And then there were five: New-look Flyers produce familiar results


During the off-season, Philadelphia Flyers GM Paul Holmgren tore apart the team’s structure in a mad rush of moves. He didn’t say the team would be better, but he said it would sure look different.

Instead, the Flyers’ 2011-12 season essentially seemed like a bizarre sequel to last season, only with a wildly different cast. Philly didn’t win the Atlantic like they did last year, but they were a formidable if flawed group nonetheless. The Flyers then overcame shoddy goaltending in the first round against Pittsburgh (much like they did in 2011 against Buffalo) only to get smacked around in the semifinals against a hated rival (this year: New Jersey in five games thanks to tonight’s 3-1 loss; last year: Boston in four).

The more things change, the more they stay the same for this fascinating Flyers franchise … but this time they probably can’t just trade their “problems” away.

What happened?

After a track meet series against the Penguins, the Flyers almost seemed bewildered by the thought of facing a more balanced and controlled opponent in the Devils. A totally flat Game 2 from Philly could have been a reality check. Instead, it was a harbinger of things to come as New Jersey essentially dominated every facet of the series.

Who takes the blame?

Everyone, maybe? Claude Giroux’s suspension hurt. Ilya Bryzgalov’s bonehead moves were brutal, but he also kept them in some games that weren’t particularly competitive. The Flyers’ defense looked porous yet the most disturbing thing for a high-powered offense for Philly was that they didn’t have much success in their strongest area.

Bryzgalov will get a lot of blame – and to some extent, rightfully so – yet it was a near-total failure. For that reason (and a virtual refusal to give solid backup Sergei Bobrovsky even a slight chance), some might actually point a finger of blame at Peter Laviolette.

I’d say make your choice.

What will they do about it?

For better or worse, the Flyers seem pretty locked-in. Sure, Holmgren isn’t shy about making bold moves, but who’s going to take Bryzgalov’s albatross contract in a trade?

The most obvious concern (in-house, at least) is bringing back Matt Carle and/or Jaromir Jagr. Then again, you never know with the Flyers; they could very well arrange things to get in on the Ryan Suter sweepstakes. For all the money they spend on their defense, they could really use a No. 1 guy with Chris Pronger possibly done for good.

Logic says the Flyers largely “are what they are.” But when has logic really factored in to this wacky and consistently entertaining franchise?


And then there were 15: Is Detroit’s dynasty on its last legs?

And then there were 14: Sharks come out flat in playoffs

And then there were 13: Powerhouse Pens fall flat

And then there were 12: Presidents’ Trophy-winning Canucks bounced in Round 1

And then there were 11: Another first-round exit for Blackhawks

And then there were 10: Bruins run out of Game 7 magic

And then there were nine: Senators out, but future’s bright

And then there were eight: Panthers go out swinging

And then there were seven: Blues swept out of Western Conference semifinal

And then there were six: So much for Nashville’s mid-season reload

Animal activists protest Ducks’ Stoner over grizzly bear hunt

Keith Fialcowitz

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — A small group of vocal protesters gathered outside Honda Center on Monday night to call for the suspension of Anaheim Ducks defenseman Clayton Stoner, who faces charges in Canada of illegally obtaining a license to shoot a grizzly bear.

While Ducks fans entered the rink for their home opener against Vancouver, about 20 protesters held signs and shouted slogans condemning Stoner. He faces five charges related to the 2013 hunt on British Columbia’s central coast.

“Killing is not a sport! Play a real sport!” the protesters shouted in unison. “Shame on the Ducks!”

Judie Mancuso, the president of Social Compassion in Legislation, compared Stoner to quarterback Michael Vick and Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer, whose killing of a beloved lion in Zimbabwe sparked an international outcry.

“The entire globe is against trophy hunting right now,” Mancuso said. “If most of these hockey fans understood that was the issue, I think most of them would be on our side.”

Wildlife groups and First Nations leaders have been outraged by Stoner’s killing of the bear, named Cheeky. Stoner defended his actions at the time when graphic photos of the kill were publicized, but he hasn’t commented recently.

The protesters were serenaded by chants of Stoner’s name by many fans, while others stopped to look at the signs. Mancuso said her group hopes to raise awareness of Stoner’s legal troubles.

“If people didn’t have outrage with the NFL, Michael Vick would have gotten away with it,” Mancuso said. “The only way that anything is going to happen is if we do this. If there’s not public outcry, nothing is going to happen, so we’ve got to try.”

Stoner grew up on Vancouver Island, but hasn’t lived in the province full-time for several years, which authorities say made him ineligible for the hunting license used to take the bear. He played for the Minnesota Wild at the time of the shooting.

Stoner faces two counts of knowingly making a false statement to obtain a hunting license and one count apiece of hunting without a license, hunting out of season and unlawful possession of dead wildlife. His case is set for Nov. 13 in Vancouver.

The 30-year-old Stoner was in the Ducks’ lineup for their home opener, and he fought Brandon Prust in the opening minutes. Stoner is beginning his sixth full NHL season and his second with Anaheim after signing a four-year, $13 million deal as a free agent before last season.

Related: Ducks d-man Stoner charged with unlawful grizzly bear hunt

NHL on NBCSN: Red Wings face Lightning in ’15 playoff rematch

Steven Stamkos, Henrik Zetterberg
AP Photo

NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2015-16 campaign tonight when the Detroit Red Wings host the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7:30 p.m. ET. You can stream the game online here.

The Lightning made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in 2015, but their journey almost ended in the first round at the hands of the Red Wings. Detroit shutout Tampa Bay twice in that series and the two squads were locked in a scoreless tie until the third period of Game 7.

Despite the fact that the Red Wings were a mere hair away from advancing instead of Tampa Bay, the Lightning are often mentioned as serious Cup contenders while Detroit is typically regarded as a good, but not amazing team. However, that gap isn’t entirely unjustified.

After all, Tampa Bay has a very effective core of forwards that features Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, and Ondrej Palat. If the highly regarded Jonathan Drouin, 20, is able to build off of his strong start to the 2015-16 campaign then the Lightning’s offense could be even more dangerous this season.

Detroit certainly has some offensive star power too in Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, but the duo is 35 and 37 years old respectively. On top of that, injuries have been a recurring issue for Datsyuk, who isn’t expected to make his season debut until November after undergoing ankle surgery.

As good as those two forwards still are, the Red Wings have to hope that their younger players will be able to lead the charge sooner rather than later. The good news is that 19-year-old Dylan Larkin‘s campaign is off to a strong start with three points in two games while 23-year-old Teemu Pulkkinen scored twice on Saturday.

The Red Wings have opened the season with back-to-back wins against Toronto and Carolina, but tonight’s game represents their biggest test to date. Meanwhile, the Lightning are similarly undefeated after three games, but this contest will be particularly trying for them given that it’s their third game in four days.