Should Bobrovsky get the Winter Classic start over Bryzgalov?

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Take the Philadelphia media, add the spectacle of the Winter Classic, and mix in a potential goaltending controversy. Talk about a recipe for some high-profile speculation.

This time, it’s the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi that is wondering aloud about the Flyers’ growing dilemma between the pipes. He points out that Sergei Bobrovsky has been a dominant netminder over his last eight appearances—and he’s right. Over the same small sample size, the high-paid, high-profile Ilya Bryzgalov has been, shall we say, “less dominant.”

So what is Peter Laviolette to do with the Winter Classic on the horizon? Should he ride the hot hand going into an important divisional game against the New York Rangers? Or should he put in the well compensated goaltender who will be Philadelphia for the better part of the next decade? Funny how a nine-year contract can make decisions a little more complicated.

Carchidi goes on to say that benching the struggling Bryzgalov would “risk diluting Bryzgalov’s already-low confidence level.” Is that reason enough to put faith in Bryzgalov when the sport’s brightest regular season spotlight is shining on the team on Monday?

No one has ever said that playing between the pipes in Philadelphia is an easy job. Former Flyers’ (and Rangers’) netminder John Vanbiesbrouck has been through the grinder in some of the biggest hockey markets and explains how difficult the mental side of the game can be for a goaltender.

“Nobody knows what’s going on in another person’s insides.” Vanbiesbrouck told CSNPhilly.com. “I didn’t even know [Bryzgalov] was struggling until you just asked me about this. But the pressure he is putting on himself to not only perform but to analyze his performance, he is going to be his own worst enemy for a while. And he’s got to go through it until he realizes he is not here to impress everybody during practice, in the press and in management, trying to be Superman.”

Or Master of the Universe in Bryzgalov’s case.

Laviolette had an opportunity to squash any speculation after the Flyers’ 4-2 victory on Thursday night. Instead, he chose to sidestep the question and we’ll have a few days of speculation while the Flyers try to figure out who will get the nod in net.

In the spirit of playing armchair GM/coach, who do you think should get the start in the Winter Classic? Has the surging Bobrovsky earned the start or is it more important to the Flyers’ long-term success this season to put Bryzgalov in net? The comment section awaits…

Rangers punch playoff ticket to wrap up night of clinched spots

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The New York Rangers weren’t ecstatic that Chris Tierney‘s 4-4 goal sent their game to overtime against the San Jose Sharks, but either way, getting beyond regulation punched their ticket to the playoffs on Tuesday night.

For the seventh season in a row, the Rangers are in the NHL’s postseason. They fell to the Sharks 5-4 in overtime, so they haven’t locked down the first wild-card spot in the East … yet. It seems like a matter of time, however.

The Rangers have now made the playoffs in 11 of their last 12 tries, a far cry from the barren stretch where the Rangers failed to make the playoffs from 1997-98 through 2003-04 (with the lockout season punctuating the end of that incompetent era).

New York has pivoted from the John Tortorella days to the Vigneault era, and this season has been especially interesting as they reacted to a 2016 first-round loss to the Penguins by instituting a more attacking style. The Metropolitan Division’s greatness has overshadowed, to some extent, how dramatic the improvement has been.

This result seems like a tidy way to discuss Tuesday’s other events.

The drama ends up being low for the Rangers going forward, and while there might be a shortage of life-or-death playoff struggles, the battles for seeding look to be fierce.

Oilers end NHL’s longest playoff drought; Sharks, Ducks also clinch

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There’s something beautiful about the symmetry on Tuesday … unless you’re a Detroit Red Wings fans, maybe.

On the same night that the longest active NHL playoff streak ended at 25 for Detroit, the longest playoff drought concluded when the Edmonton Oilers clinched a postseason spot by beating the Los Angeles Kings 2-1.

The Oilers haven’t reached the playoffs since 2005-06, when Chris Pronger lifted them to Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.

In doing so, other dominoes fell. Both the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks also punched their tickets to the postseason.

The Sharks, of course, hope to exceed last season’s surprising run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

Meanwhile, the Anaheim Ducks continue their run of strong postseasons, even as their Cup win fades to the background ever so slightly. All three teams are currently vying for the Pacific Division title.

The Western Conference’s eight teams are dangerously close to being locked into place, as the Nashville Predators, Calgary Flames and St. Louis Blues are all close to looking down their spots as well.

Want the East perspective? Check out this summary of Tuesday’s events from the perspective of the other conference.

Craig Anderson took his blunder hard – probably too hard – in Sens loss

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Members of the Ottawa Senators were quick to come to Craig Anderson‘s blunder (see above) in Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, and it’s easy to see why.

It’s not just about his personal struggles, either. When Anderson’s managed to play, he’s been flat-out phenomenal, generating a .927 save percentage that ranks near a Vezina-type level (if he managed to play more than 35 games).

Goaltending has been a huge reason why Ottawa has at least a shot of winning the Atlantic or at least grabbing a round of home-ice advantage, so unlike certain instances where teams shield a goalie’s failures, the defenses are absolutely justified.

Anderson, on the other hand, was very hard on himself.

You have to admire Anderson for taking the blame, even if in very much “hockey player” fashion, he’s not exactly demanding the same sort of credit for his great work this season.

It’s official: Red Wings’ playoff streak ends at 25 seasons

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When we look back at the 2016-17 season for the Detroit Red Wings, it will be remembered for some said endings.

It began without Pavel Datsyuk. We knew that their last game at Joe Louis Arena this season would be their last ever. And now we know that Joe Louis Arena won’t be home to another playoff run.

After 25 straight seasons of making the playoffs – quite often managing deep runs – the Red Wings were officially eliminated on Tuesday night. In getting this far, they enjoyed one of the greatest runs of longevity in NHL history:

Tonight revolves largely around East teams winning and teams clinching bids – the Edmonton Oilers could very well end the league’s longest playoff drought this evening – but this story is more solemn.

EA Sports tweeted out a great infographic:

“Right now it’s hard to talk about it, because you’re a big reason why it’s not continuing,” Henrik Zetterberg said in an NHL.com report absolutely worth your time.

Mike “Doc” Emrick narrated a great look back at Joe Louis Arena here: