No Real Goalie Controversy Brewing In Philadelphia

The goaltender. A position that has plagued the Philadelphia Flyers ever since Rox Hextall parted ways with the City of Brotherly Love.

Bryzgalov came to the Flyers with hefty expectations. (Photo credit: Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images North America)

Year in and year out it seems as if the Flyers are continually pegged as the team dealing with a goaltender controversy, as if bad blood is coursing through the lockeroom between the men wearing the pillows on their legs. Below is a list of the goaltenders in the Flyers franchise since the 2000 season. For a majority of these seasons, the high-profile goalie split a lot of time with his counterpart. If anything, it just seems to be the way that Philadelphia does things. If you wanna call it a “controversy” then by all means go ahead and call Ilya Bryzgalov/Sergei Bobrovsky splitting time a controversy. I don’t see it as one.
2000-01 GP MIN W L T GA SO GAA SA Sv%
Roman Cechmanek 59 3431 35 15 6 115 10 2,01 1464 ,921
Brian Boucher 27 1470 8 12 5 80 1 3,27 644 ,876
Maxime Ouellet 2 76 0 1 0 3 0 2,37 27 ,889
TOTAL (9) 82 4977 43 28 11 207 11 2,50 2144 ,903
2001-02 GP MIN W L T GA SO GAA SA Sv%
Roman Cechmanek 45 2603 24 13 6 89 4 2,05 1131 ,921
Brian Boucher 41 2295 18 16 4 92 2 2,41 972 ,905
Neil Little 1 60 0 1 0 4 0 4,00 29 ,862
TOTAL (7) 82 4958 42 30 10 192 6 2,32 2139 ,910
2002-03 GP MIN W L T GA SO GAA SA Sv%
Roman Cechmanek 58 3350 33 15 10 102 6 1,83 1368 ,925
Robert Esche 30 1638 12 9 3 60 2 2,20 647 ,907
TOTAL (4) 82 4988 45 24 13 166 8 2,00 2019 ,918
2003-04 GP MIN W L T GA SO GAA SA Sv%
Robert Esche 40 2322 21 11 7 79 3 2,04 932 ,915
Jeff Hackett 27 1630 10 10 6 65 3 2,39 684 ,905
Sean Burke 15 825 6 5 2 35 1 2,55 389 ,910
Antero Niittymaki 3 180 3 0 0 3 0 1,00 77 ,961
Neil Little 1 33 0 1 0 2 0 3,64 8 ,750
TOTAL (2) 82 4990 40 27 15 186 7 2,24 2092 ,911
2005-06 GP MIN W L T GA SO GAA SA Sv%
Antero Niittymaki 46 2690 23 15 6 133 2 2,97 1266 ,895
Robert Esche 40 2286 22 11 5 113 1 2,97 1099 ,897
TOTAL (13) 82 4976 45 26 11 259 3 3,12 2391 ,892
2006-07 GP MIN W L T GA SO GAA SA Sv%
Robert Esche 18 860 5 9 1 62 1 4,33 483 ,872
Antero Niittymaki 52 2943 9 29 9 166 0 3,38 1567 ,894
Martin Biron 16 935 6 8 2 47 0 3,02 509 ,908
Michael Leighton 4 195 2 2 0 12 0 3,69 102 ,882
Martin Houle 1 2 0 0 0 1 0 30,00 3 ,667
TOTAL (15) 82 4935 22 48 12 303 1 3,68 2679 ,887
2007-08 GP MIN W L T GA SO GAA SA Sv%
Martin Biron 62 3539 30 20 9 153 5 2,59 1865 ,918
Antero Niittymaki 28 1424 12 9 2 69 1 2,91 739 ,907
TOTAL (5) 82 4963 42 29 11 227 6 2,74 2609 ,913
2008-09    GP     MIN    W      L    T       GA   SO   AVG       SH Sv%
Martin Biron 55 3177 29 19 5 146 2 2,76 1718 ,915
Antero Niittymaki 32 1805 15 8 6 83 1 2,76 947 ,912
TOTAL (9) 82 4982 44 27 11 238 3 2,87 2674 ,911
2009-10 GP Min W L OTL GA SO GAA SA Sv%
Mike Leighton 27 1449 16 5 2 60 1 2,48 735 ,918
Ray Emery 29 1684 16 11 1 74 3 2,64 783 ,905
Brian Boucher 33 1742 9 18 3 80 1 2,76 796 ,899
Johan Backlund 1 40 0 1 0 2 0 3,00 24 ,917
Jeremy Duchesne 1 17 0 0 0 1 0 3,53 4 ,750
TOTAL (5) 82 4932 41 35 6 222 5 2,70 2347 ,905
2010-11 GP Min W L OTL GA SO GAA SA Sv%
Michael Leighton 1 59 1 0 0 4 0 4,07 36 ,889
Brian Boucher 34 1884 18 10 4 76 0 2,42 902 ,916
Sergei Bobrovsky 54 3017 28 13 8 130 0 2,59 1527 ,915
TOTAL (13) 82 4960 47 23 12 223 0 2,70 2478 ,910

Since Bryzgalov entered the Flyers organization, he has caught a lot of heat from the media and the fans. There are two main reasons as to why Bryzgalov has such a love/hate relationship with the fans of Philly.

In an effort to make room for Bryzgalov, the Flyers parted ways with their captain, Mike Richards and a consistent 40-goal scorer, Jeff Carter. With the open cap space, Bryzgalov received a heavy 9-yr/51 million dollar contract. With that type of money sitting in his pocket, the fans and the media wanted results, and they wanted them fast. Philadelphia cares about one thing: results. If they are not seeing those results whether it be on the ice, the field, the hardwood or the diamond, the fans want blood.

Bryzgalov hasn’t been all bad. Of course there was going to be an adjustment period that he would have to go through in the beginning. He has had moments where he was hot, and then he had his moments where he was certainly cold. It is going to happen from time to time. The problem people are having with Bryzgalov is his inconsistent play. One night Bryzgalov can swallow 30 shots and shutout the opposing team. The next night he is unable to control a rebound and before you know it the score is 4-0. If Bryzgalov wants to have a long run in Philadelphia, he is going to have to put his game as his first priority. Don’t think that just because Bryzgalov signed a long-term deal that Paul Holmgren won’t shop him around. Both Richards and Carter had long term deals signed very recently before the plug was pulled on them.

Bryzgalov also did himself no justice with the HBO crew during the filming of 24/7 Road to the NHL Winter Classic. Instead of focusing on his game, Bryzgalov seemed preoccupied to find the next funny quip to say. His game suffered during the time that the cameras surrounded the team, and one can only guess it was due to cameras being around them all the time.

So what do you do when your number one goalie isn’t living up to the hype? You look towards your backup, who could easily be the starter for the Flyers on a consistent basis. If Bryzgalov isn’t careful, he may lose the starting job permanently.

Bobrovsky has been a luxury to have as a backup this year. (Photo credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images North America)

Bobrovsky has been stellar since joining the Flyers, and is one of the top backups in the league, trailing only Tukka Rask of the Boston Bruins. An undrafted payer, Bobrovsky came over to the Flyers in May of 2010 on a three-year entry level tryout. He was supposed to go to Phantoms, but was so highly skilled that the Flyers kept him up with the professional club. I guess you can say the rest is history.

Bobrovsky is young and skilled and has shown that he can step into the bright lights and make the most of a situation. The Russian goaltender currently sits with a record of 10-3-1 with a GAA of 2.42. Bryzgalov on the other hand is 16-9-3 with a 3.07 GAA. It is a no-brainer to go with the hot hand. Bobrovsky has also played in many big games, picking up wins against teams such as the New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes, Pittsburgh Penguins, Dallas Stars, Montreal Canadians, Toronto Maple Leafs and the Ottawa Senators.

When Bryzgalov has been unfit to go, Bobrovsky has stepped in and made it count. You never once saw Bob on the cameras of the HBO show, and it seemed he was ready to go in net whenever he was called upon. That type of mentality could change him from the backup to the starter permanently in any organization.

I don’t see a goalie controversy in all this mess because the two should use all their skills to be feeding off one another. For the time, Bryzgalov should be trying his best in practice day in and day out to try to win back his starting spot for the long-term. Bobrovsky on the other hand should be going hard every practice and every game, doing whatever he can in his power to keep himself pegged as the number one goalie. There’s no goalie controversy here, just strong competition. The only reason that a controversy was brought up was when Bryzgalov decided to speak to the media. His words made the media assume there was a rift between the two goalies. However, both goalies are very good friends. Bryzgalov constantly roots on Bobrovsky and they support each other through it all. So let’s throw out that word “controversy” this season.

If Bryzgalov wants his job back he is going to have to show Head Coach Peter Laviolette that he can be great, not good. If Bobrovsky wants to stay in the limelight, he will have to continue to do what he has been doing of late; stopping pucks, swallowing rebounds, coming up big and winning games.

Bryzgalov has been given the start tonight against the Nashville Predators after sitting for two games. Could this be the start of the turnaround for Bryzgalov, or will his inconsistencies rear their ugly head again?

So in the wake of all this news, I ask you, “Controversy? What controversy?”

JVR out indefinitely: It seems that for at the time Flyers fans can dismiss all the trade rumors surrounding James van Riemsdyk and Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Luke Schenn. It has been announced today that JVR is out indefinitely with a concussion. The incident is assumed to have occurred three games ago when JVR took an elbow from the Senators Bobby Butler. JVR played a little over 10 minutes in a win 3-2 win over the Islanders on Jan 12.

Sam Carchidi reports that JVR is the fifth Flyer to be diagnosed with a concussion. The others include Chris Pronger, Matt Read, Brayden Schenn and Claude Giroux.


NHLPA Shuts Down Realignment Plan

Remembering that whole NHL realignment idea that was pretty much set in stone for next season? Well we can pretty much forget that plan now after the National Hockey League Players Assosciation rejected the plan, seemingly putting a stop to the proposed setup all together.

This is the statement released by the NHL:

The National Hockey League announced today that it will not move forward with implementation of the realignment plan and modified playoff format recently approved by the NHL Board of Governors for the 2012-13 NHL season because the NHLPA has refused to provide its consent.

“It is unfortunate that the NHLPA has unreasonably refused to approve a plan that an overwhelming majority of our clubs voted to support, and that has received such widespread support from our fans and other members of the hockey community, including players,” said NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly.  “We have now spent the better part of four weeks attempting to satisfy the NHLPA’s purported concerns with the plan with no success.  Because we have already been forced to delay, and as a result are already late in beginning the process of preparing next season’s schedule, we have no choice but to abandon our intention to implement the realignment plan and modified playoff format for next season.”

“We believe the union acted unreasonably in violation of the league’s rights.  We intend to evaluate all of our available legal options and to pursue adequate remedies, as appropriate.”

As a result of the league’s decision today, the NHL will maintain its current alignment and playoff format for the 2012-13 season.

The NHLPA cited that because they weren’t part of the creation process, they would not agree to such a radical idea.

Greg Wyshynski also listed these reasons as to why the players assosciation did not agree on the plan:

• The unbalanced conference format, with two divisions of eight teams and two divisions of seven teams. Combined with the return to a four-team “divisional” playoff format, the players felt there was an unfair advantage to teams in the smaller conferences.

• The NHL trumpeted reduced travel for teams; for example, the Detroit Red Wings would only have to make one long swing to California and to Western Canada each season instead of multiple trips.

What the NHLPA wanted: Specific data on what the schedule would look like under this plan, to better understand duration of road trips, for example. What the NHL provided, according to a source with knowledge of the talks: Mileage charts per teams and other formulas. The NHLPA was not pleased.

• Basically, the NHLPA felt that this realignment plan was created by and for the owners, and not in the best interests of the players. And when they reached out to attempt to reshape the plan to better serve their interests, that input was rejected, according to one source.

So what does this all boil down too? It seems as if the NHL could be headed towards another lockout, which is the absolute worst thing the league can afford to go through. If there was anything to learn from the NBA lockout, it is that it does nothing for the image of the league as a whole. The league already went through one lockout not to long ago. The lockout hurt them once. Why would they start to move back in that direction again? I understand the players assosciation does not want to be pushed around and that is all well and good; however, I did not think that this realignment plan was specifically doing that.

I can also understand the players wanting to be a part of the creation process for the realignment. Maybe their disapproval is nothing more then a statement that lets the owners know that they are not fooling around. I am sure the last thing anyone wants is for another lockout to occur in this great sport, so the owners and the players are going to have to come together while there is still plenty of time to hammer out the details TOGETHER to end this once and for all, and formulate the new CBA for the sake of the passionate hockey fans.



Flyers Winning At Any Cost Necessary

Beauty and the Beast.

In my opinion, thats the most accurate way to describe the Flyers season so far this year. At times, it has been ugly. REAL UGLY. Other times though, it seems as if nothing can go wrong, as if every pass meets the tape of the stick and every shot finds its way on net. Ah, those are the games that we could all watch forever.

Briere's performance on the ice against the Senators helped them skate away with a victory. (Photo credit: Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

Unfortunately, this is hockey, and not all games can be played with pure excellence. There are situations which cannot be controlled, and details that are left out of the equation.

With all the anticipation being built up for the Winter Classic, it was merely nothing more than two points towards the standings. Maybe it was the HBO cameras around 24/7 or what, but the Flyers looked out of synch leading up to the Classic. With the camera crew’s departure, the Flyers have been able to screw their heads back on tight and focus on the most important aspect of hockey: winning.

The Flyers took on and took out the hottest team in the West, the Chicago Blackhawks, 5-4 on Wednesday. This game saw the reemergence of James VanRiemsydk, who has had a less productive season so far compared to years past. JVR has been catching major flack from Flyers fans for his lack of contribution to the team, but he has been battling injuries all season which he did not openly disclose until recently. JVR has 11 goals and 10 assists so far, and could easily turn up the heat on his game if the game against the Hawks created the spark he needed to step out of his offensive funk.

This afternoon the Flyers, or should I say Danny Briere, took on the Ottawa Senators. Briere recorded a hat-trick in the 3-2 victory. On top of his three points, he also recorded five penalty minutes for dropping the gloves against Kyle Turris. This was Briere’s third fight of his career, and he surprisingly held his own against the taller Turris.

Briere’s third goal came in overtime, where with five seconds remaining, he found the back of the net after an assist from Jake Voracek.

Briere is another member of the Flyers who has been criticized this season for his unusual numbers. He currently has 13 goals and 15 assists, but he seems invisible at times on the ice. Maybe it was the departure of the Ville Leino/Scott Hartnell line from last season that is slowing Briere down a bit, but he, like JVR has the ability to turn his game around in a flash.

Goaltending issues and a lack of defensive depth have been things that have plagued the Flyers all season. Ilya Bryzgalov came to the Flyers with high expectations which he is currently not living up to. He has found himself on the bench more than I imagine he would want. Bryz’s stats have been average all year and has struggled at times to find his game. He has certainly hit a hot streak in the past, but almost ritually follows it up with an even longer cold streak.

Sergei Bobrovsky has been a nice number two option coming off the bench, however. After a strong showing in Pittsburgh, Bob was given the start in the Winter Classic over Bryz. The loss to the Rangers under the bright lights of Citizen Bank Park wasn’t ideal, but Bob still played a very strong game considering the situation. He is 8-3-1 this season with a GAA 2.56.

Right now, it doesn’t matter how the Flyers are getting done. They are going out and winning the games that they need to win. They sit second in the Atlantic Division and fourth in the East. The Rangers currently hold the top spot in the East with a four point lead over the Flyers. If the Flyers can continue to work through the struggles and put together a winning effort on the ice, they could find themselves in good shape come playoff time.

Milan Michalek Most Recent Star To Be Hit By Injury Bug

Sidney Crosby, Claude Giroux, Chris Pronger, Jeff Skinner and Joni Pitkanen all found themselves on the injured reserve list this season. Now leading goal scorer Milan Michalek will be sidelined indefinitely after sustaining a concussion.

The NHL’s top stars have recently found themselves in a rash of injuries, unable to escape the dreaded bug. After a year-long hiatus, Crosby returned to the ice to compete in 11 games before finding himself back on the shelf indefinitely after receiving a few hits. Though he faced no devastatingly hard hits, it was enough to evoke more of his post concussion syndrome symptoms.

Giroux, who leads the NHL in points with 39, also finds himself out indefinitely after sustaining a concussion. Giroux took a knee to the back of the head from his teammate, Wayne Simmonds. Giroux immediately skated to the bench after he got up and never returned. It was originally reported by Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren that he was suffering from “whiplash like” symptoms, but was later updated to a concussion. Not wanting to take a risk on their star center, the Flyers have currently decided to shut him down indefinitely.

Staying with the Flyers, their captain, Chris Pronger is also out with a knee injury and concussion-like symptoms. Pronger, who had offseason knee surgery is facing a smaller flare up. Pronger has also been shut down indefinitely after Holmgren announced he to was facing concussion symptoms. Pronger’s is in jeopardy of missing the whole season.

Skinner and Pitkanen have also been diagnosed concussion like symptoms which will most likely sideline them for a prolonged period of time.

The most recent addition to the list is Michalek who leads the NHL in goals with 19. Even though the concussion isn’t supposed to sideline him for the whole season, concussions are tricky, and can cause more problems down the line. Post concussion syndrome is also a harsh reality that Michalek may face in the future.

One thing is for sure though. The NHL must be grimacing as all their top stars slowly start to fall one by one to concussions. If this isn’t a wakeup call for commissioner Gary Bettman to do something about a variation of equipment, who knows what will be. Yes, the players safety have increased this past season with Brendan Shanahan at the helm, but issues such as concussions still seem to be unresolved.

Giroux Believe In Magic?

Claude Giroux is at the top of the points list after his four point performance last night. (Photo credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

You better, because that is what the Philadelphia Flyers all-star center performs on a nightly basis.

With the Flyers OT victory last night over the Buffalo Sabres, 5-4, and Giroux’s four-point night (1 g, 3 a) he sits atop the NHL point standings by himself, surpassing the Toronto Maple Leafs Phil Kessel.

Giroux has 36 points this season. He sits in second place for the league lead in goals with 16. One goal behind Kessel, Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks and Milan Michael of the Ottawa Senators. Giroux’s dominance through the league over the past couple of years comes as no surprise as he was a highly touted NHL prospect. Maybe not to the Flyers, however, as they scrambled at the last second in 2006 after their original pick, Bobby Sanguinetti, had just been previously drafted the round before. Paul Holmgren stepped to the mic, and subsequently turned around to ask who he was about to draft again.

Thankfully the embarrassment subsided and Giroux felt no hard feelings. The Flyers can also consider it a blessing in disguise that Giroux fell into their laps. He has been a perennial scorer since his arrival to the pro’s and has been a leader on the ice and in the dressing room.

There is such a confidence in Giroux and his ability that Holmgren traded away their captain and a 40 goal-scorer to build a new and experienced team around the youngster.

With a proven goaltender in Ilya Bryzgalov and an offense that can score at the drop of a hat, the Flyers are looking in relatively good shape to make another run at a Stanley Cup, all on the back of Giroux.

NHL Realignment Process Wrapping Up


This is a breakdown of the new realignment set to take place in the NHL (Photo credit: Philadelphia Flyers Nation)

After a couple of days of meetings, the NHL has come up with a complete realignment plan for all the teams. Two conferences will have seven teams while the other two conferences will have eight teams. They are as follows:

Group 1: New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes

Group 2: Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning

Group 3: Detroit Red Wings, Columbus Blue Jackets, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars and Winnipeg Jets

Group 4: Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche

Everything looks good to me in regards to grouping the appropriate teams. However, I do wonder how the Lightning and the Panthers were selected for the group that involved three teams in Canada, Buffalo and Boston. They just seem dramatically out-of-the-way to be considered divisional rivals.

All in all, I think the realignment process has been a success and I look forward to seeing the Canes and the Caps being added as true rivals…as long as we beat them that is!

Scott Hartnell Showing Consistency In His Game

I don’t know the reasoning behind it, but it is possible that if Scott Hartnell keeps up his scoring pace, he will amount to the best scoring year of his career.

Scott Hartnell has been a nice addition to the top line for the Flyers this season. (Photo credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)

Through the first 25 games of the season, Hartnell has 11 goals and 11 assists for 22 points, nearly a point-per-game rate. His best year came with the Flyers in 08-09 when he scored 30 goals and 30 assists in 82 games.

Hartnell could easily break 70 points if his newly lit flame does not burn itself out. His sudden awakening also opens the door to be used as some trade bait. With a depleted defensive system and injuries nagging certain forwards, the Flyers may be looking to shop some players to bring in young, proven talent or a veteran defenseman. If Hartnell can show the 29 other NHL teams that he is a scoring threat at 29, then there should be no reason that some teams are willing to bring him over to their club. Yes, he inevitably comes with the stupid penalties on the ice during crucial moments. Then, of course there is the times where he suddenly forgets how to stand on his skates, but all in all he has proven to be one of the best forwards out on the ice for the Flyers this season.

The problem lies in the fact that Hartnell has a no-trade clause. The Flyers would need to convince Hartnell to waive the no-trade clause in order to shop him around. Although it seems unlikely, stranger things have happened. The 29 year-old forward will become an unrestricted free agent after the 2012-13 season, however. Hartnell will make 8.4 million dollars as part of his contract through these final two years.

If Hartnell continues to put up strong numbers, I can see the Flyers making a strong effort to try to keep him in the orange and black. His gritty offensive style is rewarding when it comes at the right time. He is also a type of player who sticks up for his fellow teammates and isn’t afraid to drop the gloves if need be. With all that being said, Hartnell has been a surprising member of the offensive unit this season. Hopefully the Flyers will be able to balance the team out in time for the playoffs, and make a run at bringing Lord Stanley to the City of Brotherly Love.