Will the Flyers lean on Brian Boucher instead of Sergei Bobrovsky in the playoffs?

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It’s easy to overlook the value of an experienced, stable backup like Philadelphia Flyers goalie Brian Boucher. Boucher won 15 games already this season and showed that he could carry a team in the postseason last year, as he helped the Flyers intermittently when Michael Leighton went down with an injury (even though he eventually would pass the torch after his own ailment).

The Flyers might be glad that they developed so much trust for the 34-year-old veteran, because CSN Philly’s Tim Panaccio writes that Boucher has the inside track over impressive rookie Sergei Bobrovsky for the No. 1 job come playoff time.

Panaccio points out that Boucher holds one glaring advantage over Bobrovsky when it comes to puck handling.

While it’s no guarantee that a weak puck handling goalie will ever make significant improvement, it’s a skill that netminders develop over time. Being that Bobrovsky made a name for himself unexpectedly soon during what’s been mostly a smash hit rookie season, he didn’t have the time to improve his decision making with the puck before he advanced to the NHL level. He rarely (if ever) left the net in Russia, creating a glaring weakness – especially when you consider the fact that he speaks limited English.

Bobrovsky speaks very little English and it makes it harder to communicate with his defense. That will improve over time.

Yet unless his puck-handling skills improve against quick teams, the Flyers are going to struggle on the breakout.

“It’s going to make it hard for us to make a good first pass,” Timonen said. “If you look at the goalies who are good at stopping pucks, it helps the defense a lot. More than you think.

“There are so many teams coming with a lot of speed and if the puck goes around, they can create a forecheck and turnovers and everything.  If you stop the puck behind the net, you break out right away. It’s a simple thing but it makes a huge difference.”

Elite puck handling skills helped well-known Flyers standout Ron Hextall and future Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur in ways that stat guys are still trying to grasp. It’s a tough thing to quantify, but it’s hard to deny the impact it had on many New Jersey Devils teams in particular.

Could Bobrovsky’s struggles with the puck on his goalie stick cost him the starting job when every little mistake his magnified in the heat of playoff play? We’ll just have to wait and see, but Boucher obviously has that ace up his sleeve.

Video: This Kane-to-Panarin goal is all sorts of ridiculous

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When people were arguing against Artemi Panarin‘s Calder case, they often discounted his work because of Patrick Kane‘s brilliance (at least when they weren’t focusing on age questions).

It always felt a little unfair to Panarin.

Do we blame a great wide receiver playing with an adept quarterback? Sure, it’s an interesting discussion to have, but it seems fairly clear that there’s a symbiotic relationship between Panarin and Kane.

One could see that plainly in a 1-0 goal for the Chicago Blackhawks against the Pittsburgh Penguins that … admittedly was driven by Kane’s almost audacious creativity and skill.

But still, Panarin has 26 goals this season because he’s really good, too. This season has been a nice showcase for such thoughts, and a reminder that – like most great combinations – they make each other better.

(Seriously though, Kane was out of his mind there.)

‘Old Time Hockey’ video game takes a bit of an early beating from reviewers

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From the sound of things, “Old Time Hockey” is a video game with a lot of heart, but maybe not the skills to make it to the big time.

While “NHL 17” is pumped out by publishing giant EA Sports, this title is very much an independent labor of love by a company called V7 Entertainment. Puck Daddy’s Sean Leahy provided a great interview with the developers here. It’s worth noting that the game reminds one of 8-bit titles in another way: lacking an NHL license, these teams are instead fictional. This isn’t necessarily a drawback as much as it provides the title with its own unique “flavor.”

It’s hard not to get behind a scrappy development, especially in an age where sports video game options are so scarce. Some leagues barely see any licensed games any longer (see: the MLB, which feels woefully misrepresented these days), and the arcade-style that “Blades of Steel” and other old-school games popularized is even tougher to come by.

Combine these factors with an aesthetic inspired by “Slap Shot” and “Old Time Hockey” seems like it could really scratch an itch … except, it sounds like the puck missed the net.

So far, reviews are pretty mixed for the title, which is currently on PC and Playstation 4 (with planned releases on Xbox One and Nintendo Switch).

While there are a few good reviews here and there, the general reception is of disappointment.

A Sporting News review states that “the promising premise falls apart quickly.” Game Informer slams a “slew-footed story mode.” PC Gamer notes that, with EA not releasing an NHL game on that platform since 2008, there was a need here … but it wasn’t met.

Does that mean there’s no fun to be had? Not necessarily, but it’s a bummer that the game might be off the mark, especially since V7 Entertainment seems to have its heart in the right place.

Then again, maybe those who want that “NHL 94” fix merely need to dig a little. As this Vice article points out, there’s still an active community playing the sort of game that scratches the itch that “Old Time Hockey” – perhaps – can’t quite reach.

WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks at Penguins – Wednesday Night Rivalry

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The latest edition of NBCSN’s Wednesday Night Rivalry presents quite the treat: the Chicago Blackhawks at the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Both teams are at 103 standings points and each squad already punched a ticket to the playoffs. Even so, they’re dealing with mini-slumps that they’d like to work out tonight.

For all we know, this could be a preview of what would be one extremely fun, high-profile 2017 Stanley Cup Final. Either way, it’s a showcase of two premiere franchises brimming with star power.

You can watch on NBCSN, online and via NBC Sports App. Click here for the livestream.

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. NHL.com’s Dan Rosen also backs this up as a possible date.

(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: