Sports Outside the Beltway

Philadelphia Flyer Jeff Carter out with a fractured foot

He had an almost 300 consecutive game played streak going. From AP-

The Philadelphia Flyers, already without their top two goalies, have also lost their leading scorer.

The team announced Monday that star forward Jeff Carter is out three to four weeks with a non-displaced fracture in his left foot. Carter leads the team in goals (33) and points (60).

When he misses Tuesday night’s game in Ottawa, Carter will end a streak of 286 consecutive games played. That’s the third-longest in team history.

“Jeff’s a tough kid, when he’s able to come back and play, he will,” general manager Paul Holmgren said. “Other guys have to pick up their socks a little bit.”

Carter is hopeful he can be back for the playoffs, which start next month.


The Flyers are making due as well without goalies Ray Emery (out for the season) and Michael Leighton (out eight-10 weeks).

As of this moment, Philadelphia is 6th in the Eastern Conference with 10 games left to play this season. They are 8 points ahead of the 10th place team(NY Rangers), it is therefore unlikely they will miss the playoffs but the problems at Goalie and the injury to Carter make it likely the Flyers will do a quick playoff exit.


Philadelphia Flyer Goalie Ray Emery to have season ending hip surgery

What Goalie will the Broad Street bullies trade for before tomorrow’s trading deadline? From ESPN-

Philadelphia Flyers goalie Ray Emery will need surgery to repair his right hip and will miss the rest of the season, the team announced Tuesday.

“He is suffering from avascular necrosis and will have a bone graft done to alleviate his hip issues,” general manager Paul Holmgren said in a news release.

With Emery out, the Flyers may look to trade for a goalie ahead of Wednesday’s 3 p.m. ET trade deadline, although Michael Leighton has played well for the team.

Emery, 27, went 16-11-1 record with a 2.64 goals-against average and .905 save percentage, including three shutouts, in 29 games this season.

Ray Emery is a unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. He seems to have reformed from his tumultuous Ottawa days that caused him to play outside the NHL the for 2008-09 season. I think Emery won’t have any problem signing with another team.

The Flyers are now in need of a Goalie and a lot of rumors are flying around. One of them is Florida Goalie Tomas Vokoun being traded to Philadelphia. If not for salary cap reasons, I’d bet the trade takes place. It may still happen.

Vokoun is the best Florida player by a mile and only reason the team isn’t in the Eastern Conference cellar. Interesting enough-

1- Vokoun won’t start tonight against Atlanta. It’s going to be Scott Clemmensen(who’s been horrible this year)
2- If Vokoun is traded to Philly, his first opponent as a Flyer? The Florida Panthers, at Florida.

Florida is going to trade Vokoun either by the deadline or during the off season. They have the rights to an excellent Swedish Goalie named Jacob Markstrom. Markstrom could play in the NHL as soon as next season. If Florida trades Vokoun, what do they do at Goalie?

Obviously Clemmensen becomes the starter, but who will back him up? Alexander Salak from Rochester? If so, I better get my hard hat out for the rest of the 2009-10 season.

ESPN’s Scott Burnside speculates on what move Philadelphia will make. DolPhanDave covers the Vokoun/Florida Panther angle.


Columbus Blue Jackets fire Coach Ken Hitchcock

It is less he took the NHL franchise to its first ever playoff appearance. From AP-

The Columbus Blue Jackets fired defensive-minded coach Ken Hitchcock on Wednesday, less than a year after the club made the postseason for the first time.Ken Hitchcock

Assistant coach Claude Noel was chosen to lead the team on an interim basis.

General manager Scott Howson announced the firing a day after the struggling Blue Jackets blew a 1-0 lead in a listless 5-1 loss at Colorado. Columbus stands 14th of the 15 teams in the Western Conference with a 22-27-9 record and 53 points.


The Blue Jackets play their next game at home against the Dallas Stars on Thursday night.

“You’re going to see some changes,” Noel said. “But I’m not going to reinvent the game.”

The 54-year-old Noel joined the Blue Jackets as an assistant coach in June 2007, after spending four seasons as the head coach of the American Hockey League’s Milwaukee Admirals. During that time, he led the club to a 183-94-12-31 regular-season record, three 100-point seasons and two West Division titles.

Built around star forward Rick Nash, the Blue Jackets made it to the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs a year ago before being swept by the Detroit Red Wings.


Hitchcock, who is also an assistant coach on Canada’s Olympic team, picked up his 500th career victory behind the Columbus bench a year ago, but the team appeared stagnant after a fast start this season.

The club got off to a 12-6-2 record through Nov. 19 but then wilted. The Jackets won just three of their next 24 games, spiraling out of the playoff picture. The defense sagged at times and even when last year’s rookie of the year, goalie Steve Mason, had a good game, the offense fell apart.

Mason, who was Rookie of the Year and Vezina finalist last year, has been nothing short of terrible this year. His 3.28 GAA and .890 are I think is the biggest reason the Blue Jackets have done so poorly this year.

I think Hitchcock will be a head coach again in the NHL. He led Dallas to a Stanley Cup Championship and had good records in Philadelphia and Columbus. Who knows maybe Florida will hire him when they fire Peter DeBoer. The Panthers certainly could do a lot worse than Hitch.


FSN Pittsburgh suspends hockey producer

A delayed replay in a game played last Thursday is the cause for this action. From AP-

FSN Pittsburgh has indefinitely suspended a longtime hockey producer for not quickly showing a replay that could have caused a short-handed goal to be awarded to Flyers forward Simon Gagne against the Penguins on Thursday.

The producer, Lowell MacDonald Jr., is the one-time lead hockey producer at ESPN and is the son of former Penguins forward Lowell MacDonald.

Gagne’s shot appeared to cross the goal line while Penguins goalie Brent Johnson was covering it during the second period of the Flyers’ 7-4 victory, but the on-ice officials did not signal a goal. TV replays made available to NHL officials in Toronto were inconclusive.

Moments after play resumed, FSN Pittsburgh aired a replay from an overhead camera that showed the puck crossing the goal line. A call cannot be reversed by use of replay once play has started.

TV rights holders are required to make available all angles of a disputed play. Comcast Sports Net Philadelphia also aired the game, but only FSN Pittsburgh’s telecast contained video from the overhead camera.

FSN Pittsburgh, which carries all Penguins game except those televised by NBC and Versus, said in a statement Tuesday that there “is nothing more important than the integrity of the game.”

Penguin management supported FSN Pittsburgh’s decision saying ‘The integrity of the game is paramount.”

I agree with that statement but have a question. Why is a person like Lowell MacDonald Jr., with deep ties to the Penguins(His father played for the team for a almost a decade), allowed to produce broadcasts whose video can be used to sustain or overturn referee decisions? There was a potential for problems that all parties should have known of in advance.

I’m not saying McDonald did anything wrong, just that he shouldn’t have been put in a situation where it can appear he did. Because to maintain the integrity of the game requires there be no one with strong biases in a position to cause damage to it.


NHL Eastern Conference at the mid point of the 2009-10 season

Due to the Winter Olympics, the NHL season is being being played at a more accelerated rate than normal. For instance, prior to Christmas week the Florida Panthers had four games in a week, five straight weeks in a row.

A NHL season is 82 games in length. Half of 82 is 41. Most teams are at 41 games or more

New Jersey 39 games 28 wins 10 losses 1 overtime loss 57 points
Buffalo 40 25 11 4 54
Washington 40 24 10 6 54
Pittsburgh 42 26 15 1 53
Boston 40 21 12 7 49
Ottawa 41 21 16 4 46
Montreal 43 21 19 3 45
NY Rangers 41 19 17 5 43

Tampa Bay 41 16 15 10 42
Philadelphia 40 19 18 3 41
Atlanta 40 18 17 5 41
NY Islanders 42 16 18 8 40
Florida 41 16 18 7 39
Toronto 41 14 18 9 37
Carolina 41 11 23 7 29

Bold denotes all teams who would make the playoffs as of this minute.
The above standings are as of 6 p.m. on Saturday January 2nd.

Teams all but certain to make the playoffs- Buffalo, Pittsburgh, New Jersey, Washington
Team that won’t make the playoffs- Carolina

That’s hardly rocket science based on the above.

I will be greatly surprised if Florida, NY Islanders, or Toronto are playing in the post season. The Panthers haven’t made the playoffs in 10 years and this will be no exception. How is a team that hasn’t won more than 3 games in a row since March 2008 supposed to get the momentum up for a playoff run?

Tampa Bay and Atlanta have been pleasant surprises this year. I’m still not convinced either team can make the playoffs. Particularly so in the case of the Lightning who are most impotent offensive teams in the league,(28th of 30 teams)

Honestly I think the teams who are currently 1-8 will all make the playoffs. There will be reshuffling but I think the 7 other teams each have enough liabililites that it will keep them out of the postseason.


Philadelphia keeps winning streak against NY Islanders in tact with 2-1 win

The Flyers have won 13 straight games against their Atlantic Division rival. From AP-

Jeff Carter snapped a tie in the second period and the Philadelphia Flyers beat the New York Islanders for the 13th straight time, 2-1 on Sunday night.Leighton

The Flyers, who have won three in a row overall for the first time in two months, haven’t lost to the Islanders since Feb. 12, 2008. It is the longest active streak in the NHL, one win more than Washington’s current 12-game run over Tampa Bay.

Danny Briere scored in the first period to give the Flyers their first lead and he nearly added another goal in the third, but that one was waved off. Video replay determined that Briere steered his own shot in with a skate after the puck hit goalie Martin Biron at the end of a 2-on-1 rush.

One key to Philadelphia’s win was the excellent goaltending by Michael Leighton. Leighton, who had been positively dreadful in goal till a week ago, has played very good his last two games.

As have the Flyers whose win and loss totals for the 2009-10 NHL are now identical. Players and teams can have momentum swings in the NHL. Fans and bloggers shouldn’t become either too excited or depressed by the results of just a few games though it is hard to not be cheerful after seeing your favorite team win a few games.

I can hardly wait for the Florida Panthers to win 12….cough 6…. cough 4 games in a row against any team. Or 4 games in a row period.


Get the puck out of there- NHL wrap-ups as league takes break for Christmas

Where as the NBA will play games on Christmas day, the NHL won’t.(Florida announcer Billy Lindsay said there may be a clause in the league’s collective bargaining agreement with players that rules out holiday games) Therefore there is no hockey on either December 24th or 25th. My favorite team, the Florida Panthers, doesn’t return to the ice till December 27th.

The NHL is almost at the half way point of 2009-10. With all 30 teams having played at least 35 games. Due to the Winter Olympics and the over two-week break the NHL takes as a result of it, the schedule is accelerated this year.

Here are some random notes on games played yesterday and how the NHL shapes up at the moment.

The New York Rangers beat the Florida Panthers 4-1. Now Florida, Montreal who defeated Carolina 5-1, and the Rangers are in a three-way tie for the 8th playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Since the Rangers have played the fewest games, for the moment they have tiebreaks.

Pittsburgh routs Ottawa 8-2. The big news out of this game is the injury to Senator Winger Daniel Alfredsson. Alfredsson, who is Ottawa’s leading scorer, is expected to be out for a couple of weeks.

Ilya Bryzgalov shuts out Anaheim 4-0 to extend Phoenix’s home winning streak to 8 games. The Coyotes are currently 4th in the Western Conference standings.Steve Mason

If Phoenix is one of the pleasant surprises of the 2009-10 NHL season, the play of Columbus Blue Jacket Goalie Steve Mason ranks as one of this year’s biggest disappointments. A almost 3.50 Goals against average was only helped slightly as Dallas beat Columbus last night 3-1.

Backup Chicago Goalie Anti Niemi notches his 4th shutout of the year as the Blackhawks beat Detroit 4-0.

While not shutting out Tampa Bay, Philadelphia’s 3rd Goaltender of the year Michael Leighton looks impressive as the Flyers beat the Lightning 5-2. Before the game was played, Philadelphia’s practice had to be cancelled due to sewage line problem in their locker room.

Merry Christmas NHL. I hope the season is as exciting (and unusual) post Christmas as it was before the holiday break.


That 70′s show- Florida outfights Philadelphia 4-1

Tonight’s meeting with the ‘Broad Street Bullies’ resembled a night at fights almost as much as it did a hockey game. There were four separate instances of fisticuffs between the Flyers and Panthers.Three of which took place in the first period.Fl-Phil

When the teams weren’t trading punches, Florida’s first line was excelling at target practice. Michael Frolik, Stephen Weiss got one goal each and Nathan Horton put two pucks in the net on the way to a 4-1 Panther victory.

These players, Horton and Weiss in particular, have been on fire. Here are there point totals through 38 games.

Horton- 13 goals, 24 assists or 37 points
Weiss- 18 goals, 19 assists or 37 points
Frolik- 11 goals, 12 assists or 23 points

This line has scored 13 goals and had 21 assists over the last 6 Florida games.
Weiss had a career high 4 points tonight.
He is also only 2 goals off matching his previous season high(20). At this point Weiss and Horton(both former Florida first round draft picks) on their way to 80 point seasons.
Horton, who most NHL knowledgeable has been a underacheiver, has shown flashes throughout his career that he could reach that point plateau. Weiss is a whole other story. His highest points total for a season is 61 scored in the 2008-09 season. Are these guys just hot or having a breakthrough in their careers?

Florida was 5th in the Eastern Conference in goal scoring going into last weekend. That has occurred while two of the team’s biggest scoring weapons have been out for a month or more. 30-goal scorer David Booth hasn’t played since October and veteran Cory Stillman has been out for a month.

Florida continues to do well on the road. They are 10-9-2 versus 6-6-5 at home. Have the Panthers made a believer of me or do I still think they won’t make the playoffs? I still need more convincing that Florida is really this good.

A couple of closing notes

*- I got to start writing down some of the inane things Panther Billy Lindsay says during a game. Last month he invoked Ross Perot, last Friday he said the Panthers would win if Vokoun shuts out Carolina. Tonight he said the Florida 1st line ‘was hotter than donut grease’. Boy do I miss Denis Potvin.

*- Either Lindsay or Steve Goldstein noted how poorly Flyer Goalie Michael Leighton has played this year. No doubt Leighton has been terrible. He had a .848 save percentage entering tonight and let two of 17 Florida shots get by him tonight. When will Lindsay or Goldstein be just as honest about the performance of Panther Goalie Clemmensen? Clemmensen’s save pct. is .884 and he’s giving up 3.7 goals a game to boot. If Leighton has been terrible for this NHL season, Clemmensen has been very bad.


Philadelphia Flyers fire Coach John Stevens

A winning record doesn’t mean job security in the NHL. From AP-

The Philadelphia Flyers replaced coach John Stevens with Peter Laviolette on Friday after the team was shut out in consecutive games.

Laviolette led the Carolina Hurricanes to their only Stanley Cup title in 2006. He was fired in December 2008 and was still under contract.

Laviolette, who also coached the New York Islanders for two seasons, was 167-130-30 in his four-plus seasons with Carolina.


The Flyers were expected to contend in the Eastern Conference this season. They were 13-11-1 for 27 points and out of the playoff picture entering Saturday’s game against Washington.

Philadelphia stands a better than a 50% chance of making the playoffs, but they aren’t better than the fifth or sixth best team in the Eastern Conference. Washington, Pittsburgh, New Jersey, and Boston at least are clearly better than the Flyers.

Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren said he lost confidence in Stevens. Two shutouts in a row is grounds for firing. How long before Philadelphia’s ownership loses confidence in Holmgren?


Hard to believe- Philadelphia routs Carolina 6-1

The Hurricanes haven’t won a game since October 9th. From AP-

Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn waited five years for his first two-goal game in the NHL. Then he took care of the feat in 1½ minutes.

Coburn scored twice and Scott Hartnell and Matt Carle each had a goal and two assists to help Philadelphia snap a two-game losing streak and send the Carolina Hurricanes to their eighth straight loss, 6-1 on Saturday.

“I’ve had a lot of close calls so far,” said Coburn, who has played in 227 career NHL games. “You just have to wait for your time.”

David Laliberte, playing in his first NHL game, and James Van Riemsdyk each had a goal and an assist for the Flyers, unbeaten in their past six regulation games at home against Carolina.


Brandon Sutter scored for the Hurricanes (2-7-3), who are off to their worst start since 1997 — the franchise’s first season in Carolina — when they were 2-7-2. Carolina is winless on the road (0-5-2), and on an 0-5-3 skid overall.

Ray Emery, who stopped 28 shots in the Flyers’ season-opening, 2-0 win over Carolina on Oct.2, made 39 saves in the rematch.

Michael Leighton, making his first start for the Hurricanes, stopped 22 shots.

Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said he thought Leighton needed some game action. You think so? You’re team is 2-6-3 with one goalie who has played all 11 games you played this year. I think it is time to try option two if just for one game.

Even if it doesn’t work.

I’m amazed by Carolina’s start, which is worse than the Florida Panthers. Carolina went to the conference finals last year. Both the Panthers and Hurricanes have 7 pts at this point in the 2009-10 NHL season but Carolina has played one more game. I’m more optimistic about the Hurricanes turning around than Florida.


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