Pronger: Flyers need to be more physical

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Pronger2.jpgChris Pronger met with the media today after the Flyers practice, and as always he attracted the biggest media throng of all the players on the team.

He covered a number of topics, but what was most interesting to me was what he had to say about Dustin Byfuglien. The matchup between Byfuglien and Pronger was one of the most anticipated of the finals, especially considering how well Byfuglien had played around the crease in the previous series.

With Pronger patrolling the crease, however, Byfuglien and the top line of the Blackhawks had their worst game of the postseason. By far. Byfuglien was completely ineffective, and considering how poorly that line played it’s amazing that the Blackhawks were able to win.

Pronger is the veteran, he’s been here before and he knows how to handle players like Byfuglien. According to Pronger, perhaps the talk was a bit too much leading up to the game.

“There was a lot of talk. You guys had a lot to say about him,” Pronger said. “So I guess we needed to calm that down real quick. I have played in the West for 14 years. I played against him a lot. So it’s not like I’ve been out East for my whole career and never played against the guy. That may have been blown out of proportion, I think.

“I just tried to deny him easy access to the front of the net. As I said, the first couple of days I think teams allowed him to just to go stand there. You have to force a guy like that to work. He’s a big guy. But he’s got to exert some energy and work to get into position. That tires guys out that aren’t used to it. You have to pay a price, whatever that may be.”

Pronger hints that perhaps Byfuglien was given too easy an access to the front of the net before, and he just needed to be able to work out to be rendered ineffective. That Pronger was able to negate Byfuglien’s attack without taking a penalty in the game is amazing in itself.

Speaking of penalties, Pronger was asked if perhaps the Flyers needed to play a bit more aggressive. After all, not taking penalties isn’t exactly what the Flyers are all about. He got into a bit of a back and forth with the media over the question, until admitting that perhaps the Flyers didn’t play the game they’re successful with.

“Can we play more physically? Absolutely. I don’t think we need to take more penalties in doing so. I think we got off track by not getting the puck in deep and being physical in that respect.

“You know, if we take a couple of penalties, so be it. I don’t think we’re worried about taking penalties. I think we just got off track and started to play a little bit their game, a little bit of run and gun, and that fed into their hand a little bit.”

The fact that the Flyers took no penalties in the game caught everyone off guard, especially considering how close they played the Blackhawks without getting overtly physical. After finally getting down to it, Pronger is dead right; the Flyers don’t need to be undisciplined, but to be successful they can’t fall prey to the run and gun game that the Blackhawks are so good at.

Update: Pronger also had a bit of a feisty session with the media. Here’s video of his time at the podium.

 

Yes, NHL will share protected, available player lists for expansion draft

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We can debate all day how much the NHL, Vegas Golden Knights and others involved really want to do this, but they’re making the right choice with the expansion draft nonetheless. The league will make protected and available players lists available at the same time they’re shared with teams, according to NHL.com’s Nick Cotsonika.

(The NHL tweeted out as much, too.)

Could this lead to feelings being hurt or perhaps even certain sneaky deals being scuttled? Perhaps, but those are headaches that management should be expected to absorb.

The bottom line is that an expansion draft is a dream come true for armchair GMs, rumor enthusiasts, fantasy sports fans and … really, just about anyone interested in hockey. It would be a bewildering decision to try to keep all of this information locked down, even for a league that frequently garners a reputation for choosing comfort over entertainment value.

Cotsonika reports that such lists will probably be made available on June 18, though that isn’t set in stone.

(If you’re the type to take off work if a trade deadline was exciting, you might want to start drumming up excuses/putting aside vacation time/practicing your best “I’m sick” voice just in case …)

Cap Friendly provides a handy timeline for the expansion draft process:

Goalie nods: Blues give Hutton first start in two weeks

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Even though Jake Allen has played extremely well of late, Carter Hutton will get the call when the Blues take on the Coyotes in Arizona tonight.

Some of this could have to do with the opponent. The Coyotes are playing out the string on a forgettable campaign, and have lost six of their last seven. That includes a 4-1 defeat in St. Louis on Monday (in which Allen stopped 27 of 28 shots for the win).

As mentioned above, Allen has been great in March and deserves huge praise for turning his season around. He’s gone 8-1-1 this month with a remarkable .951 save percentage, allowing a mere 14 goals over his 10 appearances.

Hutton, though, has played equally well when called upon. He’s gone 4-1-0 over his last five starts, posting a .962 save percentage and a pair of shutouts. In his last outing, on Mar. 16, he allowed just one goal in a victory in San Jose.

For the Coyotes, Louis Domingue is in goal.

Elsewhere…

— A good matchup in Pittsburgh tonight, as the two defending Stanley Cup champions go head-to-head. Marc-Andre Fleury starts for the Penguins, while Corey Crawford goes for the Blackhawks.

— Calgary can clinch a playoff spot with a win tonight so, unsurprisingly, it’ll go with No. 1 Brian Elliott. No word yet on who starts for the visiting Kings, though it could be Ben Bishop after Jonathan Quick lost last night in Edmonton.

Philipp Grubauer gets the call for Washington, after Braden Holtby led the Caps to victory in Minnesota on Tuesday. Grubauer will take on Calvin Pickard, who starts for the Avs.

Vegas wants ‘progressive’ head coach, says McPhee

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Golden Knights GM George McPhee continued to list the characteristics he wants from a head coach this week, explaining that he’s searching for a forward-thinking bench boss.

“We want someone who is very current on the game, who is progressive on how the game should be played,” McPhee said in a recent phone call with season ticket holders, per the club website. “We’re looking for that progressive guy that can really help us through the early years and help develop our team and our players.”

So, time to connect the dots.

Back in November, Vegas owner Bill Foley laid the initial groundwork for McPhee’s coaching profile, saying he wanted to hire an experienced head coach.

“He’s not looking for a first-termer,” said Foley. “Some may or may not be available. … I would say the coach that we name is going to be a recognizable individual.”

Among the names that have already been floated, many fit the above billing: Jack Capuano, Gerard Gallant, Ken Hitchcock and Michel Therrien, among others.

Vegas has already spoken with Gallant and reportedly made contact with Capuano as well, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Gallant was nominated for last year’s Jack Adams as the NHL’s top coach, and McPhee is familiar with Capuano, having worked as an adviser to Isles GM Garth Snow prior to taking the Golden Knights gig.

It’s also believed former Flyers head coach Craig Berube is being considered, along with current Montreal associate Kirk Muller.

 

Pre-game reading: Tonight’s Kings-Flames game could get testy

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— Up top, the Calgary Flames don’t want Matthew Tkachuk to play any differently — even though Drew Doughty called the rookie winger a “pretty dirty player” after taking the 19-year-old’s elbow to the face earlier this month.

— Tkachuk was suspended two games for that elbow. Still, there could be fireworks tonight when the Flames and the Kings meet again in Calgary. Especially after Tkachuk replied to Doughty’s remarks with the following: “I expected more from him, honestly, than to go right to the media and start complaining after a loss.” (Calgary Sun)

— TSN’s Gary Lawless thinks Sergei Bobrovsky should win the Hart Trophy over Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby. Lawless writes: “No other player has been as important to his team and its results as Bobrovsky has to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Take Bobrovsky off the C-bus and it’s not necessarily in the ditch but it isn’t nipping at the Capitals for the league lead.” (TSN)

— Coyotes captain Shane Doan is understandably frustrated about the lower-body injury that’s kept him out of the lineup the past six games. At 40, this could be Doan’s last year in the NHL, so hopefully he’s able to return and play at least once more in front of all his fans. (Arizona Republic)

— Golden Knights owner Bill Foley doesn’t want each team’s protected list to be made public ahead of the expansion draft. That being said, Foley is also realistic: “I’d rather we know what each team has left unprotected and we make our picks and it’s a big surprise. I think there’s going to be a lot of leaks, though. I found one thing about the NHL that … everyone talks.” (Yahoo)

— An appreciation of the Detroit Red Wings playoff streak, which will finally come to an end this season. The last time the Wings missed was 1990. As noted by Nick Cotsonika: “No player in the NHL today was in the NHL then, not even Jaromir Jagr. Nine of the franchises in the NHL today weren’t in the NHL, 10 if you include the Vegas Golden Knights, who begin play next season.” (NHL.com)

Enjoy the games!