Peter Laviolette, Paul Holmgren

Flyers GM Paul Holmgren holds closed door meeting, gives team ‘that look’

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Obviously, the Philadelphia Flyers are in a more comfortable spot today than they were around this time last year. Yet in an odd way, last season’s team might have had more confidence – or at least more momentum – even though they were fighting for their playoff lives while the 2010-11 edition have been a sure thing for quite some time.

With a mediocre 3-4-3 mark in their last 10 games and losses in 13 of their last 19, the Flyers keep meandering through the last days of the regular season, a slump that will likely force them out of the top seed in the East. They might even lose their grasp on the Atlantic Division title, too, because the Pittsburgh Penguins only trail them by one point with both teams having two games left. (Although the Flyers hold the tiebreaker advantage, so it’s more like a two point lead.)

The Flyers didn’t get to where they are by floating through tough times, so it’s no surprise that their imposing general manager Paul Holmgren decided to hold a closed door meeting with the team. CSN Philly’s Tim Panaccio reports that players said the meeting was very business-like, although Scott Hartnell provided this amusing quip.

“Paul Holmgren can be a scary guy,” said Scott Hartnell. “Especially, when he gives you that look.”

This post’s main image provides a great example of “that look” even if it was proudly more intense since cameras weren’t focused on his face. (It’s OK if you flashed back to your worst P.E./high school sports memories because of that photo, by the way.)

Veteran defenseman Sean O’Donnell gave a more descriptive explanation of the meeting, though.

“It was productive,” Sean O’Donnell said. “Everyone wants to get on the right page. This is a game, but it is also a business. They’ve invested a lot in this team and we have a good team here.

“We have all the pieces. It’s a matter of getting everyone on the right page to go through a run here in April, May and June. It was very productive. It wasn’t bad or calling anyone out, it was, ‘guys let’s wake up here.’ ”

Obviously, being properly motivated will be important to Philadelphia’s success, so don’t be surprised if they play better hockey in the playoffs. At the same time, they cannot assume that they can take a “light switch” approach to preparing for the big games.

Then again, the most obvious way to improve is to add Chris Pronger back into the mix, though. Panaccio reports that Pronger still isn’t sure if he will be ready for the team’s first playoff game, but also seemed to be in a jovial mood today.

If opposing teams know anything, it’s that a happy Pronger often means an unhappy opponent. In a way, it’s the opposite of “that look” from Holmgren.

Fights, hits and a blown kiss: Stars and Blues get nasty

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Things were getting out of hand between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues on the scoreboard in an eventual 6-1 Blues win.

They were also getting a little raucous on the ice when it was clear that the Stars weren’t going to stage a comeback.

Jamie Benn was whistled for cross-checking Alex Pietrangelo, but it was Stephen Johns‘ hit from behind on Pietrangelo really revved up the violence.

Watch that hit and then the scrum that ensued in the video above, which included a scary display of an angry Ryan Reaves … who got creative at the end.

You may also want the kiss alone, so here it is:

Memo: rough stuff might not work so well against the Blues.

Read about that blowout here.

Blues bombard Stars, go up 2-1 in series

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Sometimes a final score is misleading. In the case of the St. Louis Blues’ 6-1 thrashing of the Dallas Stars, it might just be the start of the story.

Honestly, the most positive thing the Stars can say is “Well, at least it was just one game.”

It was one ugly game, however, and now the Blues hold a 2-1 series lead with a chance to really take control if they can win Game 4 at home.

The Blues dominated just about every category on Tuesday, firing more shots on goal, enjoying better special teams play and throwing more hits. They even blocked a higher number of shots, which often isn’t the case for the squad that carries play.

This leaves the Stars picking up the pieces, especially when it comes to their work in their own end.

Do you put greater blame on struggling goalies Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi or is this more about the Stars’ lax defensive coverage? The scary answer may be “Both,” and the Stars likely know that they need to find answers quickly.

On the bright side for Dallas, it is just one game … and the Blues were searching for answers of their own after Game 1.

We saw the Blues turn things around with these two straight wins, so now the Stars must show that they can gather themselves and play the attacking, out-score-your-mistakes style that got them here.

Granted, they may have to keep an eye out for supplemental discipline after some rough stuff toward the end of the game.

Predators smash Sharks to get back in series

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After a dispiriting 1-0 goal allowed by Pekka Rinne, things were looking bleak for the Nashville Predators for a moment there.

Nashville’s developed into a resilient group, however, and they stormed back for a commanding 4-1 win to shrink San Jose’s series advantage to 2-1.

The Predators saw some of their big names come up huge as the series shifted from San Jose to Nashville.

Pekka Rinne looked sharp following that first goal (and didn’t allow another). Their goals came from James Neal, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and captain Shea Weber.

Weber’s tally was the game-winner, and it was downright thunderous:

Another promising sign: after a struggling to a 2-for-31 clip in previous playoff games, the Predators’ power play went 2-for-5 in Game 3.

Overall, the Predators really couldn’t ask for much more from this win, especially if Colton Sissons is indeed OK after a scary crash into the Sharks’ net.

Things could get really interesting if Nashville manages to “hold serve” with another home win on Thursday.

Stars’ goalie carousel goes around again: Lehtonen replaces Niemi

Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) subs in for goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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It’s pretty tough not to make jokes about the Dallas Stars spending $10.4 million on their goalies at times like these, even if Dallas’ defense should shoulder plenty of blame.

After Kari Lehtonen was pulled from a Game 2 loss, the St. Louis Blues chased Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 after Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots.

Troy Brouwer‘s 3-1 goal was enough for Lindy Ruff to give Niemi the hook:

Unfortunately for the Stars, Lehtonen got off to a slow start as well, allowing an immediate Vladimir Tarasenko goal.

The Blues are now 4-1 and the Stars are searching for answers … and probably wishing Tyler Seguin was around to help them out-score their problems.