Pronger: Flyers need to be more physical

1 Comment

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.

 

Lonnie Cameron, hockey-tough linesman, shakes off puck to head (Video)

2 Comments

Talking about hockey toughness is pretty much a trope at this point, yet there are still moments that impress even the cynical among us.

Linesman Lonnie Cameron accomplished that for many on Tuesday, as he returned to the Nashville Predators – Vancouver Canucks game despite taking a puck to the head in a scary moment.

Judging by the Twitter feed of Brooks Bratten from the Predators’ website, Cameron missed mere minutes of time.

So, yeah, it seems like Cameron qualifies as “hockey tough.”

As far as the game itself went, the Canucks beat the Predators 1-0 thanks to Henrik Sedin‘s goal (his 999th point) and Ryan Miller‘s 30-save shutout.

Is this more than just a slump for Henrik Lundqvist?

2 Comments

People have been wondering for years if Henrik Lundqvist would finally fall off track and, you know, look human. After the New York Rangers’ zany 7-6 loss to the Dallas Stars, those rumblings are probably getting a little louder.

Don’t expect the Rangers to throw their star goalie under the bus, though, especially after a wide-open game like Tuesday’s goal-filled game at Madison Square Garden.

In fact, Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault is already penciling Lundqvist in for Thursday’s game against the rising Toronto Maple Leafs.

“He’s going to play, he’s going to try real hard, and we’re going to try to play better in front of him,” Vigneault said, according to the New York Post’s Brett Cyrgalis. “This is a team.”

Lundqvist, meanwhile, said about what you’d expect:

Naturally, Lundqvist and plenty of other Rangers threw the word embarrassing around quite a bit to describe this game, or at least the first 40 minutes. It’s just that no one’s really raking Lundqvist over the coals.

Is this time different?

Again, Lundqvist is no stranger to struggles, even if he struggles less often than just about any franchise goalie in recent memory.

Still, the sample size is getting large enough for this stretch to be a concern for the 34-year-old netminder.

While goal support and stretches of good play open the door for a respectable 18-12-1 record, Lundqvist’s allowing almost three goals per game (2.89 GAA) and has a backup-level .902 save percentage this season. And that’s over 32 games.

Things get even uglier if you focus on more recent events.

He’s allowed 20 goals in his past four starts, including allowing 12 tallies over four periods during the past two games. Lundqvist has a putrid .841 save percentage in January after producing great work in November (.925 save percentage in 11 games) and nice numbers in December (.915 in eight games).

Lundqvist has given up four goals or more on nine different occasions since Nov. 23.

In other words, there are a lot of different ways in which he’s struggling:

Is this a matter of Lundqvist regaining his focus or is “The King” finally abdicating his throne?

The Rangers are going to let him try to work through this. Otherwise, they might just need to hope that this is an off-year and *gulp* at least consider how far (an eventually healthy?) Antti Raanta could take them.

Supporting cast rallies Blackhawks in win against Avalanche

Leave a comment

For much of the season, the Colorado Avalanche’s biggest names have let them down while many believe that the Chicago Blackhawks are getting it done despite a mediocre supporting cast.

On Tuesday, the script was essentially flipped. The Avs’ stars were productive, yet so were lesser-known Chicago forwards like Tanner Kero and Vinne Hinostroza.

The most important narrative stayed the same, however, as the Blackhawks found a way to get by the Avalanche in a 6-4 decision.

The Blackhawks took a 2-1 lead into the second period, but the Avs put together one of their best stretches of this lousy season. Blake Comeau tied it up, Matt Nieto scored his first goal with Colorado and then Matt Duchene answered Chicago’s only goal of the second period (by Kero) to give the Avalanche a 4-3 edge.

The Avalanche doubled Chicago’s shots on goal in the second period, generating an 8-4 edge. It felt like a rare moment where Colorado’s talent actually flexed its collective muscles.

Then the Blackhawks turned it on in the third, generating a 12-5 shot edge of their own and finding a way to win.

Hinostroza ended up making the biggest difference, scoring the tying and game-winning goals before Kero iced it with an empty-netter thanks to an unselfish pass by Jonathan Toews.

(It’s not to say that Chicago’s big names outright slept through this game, either. Toews got that assist and Marian Hossa made a bunch of plays to help make life easier for Hinostroza and Kero.)

This wasn’t always pretty, but the Blackhawks are doing enough to get points night after night. On some nights, that’s the real difference between a contender like Chicago and a languishing squad like Colorado.

Blue Jackets move back to first in Metro, NHL after beating Hurricanes

COLUMBUS, OH - JANUARY 7:  Sergei Bobrovsky #72 of the Columbus Blue Jackets warms up prior to the start of the game against the New York Rangers on January 7, 2017 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

After stumbling for a bit, Tuesday was a reassuring night for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

With a 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus moved back to the top of the Metropolitan Division (and thus, the NHL) because they now match the Washington Capitals’ 64 points but have more wins (30 to 29) and hold a game in hand.

Also comforting for Columbus: Sergei Bobrovsky returned to the Blue Jackets net, allowing one goal on 25 shots.

They were probably also happy to see Brandon Dubinsky enjoy a strong night (two goals) and Boone Jenner collect an assist and this absolute beauty of a goal:

The Hurricanes actually did hold a 1-0 lead in this game, but it lasted all of 11 seconds, as that Jenner goal erased that advantage.

The Blue Jackets face the Senators in Columbus on Thursday and then host the Hurricanes once again on Saturday. They follow that up with five straight road games and six of seven away from home beginning on Jan. 22. Columbus will pass another big test if they can stick with the Capitals and the rest of the NHL’s best through that stretch.