Throughout the month of August, PHT has been dedicating a day to each of the NHL’s 30 clubs. Today we wrap things up with the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Philadelphia Flyers had high hopes going into the 2013 campaign, but they also had some major areas of concern, the biggest of which was starting goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. His Flyers debut season in 2011-12 was plagued by inconsistency and his low points were emphasized by a wide array of unusual statements he made to the public.
It raised questions as to whether he could he adapt to life in a big hockey market and all the added pressure that comes with it. The Flyers needed him to be a major part of the team’s success given the commitment they made and in the end, he wasn’t able to come close to living up to those expectations.
That problem was magnified because the Flyers didn’t have a backup goaltender they felt comfortable with for most of the season, forcing them to continue to use Bryzgalov despite his struggles and even after fatigue set in. It wasn’t until they acquired netminder Steve Mason from the Columbus Blue Jackets on Apr. 3 that Bryzgalov’s workload lightened.
Even still Bryzgalov or the Flyers’ goaltending in general weren’t their only problems. Philadelphia suffered through defensive issues and injuries plagued them. It all cumulated in them missing the playoffs for just the second time in seven seasons and Flyers GM Paul Holmgren referring to Ilya Bryzgalov‘s nine-year, $51 million deal as “a costly mistake.”
The Flyers started the summer with some cap issues due to the falling ceiling. Fortunately the new CBA provided the Flyers with two compliance buyouts and they had an owner willing to exercise them on Bryzgalov and Daniel Briere’s contracts to free up a little over $12 million in annual cap space. They also let Mike Knuble and Simon Gagne walk as unrestricted free agents. Both of them are still unsigned and Knuble might retire at the age of 41.
Of course, Philadelphia did more than just get rid of contracts this summer. They added some major pieces and former captains in defenseman Mark Streit and forward Vincent Lecavalier. Those two signed sizable contracts that ate up most of their cap savings, but they were still able to address their goaltending needs by bringing back Ray Emery on an affordable one-year, $1.65 million contract.
As a result of their recent struggles, the Flyers had the 11th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft and they used it to select defenseman Samuel Morin.
Hitchcock believes Blues’ Allen is ‘locked up mentally’
Blues fans and management must be wondering, then: what’s wrong with their goalies, especially with Allen? Head coach Ken Hitchcock seems resigned to allowing him to fight through it, if nothing else.
“There’s a lot going on right now. … He’s kind of locked up mentally and he’s going to have to fight through this,” Hitchock said, according to Lou Korac of NHL.com. “What we see at practice, we like. That’s why we put him in quite frankly.”
Alex Pietrangelo did the typical deflecting thing, nothing that this is a “team” and that there are “no individuals.”
Still, Hitchcock’s longer press conference makes you wonder how much trust there is in Allen and Carter Hutton.
From Hitch’s perspective, it sure sounds like he believes that the Blues are over-correcting to try to limit “goals, shots.” By trying to do too much, they might be putting themselves in bad positions. And that might stem from a lack of confidence in the guys in net, or in the team’s work in their own zone overall.
Let’s be honest. As much as we can play chicken-or-the-egg as far as a defense’s impact on a goalie, it’s tough to explain away save percentages under .900 in the modern NHL. At some point, your team needs more stops.
With the races for the lower spots in the Western Conference’s playoff picture seemingly tightening up, the Blues don’t have a ton of time to figure this out.
Capitals shine glaring light on Blues’ goalie woes
It wasn’t just that the Washington Capitals bombarded the Blues by a score of 7-3. It’s that they really didn’t need to fire a whole lot of shots on goal to get to seven.
Here’s a harsh rule of thumb: when both of your goalies play in a game and each one barely makes more saves than goals allowed, that’s an awful night. Take a look at what Jake Allen and Carter Hutton went through:
Allen: six saves, four goals allowed in 25:11 time on ice
Hutton: five saves, three goals allowed in 35:49
Allen got pulled from the contest twice, by the way. He’s been pulled from four games since Dec. 30. Woof.
Even before these horrendous performances, the Blues goalies have been shaky. Hutton came into tonight with an ugly .898 save percentage; Allen wasn’t much better with a .900 mark.
Those are the type of numbers that would make Dallas Stars fans cringe, or at least experience some uncomfortable familiarity.
Now, is it all on Hutton and Allen? Much like with the Stars’ embattled goalies, much of the struggles probably come down to a team struggling in front of them.
Even so, if you assign more of the blame to Allen and Hutton, nights like this Capitals thrashing definitely strengthen your argument. Yikes.
Rangers overwhelm Leafs, make life pretty easy for Lundqvist in win
Heading into Thursday, many were wondering how the New York Rangers will handle Henrik Lundqvist‘s struggles. Instead, the focus shifted to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ difficulties, perhaps specifically in dealing with Morgan Rielly‘s absence.
The Rangers handily won this one 5-2, at least giving Lundqvist the win. He wasn’t especially busy, stopping 23 out of 25 shots, so you can probably file his story under “To be continued.”
Lundqvist wasn’t oblivious to his team’s impressive overall play.
Lundqvist: "We didn’t give up as much, and it shows how committed we need to be in our own end.”
Really, it was all about the waves of attackers the Rangers can send at opponents and the trouble that caused for the Maple Leafs. It wasn’t the easiest night for Frank Corrado, in particular, who took a couple costly penalties.
Mike Babcock: The back end was in lots of trouble tonight.
The Rangers’ next two games come in a road contest vs. the Red Wings on Sunday and a home game against the Kings on Monday. Perhaps those matches will serve as a better barometer for where Lundqvist’s really at, as he passed tonight’s test … but it wasn’t a particularly difficult one.
So, is Mike Condon actually really good? He certainly was against Columbus
Considering their numbers heading in, many were perplexed when the Ottawa Senators essentially replaced Andrew Hammond with Mike Condon. Now many are perplexed by just how strong Condon’s often been for Ottawa.
Thursday might stand as the prime example that this guy could be better than many expected.
The Columbus Blue Jackets dominated much of the play, generating a 42-28 shots on goal advantage, but Ottawa ended up winning 2-0 tonight.
Condon already came into tonight with a solid save percentage (.915 before this shutout), and he’s now won four of his last five games. Three of his four career shutouts have come this season.
Ignoring his one relief appearance with Pittsburgh this season for the sake of simplicity, just consider his tough times with Montreal last season. He went 21-25-6 with a shaky .903 save percentage.
This marks just his 21st start and 23rd appearance of this season, so it’s not a guaranteee for future results. Still … it’s another example that goalies are as just about as unpredictable as they are crucial to a team’s fate.
More and more, it seems like Condon might just be a difference-maker, and in the positive sense this time around.