Game 7 preview: Flyers poised to make history in Boston

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Boston Bruins vs. Philadelphia Flyers
7:00 p.m. EDT, May 14, 2010
Live on VERSUS

Don’t forget, join us here at PHT for a live
chat during tonight’s game.

It’s only happened three
times in the history of major professional sports, twice in the NHL.

With
a win tonight against the Boston Bruins, they will join the 1942
Toronto Maple Leafs, the 1975 New York Islanders and the 2004 Boston Red
Sox as the only teams to ever come back from being down 0-3 to win a
series in the playoffs.

The Flyers were the most improbable of
postseason teams in the NHL a month ago, having squeaked in thanks to a
shootout victory over the New York Rangers in the final game of the
season. Considering they injuries the team had dealt with, the absolutely
horrid record in the middle of the season and the carousel that became
the goaltending position, it’s no surprise that many never considered
the Flyers to even get out of the first round.

After all, who
would expect that Brian Boucher would play not only better, but much better
than Vezina-finalist Martin Brodeur, that the Flyers would take the
defensive hockey that the New Jersey Devils are known for and turn it
against them? Yet that’s exactly what happened, and the Flyers were the
first team in the postseason to secure a series win.

Of course, it
seemed that the team fell back to reality when they lost the first
three games of the series to the Boston Bruins. As I had thought would
happen, the Bruins played the Flyers much tougher and with much better
goaltending than the Devils, against a team that failed to overcome the
injuries to Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne. The Bruins looked like a team
that was confident and sure of it’s system after a series win against
the Sabres, and it showed in three straight victories.

Then the
Flyers were victorious in a big overtime win in Game 4, staving off
elimination while planting the seeds for the issues that would plague
the Bruins in the next two games.

The Boston Bruins have departed
from what made them so successful against the Sabres and in the three
wins versus the Flyers, abandoning their solid approach for emotionally
vicarious outbursts. They’ve lost the mental edge over the Flyers, a
team that has managed to get under their skin with physicality and
timely goals. The Bruins, on the other hand, have played emotionless and
timid, choosing only to have an outburst at the most inopportune times.

While
many thought that his return would be the spark the Bruins needed to go
deep into the playoffs, you have to wonder if Marc Savard’s presence
has been more of a hindrance than anyone expected. He scored an
improbable overtime goal in his first game back, but since then the
Flyers have played on his emotions to the detriment of the rest of the
team; you have to wonder if anyone other than Savard had been a part of
these antics what the response around the league might be.

All
eyes are on the Philadelphia now as they head into Boston, with the
Bruins showing so far that playing on home ice isn’t necessarily the
advantage it should be. They’ve played safe at home, and the Flyers took
advantage of that in Game 5. With the fans ready to turn on their team
at the slightest appearance of a choke, you have to expect for the
Flyers to jump at any chance to set the Bruins behind as early as
possible.

The Flyers are poised to make history tonight, in what
will surely be one of the most-watched hockey games of the season.

Can
they do it? They certainly have the confidence and momentum to do so.

What are the coaches saying about tonight’s Game 7? Look no further than right here.

Florida Panthers aren’t afraid to change, but will they actually improve?

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Change is often a necessary thing in sports, and the results can be swift and brutal. There’s a fine line between rolling with the punches and blindly swinging, however.

The Florida Panthers’ history as a franchise makes you wonder if they’ll ever find the right balance between stability and innovation. Amid all these years of flip-flopping and regime tweaks, there may only be one unsettling constant: the on-ice product being middling-to-terrible.

Just look at the way they burn through coaches.

Six of their 14 head coaches were behind the bench for fewer than 82 games, including Tom Rowe, who was seemingly thrown out with the analytical approach last season.

Their GMs haven’t fared much better. Dale Tallon’s probably received the longest leash of them all, and this past year or so made a mess of that situation. And it’s arguable that things have only degraded as Tallon aims to clean up supposed “messes.”

The Panthers didn’t just lose cheap 30-goal scorer Jonathan Marchessault to Vegas; they also shipped Reilly Smith to the Golden Knights. Smith was a golden boy of sorts to the more stats-leaning members of the franchise, and while he struggled last season, it sure seemed like the Panthers were eager to get rid of him.

The same could be said about Jason Demers.

MORE: Welcome Demers to the trade rumor mill

As abrupt as the Gerard Gallant firing felt, the Panthers didn’t necessarily give the analytical approach much time. At least from an “optics” standpoint.

Now, parting ways with Marchessault, Smith, and possibly Demers may end up being reasonable in hindsight. Still, there’s no denying that Tallon made some mistakes in his stead; the “computer boys” didn’t sign an atrocious Dave Bolland contract and didn’t pick Erik Gudbranson over superior talent.

The bottom line is that the Panthers haven’t won a playoff series since John Vanbiesbrouck led them to the 1996 Stanley Cup Final. There’s legitimate concern that this franchise will keep making the same mistakes – and keep changing the cooks in the kitchen – while the results leave much to be desired.

Will Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau share the same frustrating path as Jay Bouwmeester and others before them?

This summer could serve as a serious fork in the road, as Tallon has some building blocks in place and an estimated $20 million in cap space. Even if the Panthers remain a budget team, they’re likely to have some room to work with.

Perhaps they’ll finally make the right changes?

Related

Panthers look to be aggressive in adding scoring

Devils will give top pick Hischier a chance to make team right away

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There’s at least some question regarding whether Nico Hischier is ready to jump straight from being the top pick of the 2017 NHL Draft to becoming an immediate part of the New Jersey Devils’ roster.

If he went back to junior, it would break a lengthy trend of No. 1 choices going to the big time right away.

Devils GM Ray Shero seems pretty optimistic that he can handle that jump, though, as you can see from this presser via MSG:

MORE: Devils pick Hischier over Patrick

As one would expect, Shero said that the Devils won’t rush him if it’s “apparent” that the Swiss-born forward isn’t ready. Still, Shero seems convinced that Hischier has the size, skill, and smarts to earn a spot.

Much like Nolan Patrick with the Philadelphia Flyers, Hischier didn’t deny that he wants to make the big time right off the bat.

“Yeah, for sure. I mean, it’s my goal, so it is important for sure,” Hischier said on draft night. “I really want to achieve my goal, but I still know I have to prove a lot of things to play there.”

Hey, maybe Taylor Hall could even ease his adjustment?

Burns and Thornton pose nude for ESPN Body Issue, and yes, it’s weird

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Hey, have you ever wanted to see Brent Burns and Joe Thornton essentially line up against each other naked?

Well, ESPN the Magazine interrupted your answer either way, going ahead and doing it for their vaunted Body Issue.

Considering Thornton’s UFA status, there’s at least an outside chance that this will be their final action together as members of the San Jose Sharks.

This is your last chance not to scroll and see Thornton, Burns, beards, tattoos, and not a whole lot else.

/waits

Former teammate Jason Demers captured it on Twitter, making it his background, and generally winning the Internet for the day:

Did anyone else think about Thornton’s line after Tomas Hertl scored four goals? No? OK.

The real highlight might be Burns and Thornton giggling in robes, honestly.

Click here for more on that issue, including information on U.S. women’s ice hockey team members who will also be featured.

Hjalmarsson shocked by Blackhawks trade, but Coyotes could improve soon

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Who could blame Niklas Hjalmarsson for being surprised that the Chicago Blackhawks traded him? The move blindsided … well, just about everyone outside of the Blackhawks organization, after all.

“It’s going to take some time to get used to that thought,” Hjalmarsson said, according to the Arizona Republic. “At the same time, I’m trying to always be a positive guy.”

Indeed, the 30-year-old defenseman did his best to say all the right things about the Arizona Coyotes, praising a roster that includes “a lot of young and promising players.”

MORE on the trade here

Described by some as the NHL’s best pure defensive defenseman, Hjalmarsson also gives the Coyotes good reason to be excited by a blueline that’s suddenly quite competitive. Consider the quartet that GM John Chayka helped assemble:

Hjalmarsson: An often-underrated part of the Blackhawks’ run. Consider some of the praise he received even before this move was made.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson: One of the league’s best-kept secrets, “OEL” ranks as one of the most dangerous scoring defensemen. At 25, he’s still deep in his prime.

Alex Goligoski: When you consider the Dallas Stars’ lost 2016-17 season, don’t dismiss the absence of “Gogo.” He might not be perfect, but the 31-year-old is the sort of puck-mover you need to excel in the modern game.

Jakob Chychrun: At 19, he’s already getting reps at the NHL level. The Coyotes could pair him with a veteran and watch him grow.

***

When you look at those four, in particular, it’s easier to see Hjalmarsson’s excitement as more than just lip service. It probably doesn’t hurt that the Coyotes also added Derek Stepan, another sign that this franchise is taking the next step after absorbing other franchises’ problem contracts in the likes of Dave Bolland and Pavel Datsyuk’s last year.

Granted, it will still be an adjustment, as the Coyotes are likely aiming for “respectable” while anything less that a deep run was unacceptable for the Blackhawks.

Still, Hjalmarsson has plenty of power to make this move more palatable than it may have initially seemed.

And, hey, who would blame him for circling Oct. 21 on his calendar?