Subject: Flyers at Penguins recap: Flyers roll over shorthanded Pens in rout
Against a Pens team missing a lot of firepower, the Flyers totally controlled this one nearly from start to finish.
SO THE FLYERS ACTUALLY PLAYED WELL, HUH?
They did! By basically any measure — goals, shots, good ol’ watching the game — the Flyers thoroughly controlled this game basically from the moment Matt Cullen opened the scoring just 4:31 into the contest. It took them a while to actually get on the scoreboard, but from there they’d proceed to take the lead in the second period and pour it on in the third.
And they weren’t just holding the puck at the blue line, either! The Flyers routed the Pens in scoring chances and high-danger chances (via), and Matt Murray had to make several nice saves in this one. 13 Flyers picked up at least one point on the night, from the likeliest suspects to the less-likely ones (Dale Weise! Brandon Manning! Radko Gudas!).
All in all, there wasn’t much to dislike, and while it’s true that the Penguins are almost laughably shorthanded due to injuries (and lost another key player, forward Conor Sheary, in this game), this was still an outstanding effort top to bottom by the guys in orange.
YOU’RE TELLING ME THAT THEY COULDN’T HAVE SAVED ONE OF THOSE FOR YESTERDAY WHEN THEY LOST 1-0???
No one said hockey was fair.
SO WHO SCORED THE GOALS?
First, Jordan Weal collected his fifth of the season in the final minute of the first period, wiring a shot past (through?) Murray on the rush.
Then, in the second period, Valtteri Filppula got his second in a Flyers uniform on a scramble in front of the net, one which would stand up after Penguins coach and former Sacred Heart Hospital janitor Mike Sullivan unsuccessfully challenged for goaltender interference.
HANG ON, WAIT, YOU’RE SAYING THE FLYERS GOT THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT ON A BORDERLINE GOALIE INTERFERENCE CALL? HAS THAT EVER HAPPENED BEFORE?
Fairly positive that is has not, no.
NEAT. IS TRAVIS KONECNY STILL PLAYING ON THE FOURTH LINE?
Yep. And not only that, he played a team-low 8:02 in ice time. Seems like the opposite of what you would want to do with a talented young player in the final weeks of a lost season, but what do I know?
WOULDN’T IT BE COOL IF HE JUST HAD A SHIFT OR TWO WITH GUYS WHO MAYBE ARE POSSIBLY CAPABLE OF SCORING AT THE NHL LEVEL? WHAT DO YOU THINK WOULD HAPPEN?
I mean, yeah, it would be cool, especially since this is what he can do given a shift with Dale Weise.
What a play by Travis Konecny to get the puck down and over quickly to Weise for the finish! pic.twitter.com/wTrAjvl3T8— Sons of Penn (@SonsofPenn) March 27, 2017
(Great pass from Couturier there, too. He now has 11 points in his last 12 games.)
DID ANY OTHER TALENTED, DYNAMIC YOUNG FLYER WHO HAS HAD A SOMEWHAT TURBULENT SEASON DO SOME GOOD THINGS TONIGHT?
Shayne Gostisbehere had two points, and his best play of the night may have been on a sequence where he didn’t even get a point: his pass to Jakub Voracek that sprung the Flyers on a break that eventually ended in their fourth goal of the game.
Great breakout by Shayne Gostisbehere to spring Jake Voracek en route to the goal sequence. pic.twitter.com/FNf4g6NleY— Sons of Penn (@SonsofPenn) March 27, 2017
SO, SINCE THESE ARE THE FLYERS, SOMETHING BAD HAPPENED, RIGHT?
Wayne Simmonds catches Brian Dumoulin with an elbow up high. pic.twitter.com/PIdsZPUrjX— Sons of Penn (@SonsofPenn) March 27, 2017
A charitable view here is that Simmer lunged for the puck (as it was in the air) and inadvertently hit Dumoulin; a non-charitable view would be that Simmonds was blatantly headhunting him. I lean closer to the former, but you could certainly argue that it was a bit reckless by Wayne even if that is the case. We’ll see if the NHL would like to have a word with him about it tomorrow. (Should’ve just speared him in the junk, Wayne; I hear they’re fine with that in Pittsburgh.)
ANY OTHER THOUGHTS?
Yeah, those Pens jerseys that they wore in the outdoor game (that they wore again tonight) are bad. Here’s to them never being worn again, let’s hope.
IS ANYTHING ELSE THAT HAPPENS IN THE FINAL TWO WEEKS OF THE SEASON GOING TO BE AS SATISFYING AS THIS WAS?
Almost certainly not, no. Seven more games. Cherish them while you still can.
Back home on Tuesday to face Ottawa. Go Flyers.
Subject: Monday Morning Fly By: Heading back home for the home stretch
Today's open discussion thread, complete with your daily dose of Philadelphia Flyers news and notes...
* Well, if you’re going to mess with the tank in a lost season, no better way to do it than by routing your biggest rival. Here’s your recap from last night’s win ...
* Union forward Mike Vecchione, former teammate of one Shayne Gostisbehere and past attendee of Flyers development camp, saw his college career end this past weekend. He’ll be signing somewhere soon. Could it be with the Flyers? [Philly.com]
* Could the US men’s hockey team boycott this year’s World Championships in solidarity with the women’s team? Sounds like a possibility: [SBNation]
* Talking draft! Here’s a brief look at some defensemen that should be on the board around the time the Flyers pick this June: [Raw Charge]
* Just how much do the top teams in the Metro get screwed by this playoff format, anyways? [The Hockey News]
* Some jokes about the NHL’s Olympics-related grandstanding, among other things: [VICE]
* Finally, a long look at Nolan Patrick, the guy who’ll most likely go first overall in this year’s draft: [Sportsnet]
Subject: Flyers 6, Penguins 2: 10 things we learned from a satisfying blowout
The season may be essentially over, but it remains fun regardless when the Flyers dominate the Penguins.
Morning Observations is a feature where we break down the previous night's game with an analytical eye.
#1: Flyers got better of head-to-head Pens rivalry this year
The Pittsburgh Penguins have undeniably had a better season this year than the Philadelphia Flyers — not only have the Pens already clinched a playoff berth, they are probably one of the three favorites (along with the Capitals and Sharks) to win the Stanley Cup in June. But in terms of the head-to-head battle between the cross-state rivals, the Flyers more than held their own. The teams split the season series 2-2, but by the numbers, Philadelphia got the better of play on the whole. In a little over 194 minutes at 5v5, the Flyers had the edge in both score-adjusted Corsi (55.45%) and in scoring chance differential (98-72). They also won the all-situations xG battle in all four contests.
Of course, this doesn’t change the fact that the Flyers’ season will almost surely be remembered as a major disappointment, and rightfully so. But don’t forget that last season, the Flyers could barely move the puck up ice against the Mike Sullivan-coached Penguins. They were completely flummoxed by the constant pressure style of their rival, and it took a game where Pittsburgh had absolutely nothing at stake for the Flyers to even squeeze out one win over them. This year, Philadelphia dealt with their rivals much better, and in my opinion, that does bode well for matchups in the future.
#2: Shot quality not an issue last night
The Flyers have certainly had their issues this season when it comes to generating quality chances, particularly at even strength. While they rank as a respectable squad in terms of shot attempt differential at 5v5 (15th in the NHL), they don’t fare nearly as well after those shots are adjusted for location and quality, as shown by their 22nd rank in the xG statistic. In the Flyers’ defense, I do believe there has been a conscious effort to change this over the past few months (they rank 11th in score-adjusted xG in 2017 at 50.74%) but they do still have a tendency to fall back on the “point shots and pray” strategy when in tough situations.
But in the final game against their biggest rival, Philadelphia absolutely dominated the shot quality battle. The team’s 61.34% score-adjusted Corsi yesterday was impressive, but that paled in comparison to the eye-popping 74.87% in the 5v5 Expected Goals stat. The Flyers racked up 2.61 xG and allowed just 0.87 per Corsica, and the scoring chance numbers from Natural Stat Trick back that up as well. Philadelphia led in regular chances at 5v5 29-11, and in high-danger chances 12-2. In fact, this was the Flyers’ best xG game at even strength this season, and it came against a formidable opponent.
#3: Fair to note that Pens were shorthanded
This was a road victory (on the second night of a back-to-back, no less) that the Flyers should take a great deal of pride in, against a high-end foe. But the lineup that Pittsburgh dressed last night is nowhere near the one that head coach Mike Sullivan hopes to use in Game 1 of their first round playoff series. The Pens are dealing with a number of injuries to key players, including Evgeni Malkin, Carl Hagelin, Jake Guentzel, Kris Letang, Trevor Daley, Olli Maatta and Ron Hainsey all out. That’s not to say the Penguins don’t still have talent — Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel and Patrick Hornqvist are all great up front, and Brian Dumoulin and Justin Schultz drive play well on the back end. But this wasn’t the deep, fearsome Pittsburgh squad that the Capitals fear to face in the postseason. That doesn’t make the Flyers’ win meaningless, but it does provide some perspective to help understand how a flawed Philadelphia squad could so thoroughly beat down the powerhouse Penguins.
#4: Time to view Weal as a play-driver?
For all of the team’s flaws, the Flyers do have a number of players — Michael Raffl, Matt Read, Sean Couturier — who essentially serve as “Corsi inflators” to whatever line they are placed on. Once these types of players are identified, line construction becomes a little bit easier. These role players clearly have the ability to get the puck into the offensive zone and keep it there, so the task of the coach becomes surrounding them with those who can take that puck possession and create tangible goal production out of it. It’s still early in the NHL career of Jordan Weal, but so far, he’s showing the ability to drive play in the right direction, regardless of linemates.
Placed on the Filppula line this week, Weal’s presence has turned a unit that had become a Corsi liability into one that either holds its own or actually controls the territorial battle. Last night, they were probably the Flyers’ most effective line, scoring twice and and posting score-adjusted Corsi rates over 66%. Considering Filppula entered this game with a 5v5 Corsi relative to his teammates of -3.18% and Weal was at +9.18%, it’s easy to infer that Weal’s presence on the line is a big reason why play is moving in the right direction with Filppula on the ice right now.
#5: Pittsburgh ate Flyers’ PK alive
Philadelphia may have dominated this game at even strength, but the Penguins were able to close some of that gap due to their potent power play. While the Pens managed just two high-danger chances at 5v5, they racked up six of them in a little less than four minutes of PP time, and scored one goal. That’s partially because the Pittsburgh power play is very good — after all, any unit with Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel and Patrick Hornqvist is going to be frightening — but that doesn’t absolve the Flyers’ penalty kill entirely. The forwards were far too slow in executing their Czech Press up top, giving the Pens players on the perimeter far too much time to move the puck around. And per usual, the defense was especially physical in front, allowing for Pittsburgh to easily crash the net on rebounds.
Moving forward, fixing the forward problem is easier because the right personnel is already on the roster — Couturier and Simmonds should have their roles expanded — but the defense is a tougher nut to crack. It’s fair to assume that Provorov will improve as a penalty killer as he matures, but aside from that, the team’s biggest hope is that the rookies on their way come fully formed as PKers. Samuel Morin sure looks like he should be good in that role, but he still needs to prove that his instincts in the NHL match his mammoth size. Guys like Robert Hagg, Travis Sanheim and Philippe Myers are even bigger question marks. All you can do is hope that at least one of them flashes plus skill in the role and can make it his own.
#6: What exactly is the point of this fourth line?
Yet again, Travis Konecny spent the bulk of the game alongside Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Chris VandeVelde at 5v5. And yet again, it seemed like a total waste of his talents. In 7:24 minutes of 5v5 ice time, Konecny finished just barely over 50% in score-adjusted Corsi, -17.93% relative to his teammates, and that was a step up from the even-worse performance of VandeVelde and Bellemare. On one of the few occasions that Konecny did leave the fourth line (right after a power play, which explained why he replaced Schenn with Couturier and Weise), he earned a primary assist with a beautiful catch-and-pass setup in front. Dale Weise and Sean Couturier are far from offensive zone dynamos, but they’re light years ahead of Bellemare and VandeVelde, and Konecny made that obvious immediately.
Putting Konecny on the fourth line doesn’t help the Flyers win games, that’s a simple fact. He remains one of the Flyers’ most dangerous weapons, and might be the fastest skater on the team period, and he’s not being used to his full potential playing with two of the worst 5v5 offensive players in hockey. However, Philadelphia is out of realistic playoff contention, so there is the possibility that Hakstol is playing some sort of long, development-related game by placing Konecny with his PK specialists. The rookie’s primary weakness this year has been defensive play, so maybe Hakstol believes that functioning in a unit with two players who he views as plus defensively is the best thing for Konecny right now. I would disagree with that (for example, Couturier and Weise are both strong defensively as well, but they bring the added dynamic of being able to score goals once in a while too), but at least I could understand the thought process. But in terms of trying to win games, this experiment is not helping.
#7: Amazing how Ghost looks better away from Schultz
There has been a lot of recent talk about Shayne Gostisbehere looking “healthy” again. Some of that has to do with the fact that finally, the Flyers are scoring a little bit with him on the ice, helping his previously-stagnant point totals just a bit, but Ghost has undeniably looked more dynamic over the past few weeks from a skating standpoint as well. He’s unleashed a few of his patented spin-o-ramas, and he’s flashing his plus lateral mobility far more often now than in the season’s first half. However, Gostisbehere’s play-driving statistics have been nothing special in March, as he held a 49.3% Corsi For percentage on the month heading into last night’s game.
Against the Penguins, however, Ghost found a way to both pass the eye test, the goal test, and the stat test. Gostisbehere was all over the ice, especially in the offensive zone, leading the team with five shots on goal and finishing with two points on the night (one goal, one assist). He deserved another assist on Jake Voracek’s goal, as he jump started the rush with a stellar controlled exit from the defensive zone, and only lost the point due to Matt Read’s minimal nick of Claude Giroux’s shot. The advanced metrics just provide more support for the “Ghost was awesome” theory, as he posted a 72.76% score-adjusted Corsi and 82.11% xG.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this performance occurred just as Nick Schultz was removed from both the lineup and from Gostisbehere’s pairing. When a defenseman passes the eye test yet the numbers don’t match up, the first thing I check is who is on the other side of the pair. For Ghost in March, that’s been Schultz and Brandon Manning. Last night was the first time all month he was able to play alongside an above-average NHL defenseman in Michael Del Zotto, and the results were obvious. MDZ-Ghost isn’t a perfect pairing, especially in the defensive zone, but Hakstol is sheltering Gostisbehere anyway. Why not give him a partner with legitimate offensive skill if you plan to use Ghost in that role? It sure worked out versus Pittsburgh.
#8: Not sure Weise is really doing anything different
Dale Weise continued his “hot” finish to the season by scoring a goal in the third period courtesy of a perfect Travis Konecny pass (and poor rebound control on the part of Matt Murray). The Flyers forward now has five points in his last seven games, and finally reached double digits in points as a Flyer (after 57 games). However, aside from some puck luck, he doesn’t look much different than the guy who struggled so much to light the lamp in the first three-quarters of the season. Weise is still sound defensively, still drives play when he is on the ice, and still looks completely lost offensively on most shifts. When you look at the current top-nine, there’s one player who is a no-brainer to be swapped with Travis Konecny, and it’s Weise.
I know it might hurt the front office to do so (considering the long-term commitment they made to Weise last July) but his skillset just screams “fourth liner” to me. And that’s not to say he couldn’t be a great fourth liner for the Flyers. The coaching staff could use a player down there who is plus defensively but also doesn’t get buried in shot differential like Bellemare and VandeVelde do. But even during this hot streak, Weise hasn’t looked especially special to me.
#9: Giroux line bit the bullet and dealt with Crosby
Considering the lack of forward depth for the Penguins in this game (due to the mass injuries), the key for the Flyers was going to be their attempts to contain Sidney Crosby. Of course, that’s always the goal when playing Pittsburgh, and it’s obviously easier said than done. But with Malkin out, Philadelphia really only had one line to fear, and Hakstol predictably tried to get the top unit of Giroux, Voracek and Read out there as much as possible against the best player in the world. The two centers matched up for about eight-and-a-half minutes, with Crosby coming out on top territorially, but unable to create much in the way of scoring chances. Giroux was held to a 28.57% Corsi versus Crosby, but in regular on-ice chances, the two captains tied (3-3), and Crosby could not manage one high-danger chance versus Giroux. Not a perfect effort, but that yeoman’s work by the captain and his mates helped the Filppula line in particular avoid Pittsburgh’s top players, and pulverize the rest of the Penguins’ lineup.
#10: End-of-season going pretty well, to be honest
By now, it’s obvious that it would take a true miracle for the Flyers to make the postseason in 2016-17. But that doesn’t mean that fans can’t take some positives out of the final few weeks of the year. The team has posted its share of clunkers recently, to be sure. For the most part, however, the Flyers have been competitive even in losses, and have proven capable of some impressive wins, such as the victories in Minnesota and Pittsburgh.
In addition, a number of players seem to be finding their games. Claude Giroux now has 10 points in his last 11 games and is finishing the year strong after apparently battling through the aftereffects of offseason surgery through most of the year. Sean Couturier is also back to 100% following his midseason knee injury, and he’s posted eight points in his last eight games. Jordan Weal is killing it, Dale Weise is finally scoring a bit, and even Michael Del Zotto is making it not totally insane to think that the team might be wise to give him a short-term extension in the offseason. All of these are positive signs for next season, which really should be the only focus at this point for fans. This year may have been a bust, but the 2017-18 season doesn’t have to follow the same script.
A backstory on SB Nation’s new photographer Kate Frese
Well now you have a bit of an idea of what it’s like for me while shooting a pro hockey game. But wait, who am I? Who is Kate Frese? Does she even go here?
So I sort of slipped in to Broad Street Hockey under the radar. I started working with SB Nation in January and if you’re a regular reader of the site, you may have noticed my name in photo credit lines or seen one of my featured galleries. So I guess this will act as my formal introduction. How you doin’? I am not new to photographing hockey, though. This is my fifth season photographing the Flyers.
It was all a dream. I used to read The Hockey News magazine. I’ve been a Flyers fan since a young age. I was most definitely a creative child as well. Little did I know that close to 20 years later these things would combine.
Flash forward many years to my junior year in my undergrad at Pennsylvania College of Art & Design sitting in my junior review critique in front of the photo department chair and two other professors. As my critique was coming to an end, the photo chair asked me what I want to do with my degree when I graduate. I had no idea, so my professors started throwing out suggestions. The one threw me for a complete loop and changed my life forever. He pointed out how much I love sports. He suggested I give sports photography a try. Why didn’t I think of this before?! The photo chair didn’t seem too thrilled, as she pictured me in more of an academic role. But I know when it comes down to it, she is thrilled I’m having such a great time and am actually working in the photography field.
Before I got into sports photography, the photography I was creating outside of my school assignments was band photography. There was something exciting about capturing live action. I became well-known for my work within the hardcore punk community. I am an internationally published music photographer. Through my photography work, I had met someone who ran a media company that covered concerts in Philly as well as sports. I had made a Facebook post about thinking about trying sports photography. He then reached out to me and offered me an internship saying he’d be excited to see what I would do with sports photography considering he loved my band photography so much. My story is different than most. I started out shooting pro sports. I didn’t have to work my way up like most did.
Since that internship, I have been with Flyerdelphia. Wanting to expand my brand, I reached out to Travis Hughes about working with SB Nation at the end of last year. Well, here I am. Y’all are stuck with me. It’s been an absolute pleasure and amazing experience working with SB Nation, especially the Broad Street Hockey people. I can’t believe they were dumb, I mean kind, enough to give me my own section of the site and everything. All of my photo galleries can be found under Flyers Frese Frame.
When people find out what I do, I normally get bombarded with a ton of questions. Below is a fake interview with myself.
Random person: What is a typical game day like for you?
Me: I normally get to games two hours before puck drop. I get to the arena and enter through a special entrance that takes you below the arena. There is a media room that I set up my laptop and check my gear. I sit down and make a folder on my desktop for the game. I then go around and say hi to some of my media and NHL official friends. After that, I grab a cup of coffee and go sit in the empty stands for about ten minutes. I don’t look at my phone or anything. I guess you could say I am gathering my thoughts and meditating on what I’m about to do. Getting myself in the zone. After that I have a photographer’s meeting in the press box and get my shooting assignments for the game. Each game is different. I’m almost always ice level for at least one period, which is where I feel I get the best shots. I make a list of start players to make sure to get photos of. After that, it’s go go go. I shoot a period, run down to my laptop and edit and upload and then repeat for the next two periods. Sometimes after the game I go into the locker room to take photos. Once that is all said and done, I go home and work for 1-2 hours on the featured galleries that you see on this site.
Random person: Do you actually like hockey? How do you stay sane being a fan?
Me: I’m a HUGE hockey fan. My apartment is covered in Flyers stuff. I’ve watched most games for the past 20+ years. When I was first asked to shoot a Flyers game during my internship, it was one of the best days ever. I was excited and then I quickly realized... I’m crazy. How am I going to remain professional?! I put my big girl pants on and did it. Sometimes I’ll let out a cheer or call the ref out under my breath, though. When I’m shooting, I’m so hyper focused and it’s a completely different experience than attending a game as a fan. To let the fan in me out, I attend preseason games as a fan and also do one away game a year. In addition to that, I go to AHL, ECHL, and NCAA hockey games just to hang out, drink a cold one, and watch some hockey.
Random person: What’s it like being a female in a male-dominated field?
Me: This has not been easy at all. I’ve dealt with harassment from fans and peers. People have called me a puck bunny. People have accused me of sleeping my way into a press pass. People have mistaken me for an ice girl. People have told me I should shake pom-poms instead of hold a camera. I have never let any of this crap stop me. If anything, it has driven me to create better work. I don’t want to be identified as a female sports photographer. I am just a sports photographer. I don’t need any special treatment or attention for being a female in this profession. Ok, time for one last question.
Random person: What are some of your favorite moments as a hockey photographer?
Me: Getting to photograph the Legion of Doom at this year’s alumni game was a bunch of hard work paying off. The biggest day of most women’s life is the day they get married. Mine was getting to photograph my favorite player, Eric Lindros, and getting to watch the Legion of Doom play together again. Quite honestly, this whole experience has been amazing. I am truly blessed. I know many people go about their life not knowing what their purpose in life is. Mine is to photograph professional hockey.
Subject: Dave Hakstol deserves praise for his public support of the US women
So far, he’s the most powerful man in hockey to publicly declare his support for the US women’s national team
The ongoing battle between the US Women’s National Team and USA Hockey, the national governing body for the sport, has been fought largely on social media.
It started back on March 15, when players coordinated the shocking announcement that they would boycott the upcoming World Championships unless USA Hockey committed to fair wages for players and equitable support for the women’s game across the nation. They’re asking for two things:
- Enough money to survive as players who commit a significant amount of time to maintaining their status as world-class athletes — even in non-Olympic years, when they don’t even earn the few-thousand dollars they earn in Olympic years;
- for USA Hockey to fulfill its legal obligation to support the women’s game equal to their support of the men’s game. (They currently do not.)
Things have only escalated since, with no apparent end in sight. USA Hockey released a misleading statement that exaggerated what they actual do to support USWNT players. Meanwhile, as they were publicly claiming a desire to sit at the negotiating table with the team in an attempt to hash out a deal, word slowly leaked that they were contacting less-experienced players in an effort to ice a replacement team. Player reps for the USWNT say that USA Hockey’s efforts in sit-down negotiations have basically gone nowhere.
Over the last 12 days, the situation has come to a head as younger, less-experienced players have announced on social media they they will not cross the picket line despite the unbelievable opportunity presented to them to represent their country on home ice in Michigan. It’s gotten so desperate that USA Hockey has reportedly reached out to under-16 players (!!) in an attempt to get around the national team boycott.
But the players are united, and it’s resulting in a complete disaster for USA Hockey, which has mishandled this situation in just about every way possible.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get much worse for USA Hockey ... well, it did late last week. Up until this point, most of the vocal support for the USWNT had come from fans and fellow women players, be it in hockey or soccer or basketball. But towards the end of last week, more men started adding to the chorus of support of the team, helping to increase pressure on USA Hockey leadership.
The MLBPA, NBPA and NFLPA all released statements showing their support for the USWNT’s position, and on Friday evening the NHLPA joined the chorus as well. A day later, news came out that the US men’s national team might boycott their World Championships as well in solidarity with the women’s team. That, of course, would be a critical blow for USA Hockey.
Of all these displays of support, one in particular stands out. It’s that of Philadelphia Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol, who tweeted this on Saturday morning:
I support the the women of the US National Team who are fighting for equitable support-competitors/role models #BeBoldForChange— dave hakstol (@hakstol2) March 25, 2017
This is important for several reasons. The statements released by the the various player unions and the possible action being taken by the men’s national team are vital, but those are group efforts. How many individual men’s players have come out in support, without being shrouded behind the protection of their union? Aside from 1980 Olympic hero Mike Eruzione, who is no longer in the game and has nothing to lose, Hakstol is easily the most powerful man in the hockey world to step up and declare his support.
He’s the only active NHL head coach I’ve seen who has proactively announced his individual support for the team, and that’s something that should be recognized and commended. It’s a personal undertaking, and with that Hakstol bears the full burden of whatever backlash might come with it. Not an organization like a players union, not the Flyers organization. Just him.
It is not far-fetched to assume Hakstol hears about this, either. Hockey in the United States is a small community. Hakstol is a dual US and Canadian citizen who has coached top-level college hockey in this country -- which, aside from the national teams, is the highest level of the game that USA Hockey touches. By doing this, Hakstol is likely speaking out against people who he knows, and likely those he considers friends.
(It’s worth noting here that Flyers president Paul Holmgren is well-connected within USA Hockey, and he most recently served as an assistant GM for the 2016 World Cup team. We don’t have any clue what Holmgren’s stance is on this particular issue, but his connection to USA Hockey and his position north of Hakstol on the Flyers’ org chart is worth noting in the context of Hakstol’s public stance here.)
USA Hockey is an old boys’ club, and that’s largely why they’re in this position in the first place. It might look like we’re just praising the guy for doing the easy, right thing in speaking out against it.
But it’s harder than it looks for somebody in Hakstol’s position as an NHL head coach to speak out publicly against a well-connected organization responsible for pulling the strings of the sport all across this country. He’s showing himself as a true ally to the women’s national team in doing so. He doesn’t have to say anything. The fact that he did anyway says something about his character that we should appreciate.
For more on the ongoing fight between the US women’s national team and USA Hockey, check in with SB Nation’s women’s hockey site, The Ice Garden.
Subject: Tuesday Morning Fly By: Where we
Today's open discussion thread, complete with your daily dose of Philadelphia Flyers news and notes...
* 10 observations from Sunday’s resounding victory over the Western Pennsylvania Flightless Birds: [BSH]
* On that note, our friends over at Pensburgh are doing a retrospective on the past decade of Penguins playoff series. Yesterday they talked about 2012. Enjoy! [Pensburgh]
* Dave Hakstol is a big fan of this arrangement that has Travis Konecny on the fourth line, because ... structure? [CSN Philly]
* Speaking of Hakstol, he spoke out about the ongoing USWNT conflict, which was good of him to do: [BSH]
* Some Senators (actual U.S. senators, not the Senators the Flyers will be facing tonight) (see what I did there? lol) also chimed in on the side of the players: [SBNation]
* Checking in on Sam Morin in his second season with the Phantoms: [Flyers.com]
* And rounding up the playoff performances (so far) of some Flyers prospects: [CSN Philly]
* Elsewhere, there’s an obvious top four in the NHL right now, but who’s the league’s fifth-best team? [Sportsnet]
* The Red Wings’ playoff streak is done. How do they get back on track? Cripes, does their situation remind me of the one the Flyers were in not that long ago towards the end of the Holmgren era. [Winging It In Motown]
* The NHL is expected to announce preseason games in China in the near future: [TSN]
* Of the past decade’s two saddest-sack Canadian franchises, who’s closer to their next Cup, the Leafs or the Oilers? [Puck Daddy]
* Five guys who have had breakout seasons: [THN]
* Never too early to be eyeing the offseason, here are Sportsnet’s top 20 unrestricted free agents this summer. Featuring one Flyers defenseman! [Sportsnet]
* Lastly, our excellent photographer Kate talks a bit about her tale of becoming a hockey photographer: [BSH]
Subject: BSH Radio #104: Yep, blowing out Pittsburgh is still fun
The gang is short one this week, but the Flyers beat the Penguins and that’s all that matters.
Only a handful of games remain in the disappointing 2016-17 Flyers season, but the weekend brought a rare occasion of pure happiness -- a 6-2 blow out of the rival Pittsburgh Penguins. Bill, Steph, and Charlie discuss the win, and whether it was still fun despite the Flyers' place in the standings. The gang tries to make sense of Travis Konecny's current place on the fourth line and if it's just another example of "Dave Hakstol, what are you doing?" or if there could be legitimate justification for the move. Jake Voracek's up-and-down season is also evaluated, before the crew turns to the many Flyers who are finishing the season strong after months of underwhelming play.
Follow us on twitter @BSH_Radio so you don’t miss any fun!
Subject: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare is the Flyers
The Masterton is awarded annually to the NHL player “who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to ice hockey.”
And now, in the least surprising news of the 2016-17 hockey season: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare has been named a Masterton Trophy nominee by the Philadelphia chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.
The Masterton is awarded annually to the NHL player “who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to ice hockey.” One player from each team is nominated by the respective PHWA chapter in each city.
There’s no doubt it’s been a big season for Bellemare, the Flyers’ fourth-line mainstay.
He was named to Team Europe in last fall’s World Cup of Hockey, where he played a key role for a team that surprised everybody by advancing to the championship game against Canada. He has been on Dave Hakstol’s good side all season, one of just six players to play in all 75 of the team’s games this year. He was named an ‘A’ after the trade of Mark Streit at the trade deadline, and he was given a big contract extension that day as well.
There are legitimate disagreements on whether or not Bellemare should have that contract extension, or the ‘A’, or whether he should be one of Hakstol’s favorite sons. But there is no disagreement that his rise in the NHL has been impressive. To do all of this as a French-born player who just two years ago was in the Swedish league as a 27 year old is very impressive. It’s hard not to root for Bellemare and his story, and it certainly shows a level of perseverance that qualifies him for this nomination.
That said, it’s unlikely he will win the Masterton. It’s a competitive award each year, and the list of candidates this season is strong. Ottawa’s Craig Anderson probably has it locked up after returning to play following his wife’s cancer diagnosis.
The last Flyer to win the award was Ian Laperriere, who earned the Masterton despite not playing during the 2010-11 season. Shayne Gostisbehere was the team’s nominee last year.
Subject: Flyers vs. Senators: Lineups, starting goalies, TV & live stream info, and discussion thread
The Senators are in town. No, not the unpopular ones. The Ottawa ones.
Tonight’s game is on Comcast Network and 93.3 WMMR locally. It’s also streaming on CSNPhilly.com and on the NBC Sports app. NHL.tv has it as the Free Game of the Night this evening. In Canada, you can watch on TSN 5.
- Meat Read - Claude Giroux - Jakub Voracek
- Jordan Weal - Valterri Filppula - Wayne Simmonds
- Dale Weise - Sean Couturier - Brayden Schenn
- Chris VandeVelde - P-E Bellemare - Travis Konecny
- Ivan Provorov - Andrew MacDonald
- Michael Del Zotto - Shayne Gostisbehere
- Brandon Manning - Radko Gudas
- Steve Mason
- Michal Neuvirth
- Zack Smith - Kyle Turris - Cherry Hill Native Bobby Ryan
- Alex Burrows - Derick Brassard - Mark Stone
- Mike Hoffman - J-G Pageau - Tommy Pyatt
- Future Flyer Tommy Wingels - Chris Kelly - Ryan Dzingel
- Fredrik Claesson - Erik Karlsson
- Dion Phaneuf - Cody Ceci
- Chris Wideman - Mark Borowiecki
- Craig Anderson
- Mike Condon
Subject: Flyers vs. Senators recap: Weal, Ghost power Flyers to shootout win
The Flyers picked up their second straight win as two guys who have played great hockey lately helped get them there.
On the one hand, it seemed like this game was largely ... uneventful. I posited in our BSH staff chat room during the second period that I “[felt] like this game has been very fast-moving and also nothing at all has happened,” to the general agreement of anyone who was around to hear me say it. I’m still not totally sure what I meant by it, but it sort of felt like there were times where minutes would go by without much of note happening on either end of the ice, even beyond the teams’ general failures to light the lamp for the most part.
Maybe this kind of goes with the territory of where the Flyers are now. Contrary to whatever players and the diehardiest fans may still say they believe, this team is not making the playoffs. They stopped playing important games standings-wise in the middle of March, and while there are meaningful storylines to be following in the season’s final few weeks (we’ll get to that), playing out the string can be a bit tiring. And when games go for minutes on end without much of note happening, it can get tough to watch.
But in those moments where things did pick up — particularly in the third, where both teams made a lot happen before scoring late-period goals — there was actually a lot to enjoy, and the guys who were pushing the Flyers to victory tonight are guys who really might just be crucial to this team’s long-term success.
Both the game-tying goal and the game-winning shootout goal came off the stick of one Jordan Weal, who was probably the best Flyer on the ice as he’s been in a number of games since his recall last February. On the goal, Weal made an incredibly heads-up play to get himself in front of Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson at just the last second, intercept his clearing attempt up-ice, and slam the puck into the open net before Anderson could recover.
And then he sniped the only goal scored in the shootout a few minutes later. In a season where not much has gone right and a number of long-term questions have opened up regarding players currently on this roster, it’s been nice to have an actual pleasant surprise pop up in the form of Weal over the past few weeks, and while he’s possibly riding a too-hot-to-believe streak right now, it’d be great to see him continue his strong play across these final six games.
The Flyers’ other best player tonight was another guy who’s had a lot of questioning fingers pointed at him this year, but has seen those fingers start to drop lately with his play down the stretch here. Shayne Gostisbehere was always due to rebound — anyone could tell you that at least some of his struggles from the beginning of the season were just rotten luck, and that some points would be coming his way eventually, which they are now. But even if you ignore his shot from the point that Brayden Schenn artfully tipped past Anderson to tie the game up in the first period ...
... Gostisbehere was a man possessed tonight, regularly darting around the offensive zone with ease and setting up chances left and right in ways that would’ve made you think it was November 2015 up in here. There was a clear difference in the team between when he was on the ice and when he wasn’t, and that’s the Shayne Gostisbehere we came to love last year and that we’ve been looking for at times this year. And by giving Ghost a team-high 23:03 in ice time, Dave Hakstol seemed to have recognized it as well. The idea that the first of the Flyers’ shiny new toys on defense is not actually broken is surely something that puts the minds of fans (and of the team itself?) at ease a bit.
There were other things to like (Michael Del Zotto also continued what’s been a good run of play for him lately, with one exception...), and some to not like (...Michael Del Zotto slide tackled Brandon Manning, taking both of them out of the play, about two seconds before Ottawa would proceed to take the lead in the third period). Some frustrating trends of late were also bucked a bit (the power play was outstanding tonight after a brutal couple of weeks, and Travis Konecny actually got moved up to the top line in the third period!), while some good things that have been happening lately were somewhat absent (Ivan Provorov had an iffy game, I thought, and Claude Giroux was pretty quiet outside of the power play after some much-improved 5-on-5 play lately).
But the good outweighed the bad in this one, both on the scoreboard and in terms of What Really Matters. At this point in the season, can’t ask for much more than that.
(Also, the Flyers won another shootout. They’re 7-4 in the skills competition this season, which a) is incredible, and also b) it’s incredible that that’s incredible.)
(Also also, thank you for winning the shootout, the Flyers. Look, I’m not here to tell anyone what to root for in meaningless games down the stretch. You want to lose games to get better draft position, you do you. You think tanking is amoral and any true fan should want to win every game, power to you. But there is nothing less satisfying than getting one point out of a game that you still lose when you have nothing at all to gain from getting that one point. Either lose in regulation or win the damn game. Thank you for doing one of those things, the Flyers.)
Islanders on Thursday. Go Flyers.
Subject: Wednesday Morning Fly By: Reinventing the Weal
Today's open discussion thread, complete with your daily dose of Philadelphia Flyers news and notes...
* (/looks at headline in shame) Sorry. I’m sorry. I’m trying to remove it.
* Earlier in the day yesterday, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was announced as the Flyers’ Masterton nominee: [BSH]
* Here’s a list of every team’s (announced) Masterton nominee, on that note: [Reddit]
* Ron Hextall is a leading candidate to be Team Canada’s general manager for this year’s World Championships: [CPSJ]
* Elsewhere, the US women’s team and USA Hockey reached an agreement last night that will end the team’s boycott: [SBNation]
* 30 Thoughts from Friedman is sadly devoid of Flyers news, but still good as always: [Sportsnet]
* Four guesses on what Vegas’ final roster might look like, post-expansion and post-cuts. Only one of which actually has a Flyer on it! [ESPN]
* Speaking of, Golden Knights owned Bill Foley talked about some things: [Puck Daddy]
* Trying to lump every possible playoff opponent into one of 12 groups: [Sportsnet]
* Finally, NEW BSH RADIO: [BSH]
Subject: The best photos from the Flyers shootout win against the Senators
Subject: Michael Del Zotto apparently made the Flyers goal song
Here is the Philadelphia Flyers goal song this year:
And here is a portion of an interview Michael Del Zotto did with Sports Illustrated this week, talking about his DJ skills, which is his bug hobby outside of hockey:
Claude Giroux is huge into house music, but he likes the heavier stuff. For the Flyers’ goal song that I mixed this year, he was actually the guy I went to. I mixed an Italian soccer anthem with a heavier beat, and I went to him with three or four different options. I had him choose which one he liked the best, and it’s been a big hit. The boys and the crowd both seem to like it, which is great.
I have three thoughts:
- Good for MDZ for finding something he loves outside of hockey! That’s very nice and I hope he continues enjoying his passion!
- It’s apparent that Del Zotto, a pending free agent, probably won’t be back with the Flyers next year.
- We’re finally not going to have a weird EDM remix as our goal song next year! (?)
Subject: Flyers 3, Senators 2: 10 things we learned from a fun but probably meaningless win
The Flyers are making tangible improvements to their play, but it’s almost certainly too late to save their season.
Morning Observations is a feature where we break down the previous night's game with an analytical eye.
#1: Even territorial game, but Flyers with edge in shot quality
In a battle between one playoff lock and one team with almost no chance at making the dance, the Flyers and Senators played a back-and-forth, relatively even game at 5-on-5. In almost 49 minutes at 5v5, Philadelphia managed 48 shot attempts while Ottawa created 46 of their own. The eye test backed up the numbers — it never felt like one team had an obvious edge on the whole, and any extended spurts of territorial dominance by one club were quickly matched by the other squad. In games where the shot volume is fairly even (the Flyers exited with a 49.31% score-adjusted Corsi), it comes down to the quality of chances created to determine which club truly “outplayed” the other. And in this instance, it was Philadelphia who engineered the more dangerous shots.
They held a 2.37-1.48 edge in Expected Goals (61.56%) at 5v5 on the night, and led by a similar margin (3.69-2.45) when accounting for all situations. The Flyers simply were doing more with their puck possession than did the Sens, who generated a large portion of their shots above the faceoff circles in the Flyers’ end. If anything, the Flyers probably should have won this game in regulation, as they hit a few posts and missed on some golden opportunities — Travis Konecny would have easily beaten Craig Anderson on one play had he been just a little more patient in holding onto the puck before shooting. The skills competition may be a crapshoot, but this was a deserved outcome for the Flyers.
#2: Jordan Weal continues to be outstanding
I’m nearly at the point where I’m going to stop beating the “small sample size!” drum when it comes to Jordan Weal. He’s now played 18 games with the Flyers — over 20% of a full season — and his performance has been nothing short of outstanding. He’s far and away been the team’s more efficient scorer at 5v5, posting a first-line caliber Points/60 of 2.18. His 5v5 score-adjusted Corsi is 59.88%, with the Flyers performing +10.42 percentage points better with Weal on the ice over the 18-game span versus when he’s sat on the bench. Weal’s xG% is even better at 60.52%, and Corey Sznajder’s microstats describe a player who is creating lots of controlled offensive zone entries and helping to create shots at 5v5 on a comparable level with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. It’s hard to find a statistical hole in his game.
Last night was an especially strong game for Weal, even by the lofty standards of his previous 17 NHL games. Weal led the team in score-adjusted Corsi at 63.79% even though both of his linemates (Valtteri Filppula and Wayne Simmonds) have struggled by the metric this season. He also scored the game-tying goal on a fantastic individual effort, baiting Anderson via an aggressive forecheck into passing the puck through the center of the ice, then knocking down that pass and depositing it into a wide-open net. He closed the deal by potting the only goal for either team in the shootout, clinching a Flyers victory.
It’s hard to imagine that Weal is truly this good. Out of all NHL players with at least 200 minutes at 5v5 this season, only Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand have score-adjusted Corsi rates better than that of Jordan Weal, and no one would honestly argue that he’s on their level. In addition, he obviously won’t hold a 20% shooting percentage at 5v5 forever. But I don’t believe a player “lucks” into 18 games with stats as impressive as the ones that Weal has posted. Even if Weal’s true talent level is 70 percent of what he’s shown this season, that would still make him an above-average middle-six forward at the NHL level. To me, it’s a no-brainer for the Flyers to lock him up to an extension prior to July 1st (as long as he’s willing), and essentially guarantee him a spot on the big club to start next season. Not since Ville Leino have the Flyers stumbled upon this kind of pleasant surprise at the forward position, and you’d hate to see him jet off to greener pastures before seeing if he can replicate it over a full year.
#3: Flyers cutting down on low-to-high play
Over the course of the season, the Flyers have been (rightfully!) criticized for their shot selection in the offensive zone. Dave Hakstol has bristled at times when asked if the team has settled for point shots too often, but the charts don’t lie — they’ve taken far more shots than the average team from up top and far less in close. Corey’s data also backs up the assertion that a higher-than-ideal percentage of Philadelphia’s shots at 5v5 this year have originated from low-to-high passes, meaning that the primary pass assist came from low in the zone and the ensuing shot was generated by a defenseman blasting away at the point.
To the Flyers’ credit, however, it’s clear that over the past few months, they’ve made a conscious effort to cut down upon resorting to the point shot. Last night was a perfect example — on numerous occasions, a defenseman with the puck up top would dump it back down low rather than immediately blasting away, as he would have likely done in December. At times last night, the Flyers looked unrecognizable in the offensive zone, as much of their pressure was coming from the half boards and from behind the net.
The numbers back this up. In March, the Flyers have averaged 2.55 Expected Goals per 60 minutes at 5v5, which ranks 12th in the league over that span. Compare that to their 2.30 xG and 24th league ranking over the full season, and it’s obvious that the Flyers have done a better job recently in creating dangerous shots. If you’re looking for a reason to stay on board with Dave Hakstol despite this disappointing season, here’s one — it seems obvious that he and his coaching staff correctly identified a problem and fixed it, rather than simply burying their heads in the sand. You can argue that it should have been fixed sooner (and that might have saved the season), but the changes do show a coach willing to adapt his tactics.
#4: Gostisbehere looks completely back
Jordan Weal had a great game, but to my eyes, the most effective player on the ice for both teams was Shayne Gostisbehere. I was something of a skeptic of the “the hip surgery caused his sophomore slump!” theory, partially because his play-driving numbers were still great even in the early season, and partially because it just seemed like a convenient excuse for fans rather than accepting the fact that scoring regression was inevitable after a rookie season where every bounce seemed to go his way, but it’s obvious to me now that the recovery process slowed him at least a bit. It’s most noticeable in Ghost’s lateral skating ability and acceleration. At least five times last night, Gostisbehere used his quick stop/start burst at the point to elude an oncoming checker and create space for a pass, shot, or to move even further down into the offensive zone.
But it wasn’t just Ghost’s offense that was impressive. He’s back to cutting off passes in the neutral zone, and initiating transition rushes with creative feeds to his teammates. It’s no surprise that his play-driving metrics on the night (57.14% score-adjusted Corsi, 75.81% xG) were so stellar. Some of the improvement is probably simple confidence — he’s not looking over his shoulder anymore worried he’s going to be benched, and every single mistake of his isn’t ending up in the back of the net like it was during the season’s first half. But physical ability breeds confidence, and I’m sure it’s reassuring to Gostisbehere knowing that he can pull off all of the moves in his arsenal yet again.
#5: Power play shows signs of life
After an especially awful recent stretch, the once-potent Flyers power play finally showed some signs of regaining its former glory. After two failed early opportunities, the top unit finally cashed in late in the first period as Brayden Schenn deflected a Gostisbehere bomb past Craig Anderson to tie the game. While the Flyers failed to score on their final PP chance late in the second period, the shot and chance generation totals were fine overall, especially for the top unit, which averaged 150 shot attempts per 60 and 10 Expected Goals per 60 during their power play minutes.
The Flyers have been dealing with some bad luck recently on the PP. In March, they would be “expected” to score 10.62 goals considering the number and quality of their chances, but they’ve only been able to pot four of them. Still, the team’s shot generation metrics on the PP are down in March (89.50 CF60 versus 101.69 over the full season), so there has been a legitimate regression in terms of process. My opinion is that it all goes back to their offensive zone entries — once they’re set up, the top unit remains lethal, but their true periods of struggle come when they can’t even get into the zone in the first place. Last night, their entries were crisp and clean, and they were rewarded with a goal.
#6: Michael Del Zotto remains an enigma
By the advanced metrics, Michael Del Zotto was one of the Flyers’ most effective defensemen last night. He posted a strong 57.79% score-adjusted Corsi and an even-better 72.69% xG, despite heavy minutes against the severely underrated Mike Hoffman. On a number of occasions, he utilized his physical strength combined with plus puck skills to engineer high-difficult zone exits, and more than held his own in the corners. But even in a game where everything seemed to be clicking for Del Zotto, he found a way to (nearly) become the goat. On Cody Ceci’s third period goal that gave the Senators a late lead, Del Zotto did this.
How can you praise a guy for a strong game when he essentially slide tackled his own teammate on what could have been the game-winning goal? Last year, Del Zotto’s play was consistent and sound, but this year, we’re all seeing why so many good coaches have wanted little to do with the talented blueliner. For all of his skills, they simply can’t depend upon Del Zotto to avoid back-breaking mistakes at key moments.
#7: Konecny bumped up in the third
After two periods primarily spent alongside Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Chris VandeVelde, Travis Konecny was finally freed last night. Okay, it wasn’t on every shift, and it was likely driven by Konecny’s creation of a dangerous scoring chance with Couturier and Weise during a shift directly following a Flyers power play (so Schenn was catching his breath). But regardless of the reason, it was great to watch Konecny skate alongside Giroux and Voracek for a few shifts rather than being tied to the PK specialists. It will be interesting to see if Hakstol liked what he saw enough to keep Konecny up with the big guns for Thursday’s game.
#8: Read top line experiment should probably end
I’ve been more open to the “Matt Read with Giroux and Voracek” experiment than most. While Read lacks the bulk strength of Michael Raffl, he brings the same play-driving ability as the Austrian. Giroux and Voracek really should provide enough offensive zone firepower to free up Read to simply “do the little things” rather than carry the load in terms of scoring, which is something that he can’t fairly be expected to do at this stage of his NHL career.
However, Read had an especially underwhelming game last night. The top line was by far the team’s worst in terms of play-driving, and Read himself finished with a team-low 29.87% score-adjusted Corsi. By the third period, Konecny was taking regular shifts with the top line, and looking very effective in doing so. It’s the end of the season, so it’s not like this decision is going to move the needle much either way, but flip-flopping Read and Konecny seems like a logical move from a “trying to win games” standpoint, and last night just provided additional evidence.
#9: Still severely unimpressed with Ottawa
I noted this on BSH Radio a few weeks back, but the Ottawa Senators strike me as this year’s “wait, how are they in the playoffs again?” team. They have high-end talent, to be sure — Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone are severely underrated, and Erik Karlsson is the best hockey player who plays the defenseman position in the NHL today. Derick Brassard is fine, Kyle Turris and Zack Smith are good role players, but past them, I’m hard-pressed to find many standout skaters. Half of their defense (Dion Phaneuf, Cody Ceci, Mark Borowiecki) is outright bad, and Chris Kelly is the Chris VandeVelde of their team (how has he started every game?).
Essentially, the Sens (to me) are basically the Flyers — good high-end players, half of an awful defense, inexplicable love for barely-NHL talent — but with better goaltending this year. In a weak Atlantic Division, I guess that’s enough to be a playoff lock. However, I doubt it’s a formula that gets them out of the first round.
#10: Flyers look like a playoff-caliber team now, but it’s too late
The Philadelphia Flyers club that has shown up for the past few weeks worth of games would not seem out of place in the postseason. The star players (Giroux and Voracek) are producing points, the second tier is stepping up (Couturier, Schenn, Gostisbehere), and they’re even getting production from unlikely sources (Weal, Weise). The underlying numbers are positive as well — since March 1st, Philadelphia has a 51.48% score-adjusted Corsi and a 55.05% xG at 5v5, ranking 11th and 3rd respectively in both categories. When looking at all situations, they’re even better in the latter category at 58.20%, behind only the Minnesota Wild.
The process finally appears sound. The Flyers are outshooting their opponents without sacrificing quality and one of their goaltenders has even gotten hot (Mason has a 0.919 save percentage in March). I believe that this team, as they are playing right now, would be a tough out in the postseason. Unfortunately, the Flyers blew their chance at the playoffs due to poor results in January and February, and a few bad periods versus Toronto and Boston a few weeks ago. The team’s turnaround might bode well for next year, but that’s not much consolation to the frustrated fanbase, which understandably expected much more out of this club in 2016-17.
Subject: NFL rule changes for 2017 season officially announced
Here’s a look at what passed (and what didn’t).
The NFL officially announced approved rule changes for the 2017 season as voted on by owners at league meetings this week. Here’s a complete list.
Approved 2017 Playing Rules Proposals
2a. By Philadelphia; Prohibits the “leaper” block attempt on field goal and extra point plays.
8. By Competition Committee; Makes permanent the rule that disqualifies a player who is penalized twice in one game for certain types of unsportsmanlike conduct fouls.
9. By Competition Committee; Changes the spot of the next snap after a touchback resulting from a free kick to the 25-yard line for one year only.
11. By Competition Committee; Gives a receiver running a pass route defenseless player protection.
12. By Competition Committee; Makes crackback blocks prohibited by a backfield player who is in motion, even if he is not more than two yards outside the tackle when the ball is snapped.
13. By Competition Committee; Replaces the sideline replay monitor with a hand-held device and authorizes designated members of the Officiating department to make the final decision on replay reviews.
14. By Competition Committee; Makes it Unsportsmanlike Conduct to commit multiple fouls during the same down designed to manipulate the game clock.
15. By Competition Committee; Makes actions to conserve time illegal after the two-minute warning of either half.
Approved 2017 Bylaw Proposals
4. By Competition Committee; Liberalizes rules for timing, testing, and administering physical examinations to draft-eligible players at a club’s facility for one year only.
5. By Competition Committee; Changes the procedures for returning a player on Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform or Reserve/Non-Football Injury or Illness to the Active List to be similar to those for returning a player that was Designated for Return.
6. By Competition Committee; The League office will transmit a Personnel Notice to clubs on Sundays during training camp and preseason.
Approved 2017 Resolution Proposal
G-4. By Competition Committee: Permits a contract or non-contract non-football employee to interview with and be hired by another club during the playing season, provided the employer club has consented.
Some thoughts on these approved proposals:
- The Eagles’ resolution proposal about bringing back alternate helmets was pulled before it was ever voted on. The good news is that Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said he wants to bring Kelly Green back as an alternate. He added the team will make more efforts to restore the alternate helmets.
- As noted earlier, the Philadelphia Eagles’ proposal about banning “leaping” went through. The vote was unanimous at 32-0. Defending players will no longer be allowed to jump over the line in order to block field goals. The NFLPA was reportedly a big factor in getting leaping removed from the game due to player safety concerns.
- The NFL did not pass a proposal that would have shortened overtime to 10 minutes. Lurie voted no in part because he was concerned teams would try to milk the clock and go on a long field goal drive. Personally, I think the current 15-minute overtime length is fine. Except for preseason. We don’t need preseason OT. Just get rid of it.
- The NFL unanimosuly decided to put a (suspected) Dallas Cowboys fan in charge of all replays. That’s crazy. Even if you think Dean Blandino isn’t a Cowboys fan, how can anyone (except Dallas) feel good about putting final decisions on replays in the control of a single person? Really wish Lurie didn’t vote to approve this decision.
- Nothing else too noteworthy here. The NFL didn’t approve some of the more fun and interesting proposals this year. Shocker.
Subject: NFL Draft Rumors: Eagles among teams most interested in Christian McCaffrey
Another running back connection.
Count the Philadelphia Eagles as one of the teams most interested in 2017 NFL Draft running back prospect Christian McCaffery. At least, that’s what a rumor from former NFL offensive lineman and current Denver radio host Tyler Polumbus indicates. Hat tip to Mile High Report on this find.
First things first: you have to take a rumor like this with a grain of salt. Polumbus is a former player so of course he might have some league connections but it’s not like he has a proven track record of knowing the Eagles’ intentions.
With that said, McCaffrey could very well be a player the Eagles like. Philadelphia seemingly hasn’t brought him in for an official pre-draft visit (yet?) or put him through a private workout (yet?) but the team needs help at running back. McCaffrey is not only one of the best running back prospects from this year’s class; he also brings value as a pass catcher.
One of ESPN’s latest mock drafts has the Eagles picking McCaffrey at No. 14. Personally, I really don’t believe that’s likely. I’d say there’s like a 99% chance the Eagles don’t take a running back based on the history of how they value the position. Not to mention the fact the team might feel like they can get one later on in this year’s deep draft class. (And then there’s that rumor the Eagles will take a defensive lineman in the first round.)
For more on McCaffrey, check out BGN draft writer Ben Natan’s scouting report on him. McCaffrey has drawn a lot of comparisons to a certain former Eagles running back.
NFL Comparison: It is hard not to have Brian Westbrook flashbacks when watching Christian McCaffrey. Both were smaller backs who may not have had blazing speed, but were so quick and had such great vision it made them dynamic runners. Also similar to Westbrook, McCaffrey is the type of player who could be a 100 catch wide receiver as well as a running back and his third down ability and versatility makes him so valuable to an offense. McCaffrey has been a star on special teams during his time at Stanford and, like Westbrook, that is a wrinkle in his skill set that may make him even more of a commodity on draft day.
Christian McCaffrey spider graph:
Subject: Dalvin Cook, Eagles reportedly met for private workout
The Eagles are meeting with one of the top RB prospects.
The Philadelphia Eagles met with 2017 NFL Draft running back prospect Dalvin Cook for a private workout on Wednesday. This news comes from Bud Elliott of SB Nation’s Florida State Seminoles blog: Tomahawk Nation.
Florida State held its pro day Tuesday. Cook showed quite well, running the 40-yard dash and showing out in drills after a surprisingly poor combine showing in some of the same drills.
Wednesday, the Philadelphia Eagles, a team strongly in the market for a running back, stuck around and have a private workout with Cook, sources told Tomahawk Nation.
SportsRadio 94WIP’s Howard Eskin first reported last week the Eagles were meeting with Cook (and Joe Mixon). Now we have some confirmation.
Cook is one of the best running back prospects from this year’s class of talented rushers. He ranks No. 1 overall in BGN’s running back rankings.
Though clearly talented, Cook comes with a lot of concerns. He’s had multiple off-the-field issues. His injury history and his bad fumbling habit could easily prevent the Eagles from selecting him with the No. 14 overall pick.
There’s been some talk about Cook falling to the second round of the draft due to his red flags. The Eagles pick No. 43 overall in the second and might be willing to take a chance on him if he falls there. The team has certainly been doing their homework on Cook. Along with this workout, Philadelphia hosted him on an official pre-draft visit earlier this month.
For more on Cook, check out BGN’s scouting report.
It is hard not to watch Dalvin Cook and not think of Jamaal Charles. Charles has been one of the best backs in the league during his career and his blend of consistency and athletic ability allowed him to gain at least five yards per carry in every full season he played, a remarkable and unmatched feat. The two runners are both extraordinarily gifted runners and receivers whose biggest concern is health and being slightly skinny for the position.
Dalvin Cook spider graph:
Subject: The Eagles aren
Actions speak louder than words
There is, as always, more than one way to build a team. The Eagles in recent years have, on paper, a solid blueprint: address short term needs in free agency, reducing the urgency of having to draft a particular position. This year is no different, signing five rotation-to-starter level free agents at positions of short and long term need: wide receiver, offensive line, cornerback and defensive end.
In the abstract, it’s a sound plan. Adding two starting receivers allows the Eagles to take a developmental pass catcher in a later round rather than force an early round pick who has to be thrown into a starting role early. In a draft loaded with corners, penciling in a free agent as a starter allows the team to see how the picks in front of them in the first round unfold, giving them the patience to wait until the middle of the draft if need be. Adding a pass rusher in free agency gives them three veteran DEs and allows them to not have to reach in the draft to make sure have one. Adding another interior lineman on an already stuffed roster means they will probably ignore guard and center entirely.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with this blueprint. They followed it in 2013 and won the division. They followed it in 2016 and were then in a position to trade up for Carson Wentz. Those were seasons of varying success, the former of which never got built on. They’re following it in 2017, giving consistency. It’s a blueprint that follows the patience that Jeffrey Lurie preached on Tuesday. If only they would admit it.
Earlier in the day, Howie Roseman made a puzzling statement.
“I think this is another step to showing that our actions are in conjunction with our words.”
His actions have been anything but. Roseman said he didn’t want to sign bandaids in free agency, then signed three of them, then clarified his remarks, then signed two more, then justified it as “short term value”. The team has just three players from the 2014 and 2015 drafts combined that can be relied on, there is no shame in admitting that free agency will have to substitute. It’s the reality of the situation.
And none of the moves were really original ideas. Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith and Chance Warmack have previous ties to members of the Eagles coaching staff and front office, the team had pursued Patrick Robinson in free agency last year, and then there’s Nick Foles. Which is another area of saying one thing and doing another, Doug Pederson said he didn’t want to look to former teams for players, and yet they have done exactly that.
So the Eagles haven’t done as they’ve said. But doing as they’ve done isn’t so bad. Having Jeffery for a year is better than not having him at all. Smith and Warmack are fine gambles, Robinson and Long won’t handcuff the team.
But own it. Don’t give us an ever changing explanation for sticking with the same, solid plan.
Subject: 19 things we learned about the Eagles from Doug Pederson
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson spoke with reporters for an hour on Wednesday morning during the NFC coaches breakfast at the 2017 NFL owners meetings. You can watch Pederson’s entire press conference by clicking here. For now, here are some key takeaways from what Pederson had to say. Stay tuned here to Bleeding Green Nation for more in-depth stories regarding Pederson’s comments.
Everything about Carson Wentz
Pederson had an awkward exchange with one reporter about Wentz.
Q: Can you talk about where Carson Wentz is right now?— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) March 29, 2017
Doug: Well I don’t know where he is right now.
Q: In terms of development
Some believe he was kidding but it didn’t come across like that to me at first. Especially since he can be awkward. In any case, here’s more stuff he said about the Eagles’ young quarterback.
Pederson: No arm issues for Wentz— Les Bowen (@LesBowen) March 29, 2017
Doug on what adjustment Wentz has to make on his throwing motion: "Probably not much."— Jimmy Kempski (@JimmyKempski) March 29, 2017
Pederson says he isn’t concerned about mechanics coaching Wentz sought in offseason, though it wasn’t Eagles’ idea.— Les Bowen (@LesBowen) March 29, 2017
“It’s always the head coach and the quarterback,” Pederson says, when asked how much his job is tied to Wentz’s success.— Les Bowen (@LesBowen) March 29, 2017
There will be competition at left guard
Pederson says Isaac Seumalo a guy the Eagles want to get into the mix. Says he’ll compete with Barbre at LG. Wiz and Warmack too.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) March 29, 2017
Pederson says the Eagles are keeping Jason Kelce
Despite trade rumors, Pederson once again insisted the Eagles are keep Kelce. Personally, I’m still skeptical. The feeling here is Kelce is the odd man out in a crowded Eagles offensive line situation.
Q: Are you expecting Jason Kelce to be on the Eagles come September?— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) March 29, 2017
Doug Pederson: Yes.
Pederson says the Eagles are keeping Mychal Kendricks
Again, just like with Kelce, I don’t really buy it. There’s talk the Eagles might try to trade Kendricks closer to the 2017 NFL Draft.
Doug Pederson says Mychal Kendricks is a big part of the team. Expects him to be at OTAs and on the roster come September. #Eagles— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) March 29, 2017
If Kendricks was truly “a big part of the team,” the Eagles would have played him more than 27% of the defense’s snaps last season.
(He won't though).— Jimmy Kempski (@JimmyKempski) March 29, 2017
Doug Pederson says he expects Mychal Kendricks to be at OTAs and on the roster. (I don't). #Eagles— Eliot Shorr-Parks (@EliotShorrParks) March 29, 2017
Joe Mixon might be on the Eagles’ draft board
Jeffrey Lurie didn’t seem to rule out the Eagles drafting Mixon and neither did Pederson. But he did talk about the importance of character.
Doug Pederson on Joe Mixon: Very explosive. Very good hands out of the backfield. Dynamic. Exciting back to watch.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) March 29, 2017
Doug Pederson: “I love having character people. I think that’s the wave of the future.” #Eagles— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) March 29, 2017
Doug Pederson says it’s a “fine line” when weighing talent versus character. “It’s tough.”— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) March 29, 2017
Doug noncommittal on Mixon; you need to do homework, etc— Les Bowen (@LesBowen) March 29, 2017
Doug on if he would be OK with Mixon on roster: "We're always looking to better our roster." Also noted it had to be the right fit.— Jimmy Kempski (@JimmyKempski) March 29, 2017
Pederson didn’t necessarily commit to Vinny Curry as a starter
Pederson says he loves Vinny Curry. Tremendous leader. Wants to see him take the next step.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) March 29, 2017
Doug Pederson wouldn't commit to Vinny Curry being the definitive starter at defensive end. #Eagles— Eliot Shorr-Parks (@EliotShorrParks) March 29, 2017
Beau Allen will get a chance to start with Bennie Logan gone
Earlier this offseason it was reported the Eagles are in talks to extend Allen’s contract. There hasn’t been much buzz about that report since then but it appears the Eagles value Big Beau.
Pederson says Eagles have a lot of confidence in Beau Allen. He has an opportunity to step up and prove himself with Bennie Logan gone.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) March 29, 2017
Pederson on DT: Beau Allen played a lot of snaps; great opportunity now to compete for a starting spot.— Les Bowen (@LesBowen) March 29, 2017
Cutting Chase Daniel was tough
Doug Pederson says the Eagles releasing Chase Daniel was a “tough decision.”— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) March 29, 2017
Doug Pederson says the Chase Daniel signing was a good one at the time it happened.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) March 29, 2017
Pederson explained what he values in running backs
Hm ... does Pederson’s description remind you of any running backs in this year’s draft?
What Pederson values at RB: Three down guy, mobile out of the backfield, route running ability, running the ball, run btwn tackles.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) March 29, 2017
Pederson stressed the need to be patient when it comes to addressing roster holes, such as cornerback
Doug Pederson on cornerbacks: “Everyone knows this is a healthy draft that way.”— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) March 29, 2017
Pederson says the Eagles have to “trust our process” when it comes to filling roster holes. Have to be patient. Can’t do everything at once.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) March 29, 2017
Wendell Smallwood doesn’t seem like the Eagles’ starting running back
Doug Pederson says Wendell Smallwood is a “dynamic runner.” There’s a “role” for him. #Eagles— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) March 29, 2017
Doug Pederson, in my opinion (# ) didn't sound like a head coach that viewed Wendell Smallwood as his top, No. 1 running back next season— Eliot Shorr-Parks (@EliotShorrParks) March 29, 2017
Pederson didn’t know anything about Jordan Matthews trade rumors
Rather, he praised the team’s 2016 leading wide receiver.
Doug on Jordan Matthews: "He's a dynamic slot guy."— Jimmy Kempski (@JimmyKempski) March 29, 2017
Pederson: Jordan Matthews has great relationship with Carson, dynamic slot guy. Haven’t heard about trade rumors— Les Bowen (@LesBowen) March 29, 2017
Pederson isn’t giving up on Dorial Green-Beckham
Pederson once again mentioned how the Eagles got DGB late in the summer last year (third week of training camp) and the team is interested to see how he does this offseason.
Pederson says this will be a great offseason for DGB. A big one for him in terms of proving himself. #Eagles— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) March 29, 2017
Pederson on DGB: a great offseason for him; was learning system while year. To get in with Mike Groh and learn is going to be huge for him— Les Bowen (@LesBowen) March 29, 2017
Pederson also isn’t giving up on Nelson Agholor
Pederson says Nelson Agholor is one of the hardest workers on the football team. Role on special teams might increase. #Eagles— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) March 29, 2017
Doug Pederson believes that Agholor is capable of playing at a high level, anxious for him to work with new WR coach Mike Groh.— Tim McManus (@Tim_McManus) March 29, 2017
Pederson is optimistic about Halapoulivaati Vaitai’s future
Pederson says Big V improved a lot during 2016 season. Says there’s a chance he can be a “dynamic starting tackle” in the future. #Eagles— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) March 29, 2017
Pederson explained why the Eagles kept Trey Burton
Doug Pederson mentions special teams before tight end when talking about why they are bringing back Trey Burton. #Eagles— Eliot Shorr-Parks (@EliotShorrParks) March 29, 2017
Pederson likes John Ross
The Eagles reportedly brought Ross in for a pre-draft visit. He’s also potentially one of eight wide receiver prospects the Eagles told Wentz to study this offseason.
Doug Pederson says John Ross is dynamic, elusive, quick. Could be a “difference maker” because of his speed. #Eagles— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) March 29, 2017
Pederson says John Ross’ injury history doesn’t scare him. References Eagles sports science program.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) March 29, 2017
The Eagles requested to play back-to-back road games in Los Angeles
The Eagles have to play the Rams and the Chargers on the road this season. The NFL schedule won’t be released until April but Pederson did note the team requested to play those games back to back so the Eagles won’t have to make two separate trips out to L.A. this year.
Pederson says Eagles requested staying on the West Coast for back to back games so they don’t have to come back to Philly and go back.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) March 29, 2017
Doesn’t sound like the Eagles will add a conventional fullback
Pederson talked about being creative and using tight ends and/or offensive linemen in a fullback role. It’s worth noting the Eagles have former North Dakota State fullback Andrew Bonnet on the roster.
At owners meetings, #Eagles Pederson says he is probably leaning away from having a FB on roster.— Ed Kracz (@kracze) March 29, 2017
Without a fullback, the Eagles will never be able to win a Super Bowl now.
Hear what the Eagles’ head coach has to say.
The NFC coaches breakfast begins today at 10:15 AM ET as the NFL's 2017 owners meetings continue to conclude. Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson is among those expected to speak with reporters for a full hour. This is the first time Pederson is meeting with the media since earlier this month at the 2017 NFL Combine.
You can watch Pederson's media session in the video above this post courtesy of PhiladelphiaEagles.com. Follow me on Twitter (@BrandonGowton) for quotes and updates from Pederson. Bleeding Green Nation will have a recap of Pederson's presser and more analysis on what he said after he's done speaking. Stay tuned for more coverage. [UPDATE: 19 observations from Pederson's press conference.]
Topics Pederson is expected to address include:
- The Eagles’ free agency moves (ex: the Alshon Jeffery signing)
- The status of Jason Kelce and Mychal Kendricks
- How the Eagles plan to address roster holes (ex: cornerback)
- 2017 NFL Draft possibilities
- Joe Mixon
- And more
Follow along with more live Twitter updates below.