Author: Matt Reitz

Ilya Bryzgalov, Nathan Horton

Should Bobrovsky get the Winter Classic start over Bryzgalov?


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 “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…

Caps will have to wait until next year for talented Kuznetsov


It looks like the Caps have yet another supremely skilled Russian forward on the way—just not this season. After watching Russian captain Evgeny Kuznetsov put up nine points in a single game last night against Lativa in the World Junior Championships, fans in Washington may have had visions of the Capitals adding another potent scorer to the mix at the end of the season. But those dreams will have to wait a few more months.

“He’s ready to play here and he needs to play in a better league,” Washington GM George McPhee said about Kuznetsov. “When you’re not playing at the highest level you can develop some bad habits and you don’t want that stuff to become engrained, so we want to get him in the best league he can and work with him.”

Unfortunately, because of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Kuznetsov cannot come over and play in North America after his KHL season concludes. Fans will have to wait the beginning of next season before they get to see the talented prospect rock a different shade of red.

Despite the wait, McPhee said that Kuznetsov looks like he’s ready for the NHL and will get every opportunity to make the Capitals roster next season. He acknowledged that the team hasn’t started negotiations with Kuznetsov’s agent for an entry-level deal; but added that it was nothing out of the ordinary. He also added that he likes to leave players alone during the WJC tournament, but plans on working on a deal to bring the skilled forward to North America for next season.

Not a bad prospect for the 26th pick in the 2010 Entry Draft, eh?

Duchene out for at least a month with knee injury

Winnipeg Jets v Colorado Avalanche
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We finally have an update on the knee injury that caused Matt Duchene to leave last night’s game against Phoenix in the first period. After undergoing an MRI today, the Avalanche have announced that the young star will miss at least a month with an injury to his right knee. All the sudden, last night’s 3-2 victory against the Coyotes seems like a cheap parting gift in comparison to the long-term implications of Duchene’s injury.

The news comes at a critical time for the Avalanche. Despite winning six of their last seven games, the Avalanche are still sitting in the 10th spot in the Western Conference with a couple of teams breathing down their neck. They obviously need to keep their foot on the pedal to stay in the mix for one of the last playoff spots in the West. A month-long dry spell in the win column would doom any team competing for the playoffs.

Unfortunately for Colorado, Duchene is one of the players they can least afford to lose. The 20-year-old center is leading the Avalanche in goals (12) and he’s second on the team in scoring. Losing one of their best scorers has to be one of the worst things for the team that is 24th in the league in scoring.

Now it’s time for guys like Paul Stastny and Milan Hejduk to pick up the slack as the Avs try to keep their head above water to start the New Year.

Video: Versteeg helps Mike Weaver celebrate new contract

Mike Weaver
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We here at PHT would like to wish Florida Panthers defenseman Mike Weaver a hearty congratulations for his new two-year contract worth $1.1 million per season. It’s a good deal for the Panthers who were able to lock-up a 20 minute per game defenseman for a low cap hit. From the player’s perspective, the deal offers a little more security for a guy that has bounced between four teams over the course of his decade long NHL career. It’s a win-win deal that pulls another potential free agent off the market this summer.

Good thing Weaver earned a new contract to keep a smile on his face, because Kris Versteeg helped him “celebrate” the occasion during a pregame interview. The ol’ shaving cream in the face gag never gets old. When was the last season that we saw the Florida Panthers having this much fun after almost 40 games?

Obvious guy says: Winning is fun.

Dustin Brown: “It’s time for guys to wake up”

Montreal Canadiens v Los Angeles Kings

What does rock bottom look like? There’s no surefire way to figure out when a team reaches the low point in their season, but the Kings’ 8-2 defeat in Detroit on Saturday night certainly looked like the worst performance of their underwhelming season. They can only hope that it doesn’t get any worse.

It was yet another slow start for a team that has made it a habit to fall behind early and try to play catch up over the final two periods. Saturday night the Kings took it to a new level. They were outscored 4-1 in the first period in Detroit, and then they were outscored 4-1 over the final forty minutes. It’s not the first time a team has lost in Detroit – it’s the tenth straight win at home for the Red Wings – but it may have been the ugliest.

Here’s a newsflash: lame duck coaches may not be the greatest idea for a team that desperately needs to collect every point they can.

Kings have now lost six out of their last seven games and haven’t scored more than two goals since they scored three goals against St. Louis on November 22. That would be 11 games in a row for those who like keeping track of that kind of thing. Finally, after weeks of struggling, someone besides GM Dean Lombardi said something.

After the game, Kings captain Dustin Brown had some choice words for his teammates. “We got our (butts) kicked,” the usually quiet captain said. “It’s time for guys to wake up. That’s pretty much it, really. Guys have to wake up and take responsibility.’’

After the loss in Detroit, the Kings are sitting in 11th place in the Western Conference. Even more concerning, the team with lofty preseason expectations is the lowest scoring team in the entire league. People pointed towards Terry Murray’s system, but it may be more about the lack of effort from the guys on the Kings roster.

“We’ve got to find ways to be a lot better than we were tonight,” Brown told the media after the game. “With everything that’s gone on, guys have got to take responsibility in here because it doesn’t matter whether Stevens is our coach or whoever they’re bringing in. It doesn’t make a difference who the coach is. It’s going to be the players that play the games, and it’s going to be the players that need to take responsibility.”

So much for being the strong, silent type.

The Kings still have one more game to play under John Stevens (Monday in Toronto) before Darryl Sutter takes over the reins next week. Of course, fans in southern California will hope that they can turn around the scoring woes. But more importantly, they should hope that Sutter can turn things around in the motivation department.

If the team continues to sleepwalk through the year, Terry Murray won’t be the only one that loses his job this season.