Flyers

Rookies' inexperience could spell Flyers' end

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Rookies' inexperience could spell Flyers' end

The reason to love the Flyers going forward is the same reason why they can only go so far this spring.

Their rookies have scored 62 goals, helping them to the NHLs third-best team goal total and probably its most relentless shift-after-shift attack. These kids are good, fast, and perhaps just as important in a capped NHL will work cheaply over the next several seasons. With or without Chris Pronger, this nucleus can bring Philadelphia a long awaited Cup sometime over the next few springs.

For this one, though, we have our doubts. As sustaining as has been the play of Matt Read, Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn and Eric Wellwood through four months of substandard goaltending and one of the leagues higher totals of man-games lost, a year from now these kids likely will be telling us there was no way their first NHL regular season could fully prepare them for their first playoff.

We wouldnt be in this situation if wasnt for the way those guys contributed through the course of the year, insisted Peter Laviolette Monday. I have absolutely no doubt that they are going to play a good hockey game for us.

From Ken Morrow to Patrick Roy to Jaromir Jagr to Laviolettes own Cam Ward in Carolina, the history of Stanley Cup winners is filled with rookie heroes. So perhaps there is strength in the numbers or in having only one first-year player Schenn playing on one of the first two lines Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

Like Scott Hartnell said Monday, every team is only as good as its first line. But we have seen enough first lines choke from the scrutiny of game plans, fans and media to also believe that the only thing more important than a first line in the playoffs is scoring support from a second and third line. And going against a Pittsburgh team without a rookie, the first step of four for these Flyers, is going to be slippery.

Considering the entire NHL playoff experiences of Wayne Simmonds and Jake Voracek were one-time one-and-dones for Los Angeles and Columbus, the team resume doesnt report too many battle tests. The Flyers have exactly five forwards who have ever won a playoff series, going up against a team with 11 players who have won a Stanley Cup.

The Flyers have three: Jagr 20 years ago with Pittsburgh, Max Talbot with the 2009 Penguins and Ilya Bryzgalov, who played four playoff games for the 2007 Ducks. Thats a massive difference in experience that likely will overcome whatever doubts the Penguins sustained in substantially losing the season series to the Flyers, or the failure to beat them in a meaningful game at CONSOL Energy Center in the two years since it opened.

To a man, the Flyers marched in front of the microphones to announce the need for discipline against the team of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Obviously, this is the dominant talking point by Laviolette and his assistants. The Penguins, likewise, may feel they have nothing to fear but the Flyers potent power play, so indeed may the smartest team win. Pittsburgh has not played as carefully since Crosbys return, and of course, Philadelphia has a punchers chance.

The Flyers can get after you over the course of a game more than any team in the league, said an opposing coach. But I dont see the structure I see with most of the top teams.

Too many outnumbered breaks, too many guys left alone in the defensive zone. I dont know if you can win in the playoffs that way.

The defensive play got better over the last month with the acquisition of Nick Grossmann, his badly needed physicality and shot blocking working hand-in-hand with an improved Bryzgalov. The vise will have to crank one full rotation tighter to beat Pittsburgh, Boston or the Rangers, much more mature teams than the ones the Flyers beat on their 2010 Final run.

This series is going to be decided by decisions at the blue lines. And the Penguins have a much longer track record for making good ones.

Jay Greenberg covered the Flyers for 14 years for the Daily News and Evening Bulletin. His history of the Flyers, Full Spectrum, was published in 1996. He can be reached at jayg616@aol.com.

Ed Snider statue a special reminder for Flyers and so many more

Ed Snider statue a special reminder for Flyers and so many more

Boldly, Ed Snider will forever stand stoic and distinguished overlooking the empire he created — an iconic portrayal of a pioneer entrepreneur who exuded authority and resolve.

A statue commemorating the late Flyers founder and Comcast Spectacor chairman was unveiled Thursday, facing the southwest corner of Broad Street between the Wells Fargo Center and the previous location of The Spectrum, his two homes away from home.

“Not just the likeness but the character of Dad is so incredibly real in this sculpture that it’s almost scary,” Snider's oldest daughter Lindy Snider said. “You can see his focused and determined look and that drive in him, and we kids always called it ‘The Eye.’ And believe me, it was very scary.”  

The ceremony was attended by an impressive list of dignitaries, including a long list of "Broad Street Bullies," Hockey Hall of Famers and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

“He was a consummate ball of energy,” Bettman said. “Ironically, his memory will stand here idly for us all to see and to remember because he was a man who was constantly, constantly in motion, and that’s how I will always think of him and remember him.”

Philadelphia will now remember him always in the perfect spot.

“Ed Snider was a visionary,” Flyers president Paul Holmgren said. “What a fitting place for the Mr. Snider statue to be on this piece of property where he can overlook his building here, The Spectrum was behind him, and this area he envisioned — that he built for all of us.” 

For the city of Philadelphia, it has an equivalency to the Blarney Stone. Snider's family requested the inclusion of a Stanley Cup ring on Snider’s finger so fans could pay tribute to the legendary owner by rubbing the ring as a good luck charm.  

Unintentionally, but certainly symbolic, Snider has his back turned to the direction of New York, home to the Rangers team he and so many of the players despised for decades.

“We all hated the Rangers in those days, probably still do,” Bob Clarke said with a laugh. “It’s a beautiful statue. It represents him so well, everything that he stood for and accomplished."

From Clarke to Bernie Parent hoisting the Stanley Cup, to Gary Dornhoefer’s legendary goal in the 1973 Stanley Cup Playoffs to Kate Smith singing “God Bless America,” all of those statues located throughout the sports complex wouldn’t exist today if it wasn’t for Snider’s dogged determination to bring the game of hockey to the Delaware Valley in the 1960s. 

Dillsburg, Pennsylvania’s Chad Fisher commissioned the 1,300-pound bronze statue that stands on a three-foot granite base, and over the last seven weeks it became a labor of love, working endlessly seven days a week, 12 hours a day to ensure the project’s completion.

“You’re closing in and everything needs to be solidified and you've got to look over everything,” Fisher said. “It gets very intense in the end.” 

Three and a half years ago, the 34-year-old Fisher unveiled his meticulous representation of former Flyers head coach Fred “The Fog” Shero located just outside XFINITY Live! right off Ed Snider Way. One man called upon to create a likeness of the two most influential figures in the 51-year history of the Flyers franchise. 

“We had a chance to meet with Mr. Snider during the Fred Shero unveiling, and he was so gracious to my family and I, especially my kids,” Fisher said. “This was more than just a statue. It was really a chance to do this for someone who meant something, not only to this city, but to me and my family. He really gave us our start.”

For then general managers Clarke and Holmgren, who strived to bring “one more cup” to Snider, they know the chairman would be proud of the team current GM Ron Hextall has assembled behind an organizational approach that has been radically amended over the past few years. 

“It’s not only a terrific honor, but it’s fitting and somehow it’s comforting,” Lindy Snider said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s been watching over us all along anyway, and Paul, especially you. He wants a Stanley Cup, and the pressure’s on and you’re not off the hook.”

And now there’s a likeness of Mr. Snider that will forever serve as that constant reminder.

Flyers-Predators observations: Offense finally cools off in shutout

Flyers-Predators observations: Offense finally cools off in shutout

BOX SCORE

Nine days after an electrifying and yet controversial finish at Bridgestone Arena, the Flyers and Predators left all the offensive fireworks back in Nashville.

The Wells Fargo Center crowd Thursday was treated to a ho-hum defensive duel that saw the Predators prevail, 1-0, to sweep the season series.

Third-line center Colton Sissons, who did not play in the first game between these two teams, fired a slap shot that beat Michal Neuvirth far post during the third period.

Pekka Rinne stopped all 28 shots for his second win over the Flyers this season.

• Sissons' goal was the result of a multitude of breakdowns. Defenseman Andrew MacDonald got tied up on the play. Wayne Simmonds, who was playing back, whiffed as he tried to play the puck on Kevin Fiala, and from there the Flyers were in disarray. Valtteri Filppula couldn’t keep up with Sissons, who loaded the shot that beat Neuvirth.

• Neuvirth has one win in his three starts. Then again, victories are hard to come by when the Flyers are shut out in two of those games. The other occasion was was Oct. 5 in Los Angeles, a 2-0 loss to the Kings.

• Dave Hakstol did quite a bit of mixing and matching in the third period. He paired Scott Laughton with Simmonds and Filppula, Simmonds with Travis Konecny and Nolan Patrick, and a Laughton-Konecny-Patrick combo.

• Overall, this was Travis Sanheim’s best effort through four NHL games. While he proved to be turnover-prone at times, he recovered nicely to minimize the damage.

• Simmonds left Tuesday’s game against Florida with a lower-body injury and was uncertain to play prior to the morning skate. “The Wayne Train” hadn’t missed a game since he suffered a leg injury at the end of the 2014-15 season. Whatever the ailment, and it appears to be midsection related, Simmonds clearly wasn’t himself and didn’t quite have the same tenacity he usually brings.

• Simmonds missed a shift early in the second and left the bench, only to return late in the period when he took a 15-second shift and came back off. If Simmonds doesn’t improve by Saturday afternoon’s game against the Oilers, we may see Matt Read for the first time this season.

• Predators defenseman P.K. Subban still receives a smattering of boos from the Wells Fargo Center crowd. With Nashville making just one trip to Philadelphia every season, you have to think the animosity toward Subban is a residual from his days with Montreal when his feistiness would conflict with former Flyer Chris Pronger. 

• He missed the first meeting at Bridgestone Arena nine days ago, but you can see what Roman Josi brings to the Predators’ blue line. Arguably Nashville’s top two-way defenseman (although I really like Mattias Ekholm), Josi led the Preds with four shots on goal after two periods, and has a real knack of finding the open seams in the defense. 

• I completely agreed with Hakstol’s decision to insert Jori Lehtera right into the spot occupied by Jordan Weal (see below). With the offensive balance we’ve seen over the past several games, why disrupt the flow and chemistry of the other three lines to accomomdate one player? 

Weal out, Read recalled
After taking the ice in the morning skate, Weal was not available for the game against the Predators. Weal suffered an upper-body injury and is considered day to day. The Flyers also recalled Read from Lehigh Valley in a move that brought the Flyers’ active roster to 23 players.

Lines, pairings and scratches

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jori Lehtera-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds
Dale Weise-Nolan Patrick-Travis Konecny
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald
Shayne Gostisbehere-Robert Hagg
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas

Goalies
Michal Neuvirth
Brian Elliott

Scratches: Brandon Manning, Matt Read, Jordan Weal.