Brian Boucher

Five Thoughts: Flyers goaltending not all to blame for bad goals

Yesterday’s games in Philadelphia and Vancouver certainly gave us enough of a rainbow of both how to and how not to handle a playoff game. In Philadelphia old demons that never really went away resurfaced all in one bad afternoon. Meanwhile in Vancouver, teams traded blows in a defensive showdown that needed two overtimes to settle things out. With such a smorgasbord of action there’s plenty to discuss this morning.

1. Everyone’s busy talking about how the Flyers goaltending problems are once again in vogue and that’s understandable. After all, a team loses 7-3 and sees them make a goaltending change again in the playoffs mid-game, there’s clearly an issue there. In Philly, Brian Boucher just did not get things done  and Sergei Bobrovsky didn’t fare much better in relief. Those guys are worth of criticism and that’s fine.

What’s not getting scrutinized enough from yesterday’s game are the failings of the Flyers defense. For the entire game their defensemen were busy trying to keep up with the constant motion of Boston’s forwards and they seem shocked by how often Bruins defensemen jumped into the play to mix things up offensively. Flyers defensemen were chasing players all over and getting confused or lost on their assignments leaving Bruins forwards all the room around the net to make plays or pounce on rebounds untouched. If the defensemen had problems keeping up, the Flyers lines had a hard time matching up with the Bruins top line as Nathan Horton and David Krejci dominated whoever lined up across from them.

From Peter Laviolette on down to the players, they had no answers for Boston. They’ll need to fix things defensively fast or else things are going to head south quickly. They need to straighten up their assignments and play things a lot tougher and a lot tighter on top of it all.

2. The scary part of what Boston did was that they saw a breakout game from David Krejci. Krejci ascended to the role of #1 center after Marc Savard was knocked out for the season. Since then Krejci has had some injuries and he’s been very inconsistent. In the playoffs, however, he’s turned back into the playmaking type center they knew he could be. Getting two goals and two assists in yesterday’s rout could be a sign of great things for the Bruins as a healthy and motivated Krejci on the top line to help get Horton free and perhaps even wake up Milan Lucic would be huge in helping them go even deeper in the playoffs. Asking Krejci to be the new Savard is asking too much of him, but having him be the best he can be is all the Bruins really need now.

3. What’s all the more amazing about the Bruins doing as well as they are is that their power play continues to stink out loud. They’re now 0-26 in the playoffs with the man advantage and by all appearances not getting any better at all. Even in a game where they gave up seven goals, none of them came on the power play. That’s wretched. The Bruins are rolling on borrowed time as far as this stat is concerned. They’ll run into someone capable of edging them out consistently and those opportunities where they’re not scoring with the extra man will haunt them. Claude Julien says they’re working things out but the most immediate change they can make for the better is to put a shock collar on Tomas Kaberle and whenever he doesn’t shoot he gets a jolt.

4. If you needed an exercise in how to play goalie in the NHL look no further than Game 2 between Vancouver and Nashville. Pekka Rinne got the win stopping just 32 shots through nearly five full periods, but it was his stops in the two overtimes that made his night look spectacular in leading the Predators to a 2-1 double OT victory. Roberto Luongo too was fantastic in defeat stopping more than 40 shots on goal. With both guys being Vezina Trophy finalists it’s thrilling to see both of them living up to the designation against each other.

5. One area of major concern for the Canucks, however, has to be their offense. With just two goals against Nashville in two games and the biggest of the big names not showing up yet, there’s reason for the Canucks to be nervous. If Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, and Ryan Kesler don’t start finding their way to the score sheet more often, things are going to get ugly in Vancouver. With Nashville not making life any easier on those players, it’s up to them, the Sedins in particular, to play like MVPs and lead the charge. Easier said than done we know, but if they really want to impress us, lighting it up in the playoffs would do the trick.

Some tough decisions await the Blues

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Yet again, the St. Louis Blues failed to achieve their ultimate goal.

And boy does it hurt right now.

“We’re all hurting,” coach Ken Hitchcock said last night after getting eliminated by the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final.

“You don’t want this to be our best opportunity. You want this to be a building block. In this game, in this era, in this cap world, you don’t know where you’re going to be a year from now.”

Indeed, GM Doug Armstrong has some tough decisions to make this offseason.

At the top of the list is whether to bring Hitchcock back. Yes, the Blues did better than 26 other teams, and yes, they finally got past the first round. Still, there are people who believe this will be it for the head coach, that a new voice could help. Overall, Hitchcock has done a great job in St. Louis. But then, so did Todd McLellan in San Jose. Sometimes, change can be good.

Then there are the unrestricted free agents. Both captain David Backes and winger Troy Brouwer need new contracts. The former is 32, the latter 30. The former had seven goals in the playoffs, the latter eight. How much money will they want? How much term? The second question might be the most important.

On the back end, it’s Kevin Shattenkirk that will garner the most attention. He’s signed through next season before he can become an unrestricted free agent. Just 27 years old, and considering the demand for what he does, he’ll be very expensive to keep. And with the emergence of Colton Parayko, trading Shattenkirk could probably be justified, especially if the return is good. A team like the Boston Bruins might be willing to pay up.

Right now, the pain is still fresh for the Blues.

“It’s so hard to win in the league right now,” said Hitchcock. “It’s so hard to win a series. So hard to just get in the playoffs. When you get this far, you get this close, you think you got the opportunity.”

The challenge for Armstrong will be to give his team another opportunity next season. And with the draft less than a month away, all these tough decisions will need to be made very soon.

Goals of the Week get tougher as Cup Final approaches

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The Stanley Cup Final is almost upon us and picking the very best Goals of the Week is a tough task. See how we did on this edition!

Just for Men: Mike Commodore

RALEIGH, NC - JUNE 14:  Mike Commodore #22 of the Carolina Hurricanes warms up before game five of the 2006 NHL Stanley Cup Finals against the Edmonton Oilers on June 14, 2006 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Maybe one would argue that time hasn’t been kind to the 2006 Stanley Cup-winning Carolina Hurricanes (at least compared to the pedigree of other winners), but Mike Commodore’s incredible red afro and beard rank as one of hockey’s most timeless combinations.

Seriously, just take a step back from your monitor* and bask in the splendor of that carrot-topped Commodore.

Even then-President George W. Bush remarked on Commodore’s bushy hair and beard (or its tragic absence) when the Canes visited the White House:

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. Have a seat. It’s a pretty big deal for a guy that doesn’t know how to ice skate — (laughter) — to welcome the Carolina Hurricanes to the White House. We appreciate you coming. You know, I’m not sure what is prettier, the Stanley Cup, or Mike Commodore’s hair. (Laughter.) A little disappointed you got a haircut. (Laughter.) But, welcome.

Good stuff.

And it really is kind of disappointing any time you see Commodore relatively clean-shaven. It’s like Superman without a big “S” on his chest or Metallica with short hair or any number of not-quite-right sights.

* – If you’re doing the Rumsfeld-style “standing at your desk” thing then … kneel for a second maybe?

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

Stanley Cup
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There’s nothing better than a Game 7, especially when a spot in the Stanley Cup Final is up for grabs. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins will battle in a do-or-die game for the right to play the San Jose Sharks with Lord Stanley on the line. You can watch the game via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh (8:00 p.m. ET)

The television broadcast of Game 7 will be on NBCSN. To stream the game using the Live Extra app, click here.

Here’s some reading material to get you ready for this one:

Penguins, Lightning prepare for ‘roller coaster’ Game 7

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal