Daniel Briere, Jordan Leopold

Daniel Briere says the officiating went too far in Game 4


During last night’s heated Game 4 between Buffalo and Philadelphia, the heat that many were expecting to see between these two teams finally started to show up. You saw Ryan Miller and Dan Carcillo take pokes at each other and you also saw Flyers captain Mike Richards deliver a questionable back-elbow to the face of Patrick Kaleta.

Richards received a five-minute major for elbowing on his play and while it’s not as obvious as say Chris Kunitz’s elbow to Simon Gagne was, getting the captain sent off for five minutes grabs everyone’s attention. It certainly got the attention of Daniel Briere who is doing a daily blog at Chuck Gormley’s Flyer Files.

Briere who has been denying being a war of words with former teammate Ryan Miller, spoke out this morning on the site to say that the referees might be better off getting their act together.

Last night we felt the five-minute penalty on Mike Richards was personal more than anything and there was a lot of frustration from that. Mike wasn’t happy about the (roughing) call on (Dan) Carcillo when both Miller and (Mike) Weber were mugging him and Weber didn’t get anything. We were all furious about that call and then he turned around and gave Mike the five minutes. For the most part since I’ve been here the refs have been very good at knowing the difference between the playoffs and the regular season, but I thought last night the line was crossed by one of them.

This sort of frustration was being echoed by all the Flyers after last night’s 1-0 loss but when you see it there in cold hard print, it hammers things home a bit.

Of course we treat these things a bit cynically as we’re guessing the Flyers might be politicking for some calls to go their way. That’d be understandable if they were being shortchanged in that department but they’re not. The Sabres have had 30 penalties called against them in the playoffs, tied for most in the postseason with Anaheim. They’ve spent over 34 minutes on the penalty kill in the series.

If the Flyers power play performed better (scoring at a 9.5% rate in the playoffs, fifth worst in the postseason) they could’ve put Buffalo in a much worse spot by now but instead they’re in a fight for the series down to a best of three at this point.

If Philadelphia wants to help put the Sabres away they’re going to have to get to Ryan Miller somehow as well as get their power play clicking at a better rate. If not, games like last night’s Game 4 could happen again and when it comes down to it, you don’t want to end up in that uncomfortable position of leaving fate up to the goalies.

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock
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ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”

It looks like Havlat won’t make Panthers

Martin Havlat

As PHT’s mentioned before, the Florida Panthers stand as a fascinating contrast between youth and experience.

Let’s not kid ourselves, though; fresh faces usually beat out gray beards, at least when it comes to teams that are still trying to build toward contender status.

While it’s by no means official, two Panthers beat writers – the Miami Herald’s George Richards and the Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Harvey Fialkov – report that the Panthers are likely to pass on Martin Havlat.

It wasn’t just about the likes of Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad leading the charge. Other young Panthers (maybe most notably Quinton Howden and Connor Brickley) made the team, thus making Havlat less necessary.

One would assume that it might be tough for the 34-year-old to find work, at least if he insists upon only an NHL deal.

Health issues continue to dog him, but he’s no longer one of those guys who tantalizes with talent when he is healthy enough to play.

Havlat also doesn’t really bring much to the table defensively. While other veterans can kill penalties and show a little more verstaility, Havlat’s greatest selling point is scoring.

Could this be it for a solid career that may nonetheless end with a “What if?” or two?