Should the Flyers stick with Leighton and Boucher in net?

2 Comments

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for leighton.jpgWhile this group of people was curiously absent for a few weeks, the “Paul Holmgren should have traded for a veteran goalie” brigade conveniently appeared once the Chicago Blackhawks took a 3-2 lead in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals. That’s a pretty ridiculous stance to take when you consider the fact that the seventh-seed/barely even playoff-worthy Philadelphia Flyers made it much deeper in the playoffs than anyone anticipated. That silly reaction is another discussion for another day, though.

Instead, many are justifiably wondering if the Flyers (cue the broken record) should go out and get a different goalie. Rich Hofmann of the Philadelphia Daily News shares his thoughts on the subject.

The truth is, you do not need Brodeur or Patrick Roy anymore to win a Cup. Antti Niemi, after all, is about to have his name engraved on the thing. If you want to argue that a tandem of Leighton (a free agent) and Boucher (already signed) is good enough to make another run at it, well, put it this way: It would have been crazy talk a decade ago, but it is not now.

Still, if you are the Flyers, don’t you have to be a little better there? Remember Pittsburgh and Washington. The Flyers’ star players are not as good as the Penguins’ and the Capitals’ star players. The way you beat them is with balance and with goaltending.

I’d make Mike Richards , Claude Giroux and Pronger untouchable. After that, I’d be willing to talk about anybody if it would significantly upgrade the goaltending and add to the defensive depth. That is the other issue. Pronger did wear down in the last few games, finally. They need another defenseman whom they are not afraid to play.

Look, every team wants to be strong in net. Yet there seems to be a sea change in the way some people look at goalies. After all, could you confidently say that you know – beyond a shadow of a doubt – who the best netminder in the NHL is right now? I can’t say I know without flinching (maybe Henrik Lundqvist or Ryan Miller?), so to assume that there is some free agent cure-all is a bit silly.

Really, I think the Flyers would be better off going with the Detroit Red Wings model of average (but super cheap) goalies surrounded by an excellent team. If they go for a big-name goalie, they’d need to sacrifice some of the forward depth that helped them advance through three rounds of the playoffs. And let’s not forget the fact that they’d be signing a guy who wasn’t worthy of a contract extension with a team. On some level, there’s a reason someone becomes a free agent – you have to expect some warts.

I’m not saying that Philadelphia should close its eyes to the possibility of signing a Marty Turco or Evgeni Nabokov – or even trading for Tomas Vokoun – but such a decision would be risky and would come at a considerable cost.

What do you think? Should the Flyers sacrifice a useful player – maybe a Jeff Carter or other second level star – in hopes of improving in net? Could they be better off going cheap with Boucher and pending UFA Leighton? Share your thoughts in the comments.

The West’s next round is now set (and wide-open)

2 Comments

Saturday was a great day for fans of brevity and revenge.

Three of a possible three series ended on this day, with the Rangers dispatching the Canadiens, the Blues eliminating the “better” Wild, and the Oilers knocking off the Sharks in six.

The Rangers await either the Bruins or Senators and the Penguins face the winner of the Leafs – Capitals series out East, but we now know how the West shakes out.

St. Louis Blues vs. Nashville Predators

Both teams provided some of the upsets of this young postseason. Each features a red-hot goalie in Jake Allen and Pekka Rinne. Interesting.

Anaheim Ducks vs. Edmonton Oilers

There will be a lot of orange. We may also see a ton of goals with Ryan Getzlaf on fire, Oscar Klefbom headlining the list of unhealthy players and Connor McDavid possibly able to really take off against a Ducks defense that is beat up in its own right.

It’s already been a strange season out West, with the Kings missing the playoffs and first-round exits for the Sharks and Blackhawks. Get ready – and giddy – for things to get even weirder as the postseason goes along.

Oilers win first series since 2006 after Sharks fall crossbar short of overtime

12 Comments

After making the playoffs for the first time since 2006, the Edmonton Oilers weren’t just “happy to be there.” They confirmed as much by eliminating the San Jose Sharks with a 3-1 victory in Game 6, winning the series 4-2.

Yes, those young Oilers just eliminated the team that represented the West in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. Wow.

Ultimately, winning the breakaway battle in the second period indeed made the difference. Leon Draisaitl and Anton Slepyshev scored on their chances in the middle frame while Patrick Marleau could not; Slepyshev’s 2-0 goal ultimately became the series-clincher.

Now, that’s not to say that Marleau was a drag on San Jose. If this is it for one of the faces of the franchise, he had a great 2016-17, including generating the Sharks’ final goal of the postseason.

The Shark Tank was alive after Marleau reduced the Oilers’ lead to 2-1, and more than a few blood pressures rose – both in Edmonton and San Jose – after the Sharks got this close to tying things up.

Wow.

With this result, the West is set. The St. Louis Blues will take on the Nashville Predators while the Oilers face the Anaheim Ducks.

As much as people try to put the training wheels on Connor McDavid & Co., the West is wide-open enough that it’s not so outrageous to imagine a big run for Edmonton.

Beating the Sharks is a pretty nice way of adding an exclamation point to that statement win. And hey … they beat the Sharks last time around, too.

Canadiens sound a lot like Wild after playoff exit (without ‘better team’ talk)

Getty
1 Comment

Much like the Minnesota Wild earlier on Saturday, the Montreal Canadiens are stunned to approach the golf courses so rapidly.

Many of the responses after the New York Rangers eliminated them in Game 6 sound a lot like what the Wild uttered, though there’s no potential bulletin board material like Bruce Boudreau’s line about the better team failing to win four games.

Max Pacioretty viewed this early exit as a “missed opportunity” and never really believed that an elimination was coming.

Claude Julien provided parallel comments to Bruce Boudreau, believing that Montreal generated chances but lacked “finish.”

Brendan Gallagher? He worries that this might have been the Canadiens’ best chance, something the Wild must also worry about with a difficult offseason ahead.

Now, it’s likely that most teams speak about being shocked and expecting better after being booted from the postseason.

Still, these reactions do shine a light on the staggering nature of some of these exits. Will the likes of the Blackhawks, Canadiens and Wild struggle to be in such prime positions in the future? With the Sharks needing a comeback against the Oilers, could the trend continue on Saturday?

The bottom line is that, instead of preparing for a Game 7 after winning the Atlantic Division, the Canadiens are packing up their stuff and worrying about re-signing Carey Price. That’s a pretty stunning turnaround, regardless of the soundbytes available.

Video: Draisaitl, Slepyshev score on breakaways, Talbot spurns Marleau

Leave a comment

Some playoff games or even series come down to something as stupidly simple as one team taking advantage of their opportunities while the other fails to capitalize on chances.

If Game 6 of the Oilers – Sharks series follows the story of the second period, then San Jose may join Saturday’s stream of eliminated teams.

It’s not fair to boil it down to three breakaways, but some might feel that way.

Leon Draisaitl looked like a gritty, strong veteran during his first career playoff goal, bulling his way to the net for 1-0 breakaway tally. About a minute later, Anton Slepyshev was even more alone against Martin Jones, and he scored his first postseason goal to make it 2-0.

That stings for the Sharks, and it doesn’t help that they had a similar chance not long after. This time around, Patrick Marleau couldn’t beat Cam Talbot, so it remained 2-0 for Edmonton.

That’s the same score as the game enters the third period, even with some dangerous late chances for the Sharks.

If the Sharks don’t score at least two goals in the third, their push to return to the Stanley Cup Final could end in the first round.