Pacific.

    McDavid scored a goal and two assists, yet Ryan Getzlaf was right there with him with three assists, helping the Ducks win 4-3.

    With that, Anaheim is clearly ahead of Edmonton for second in the Pacific. The Ducks would hold home-ice over the Oilers if the playoffs began today, and better yet for them, a division title isn’t out of the question:

    1. Sharks – 91 points in 73 games played
    2. Ducks – 89 points in 73 GP
    3. Oilers – 87 points in 73 GP
    4. Flames – 86 points in 73 GP

    As you can see, the Oilers aren’t exactly far ahead of the Flames for third, either.

    Going forward, the Oilers have an interesting schedule: a mix of games against cellar dwellers (two apiece against the Canucks and Avalanche) plus two games apiece versus the Kings and Sharks.

    The Ducks’ schedule includes two matches against the Flames, one against the Kings and one more match at Edmonton on April 1.

    Long story short, the jockeying for position is far from over, but this was a pretty significant win for the Ducks.

    Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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    Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

    Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

    McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).