Archive | 10:43 PM

Bourdon Cashes In On Big-League Opportunity

13 Dec

WASHINGTON — He was the first player on the ice for morning skate. Not for the Adirondack Phantoms, but for the Philadelphia Flyers. If someone said that about Marc-Andre Bourdon last season, it probably would have garnered a few laughs. The third-round pick of the 2008 draft mostly sat in the AHL and was ragged on for conditioning problems, but now he’s one of the hardest-working Flyers.

The hard work was reward in the second period when at 7:23 of the middle stanza against the Washington Capitals in Tuesday night’s win, Bourdon got his first NHL goal.

“He’s been rock solid,” said Peter Laviolette. “His head is up. He makes a good first pass. He’s been physical. He looks really comfortable out there. His opportunity of getting some minutes has grown to increased minutes and someone we now count on and rely on. It’s good for him. I’m happy for him because he’s a guy that’s been to the minors a couple times and he gets called up and he gets an opportunity. He’s played terrific; he gets his first goal tonight. Lots of positives.”

Even from the bench, Kimmo Timonen can tell that Bourdon has not just promise, but the skills necessary to compete in the NHL.

“It’s one of those things that as an older guy you watch a lot of young guys coming into the league and these are the things you watch,” said Timonen. “If they can’t do that, it’s gonna be hard for them to have a long career, but once a guy makes good plays every time almost and position-wise he’s in the right spot.

“These are the things you can’t teach. It’s hockey sense and if you don’t have those things you’re not gonna play a really long time in the NHL, but these guys have them and he’s gonna have a long career I think.”

Bourdon, 22, would love to stick around. He says he feels good playing at the NHL level and that his time with the Phantoms has suited him well for this.

“I just feel more comfortable here because all the guys are in the right spot and everybody knows the system,” said Bourdon. “When I take the puck in the corner, I lift my head up and there’s always an outlet for me. I play with Matt Carle; he’s really smart. He always gives me good passes, always in a good position. I think it makes it easier.”

Bourdon made it easier on himself by coming to camp in better shape this year. He is listed at 6-foot, 206 pounds and is using it well. In years past, he didn’t look prepared to compete with his conditioning sub-par.

“I had a concussion last year and I finished the season in the East Coast [Hockey League],” Bourdon recalled. “I think that made me realize that you don’t have 17 chances like that in your life and I worked really hard this summer and I worked really hard down there too. I changed my practicing habit and I think it paid off.”

He had to wait two years, but in his third season since being drafted, Bourdon is finally seeing NHL action. Although Chris Pronger, Erik Gustafsson and Andreas Lilja played a role in why he’s up here, he’s proving to the Flyers that he’s capable of staying.

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Flyers Pour It On Without Claude Giroux

13 Dec

WASHINGTON — Who needs a Hart Trophy candidate and a future Hall of Famer? Apparently, not the Flyers. In the absence of Claude Giroux and Chris Pronger, the Flyers made it look easy against the Washington Capitals, pouring it on in a 5-1 win.

Whenever the Flyers have dealt with injury this season, and the current total for man games lost now stands at 73, other players have simply stood up and taken the onus. Despite all the injuries, the Flyers’ winning streak now stands at six, tying their high from last season.

“I thought [it was] one of our better team games,” said Peter Laviolette. “Start to finish, all lines, all defensemen, goaltender, we had everybody going. I was really happy with it.”

Scott Hartnell extended his goal-scoring streak to a career-high six games to kick off the scoring and the Flyers never looked back. Despite dealing with early pressure from Washington, the Flyers were able to rely on Ilya Bryzgalov who made 31 saves and got his 14th win of the season.

In the second period, the Flyers did their damage with three more goals, taking over the contest with offense by committee. They outshot the Capitals 12-10 in the second period, but chased starting goalie Tomas Vokoun.

“It’s incredibly disappointing,” said Washington defenseman Karl Alzner. “No one wants to do that, especially at home. You’d like to play a little bit better than this. It’s a tough one for us. We’ve got to go back to the drawing board a little bit and watch some video of the mistakes we made, because they’re pretty obvious to us. We’ve just got to go over them and remember them and be more aware next game.”

It appeared as though Jody Shelley had his first goal of the season when he deflected a shot by Marc-Andre Bourdon, but it was ruled that Capitals defenseman Mathieu Perreault tipped it behind the goalie. It was Bourdon’s first NHL goal, to no surprise of his coach who has liked what he’s seen.

“He’s been rock solid,” said Laviolette. “His head is up. He makes a good first pass. He’s been physical. He looks really comfortable out there. His opportunity of some minutes has grown to increased minutes to someone we now count on and rely on. It’s good for him.”

Wayne Simmonds continued his recent success with his fourth goal in his last five games on a deflection from an Andrej Meszaros shot. Max Talbot added his eighth of the year, but he can thank Braydon Coburn for helping him out. Alex Ovechkin entered the Flyers’ zone and Coburn smothered his effort, stripping him of the puck, tying him up along the boards and sending the Flyers on the offensive.

“He’s a talented player and you try to keep the best gap you can on him,” said Coburn. “He’s got a bag full of moves and I feel lucky.”

The third period saw each team add a goal, but the Flyers don’t really mind that. As much as they like the two points, they really proved that their depth is what is most impressive about this year’s team. Thirteen of the 18 skaters found the scoresheet in a win that proved the Flyers are deeper than just one player, even if it is the NHL’s leading scorer.

“It says a lot about this team,” said Jaromir Jagr. “I wasn’t very confident about today’s game when we lost the best player in the league. It’s not easy to play without him. We have to play the same way and the guys stepped up.

“I thought we played all-around. All four lines played good hockey and that’s what you need when you’re missing players like that.”

Giroux Felt “Sluggish” After Skating Tuesday

13 Dec

WASHINGTON — As much as it hurts, as much as they need him, the Flyers have to hit the pause button with Claude Giroux. Especially with the inconsistency in how he has felt over the past few days, the Flyers have tagged him with the “indefinite” tag and will wait it out.

“Claude, over the last few days his symptoms have gradually gotten worse,” said Paul Holmgren. “He skated today and didn’t feel that good. He didn’t feel like himself. I don’t know that there’s any good news in this other than that after 15 minutes or so once he stopped skating he did start to feel a little bit better.”

Chris Pronger is heading to Pittsburgh on Wednesday to meet with a pair of specialists, but Giroux will stick to the team doctors according to Holmgren.

“Chris’ is a little bit different issue than Claude’s,” explained Holmgren. “We’re just gonna stick to our own team with Claude.”

Giroux had played in 213 consecutive games before missing Tuesday night’s contest in Washington. The ironman streak may be broken, but there are bigger issues here. When Wayne Simmonds’ knee made contact with the back of Giroux’s head everyone feared the worst with how bad it looked. Those fears have been realized despite the innocent nature of the collision.

“You never know,” said Holmgren. “That’s the funny thing about concussion injuries. You see a guy get hit really hard and nothing happens. Then you see an innocent looking play and — he didn’t really have concussion symptoms right away. It was more whiplash symptoms.

“He had a lot more discomfort in his neck that in his head. As the last few days have transpired, it’s become more and more where he doesn’t feel like himself. He’s sluggish, so that’s the reason we’re doing what we’re doing today with him.”

Giroux won’t skate on Wednesday and the team will re-evaluate him on Thursday when the rest of the Flyers are in Montreal taking on the Canadiens. Holmgren said Giroux passed a baseline test on Monday and the results were “not bad,” but did not take one on Tuesday.

Frustration has clearly set in for the NHL’s leading goal scorer, especially when he can’t even be around the team for much of the month where games will be played on the road.

“I texted him this morning to see how he was feeling and he replied a little worse than yesterday,” said Scott Hartnell. “Kinda peaks and valleys with that. It starts to get in your head how you feel with that kinda stuff. Hopefully you can distinguish between a good day and a bad day and have a bunch of good days in a row.”

Unfortunately, despite how awful the concussions can turn out to be, there is no scientific answer of how to recover properly.

“So much of it comes down to how the player feels,” said Holmgren, “and sometimes Claude feels good and sometimes he doesn’t. Once he gets feeling good all the time, he’ll be fine. We’re hoping that won’t be long.”

Flyers Say Bryzgalov Was The Right Choice

13 Dec

WASHINGTON — Ilya Bryzgalov or Tomas Vokoun? That was the decision the Flyers were faced with in the offseason and they made their decision early on. Now, for the second time this season, they will meet. Vokoun won Round 1, a 5-2 decision on Oct. 20. Both are starting Tuesday night’s game as well and both are riding winning streaks into the Verizon Center.

They are separated by two wins, .06 goals-against average and, oh, say $8.5 million this season. The Flyers paid big money for Bryzgalov, a nine-year deal worth $51 million. Vokoun’s deal is a modest one-year deal worth $1.5 million. But the Flyers think they’ve made the right choice.

“He’s done a good job; he’s put together some [good games] in the month of December,” said Peter Laviolette. “We’ve moved up in the standings, which is what the ultimate goal is for this time of year, and he’s a big part of it.”

It wasn’t all smooth sailing for Bryzgalov who had a stretch of five consecutive losses. But he’s rebounded and is now on a six-game winning streak.

“I think he’s shown a little bit more consistency,” said defenseman Matt Carle. “The goals that had been going in, there was nothing he could really do about them. Sometimes those are gonna happen. He’d like to have them back, those tap-ins sometimes that’s more on the defensemen. He’s done well.”

At one point, as has been well-documented, Bryzgalov was lost in the woods. He needed an iPhone compass to escape, but he has. After a brief “goalie rotation” as Laviolette called it, Bryzgalov is the bona fide No. 1 goalie that the Flyers paid top dollar for.

“You can see him putting in the extra time in practice,” said Carle. “Most times the starting goalie is not gonna be in the net when the power play is practicing. You see him, when we’re doing our power play practices, he’s down there in net trying to get better. It’s been good to see him playing well and the extra time he’s been putting in has been paying off, so it’s good.”

Bryzgalov will start his fifth-straight game on Tuesday. He’s won them all and is 13-5-2 on the season.

“I think it’s still early and there’s still room for improvement as a team,” noted Laviolette. “I think that confidence you get in front of your goaltender or you get with your linemates, I still think we’re still working on that as a group and we continue to get better at it. I think he’s done a good job, and he’s gotten some very important wins in the month of December.”

Flyers Unfazed By Giroux’s Status

13 Dec

WASHINGTON — The fear has been realized, but the Flyers don’t seem scared. Claude Giroux is out indefinitely after taking a knee from teammate Wayne Simmonds to the back of the head. After the first couple days, Giroux said he was feeling fine, but the Flyers played it cautiously. The result on Tuesday is exactly why.

“Claude reported not feeling very good today,” said Paul Holmgren. “Over the past few days, his symptoms have gradually gotten worse. He will be out indefinitely with a concussion.”

Losing the NHL’s leading point scorer is crushing to the Flyers at first thought, but the team isn’t taking the news like that. They’ve dealt with injury all season. This is just another notch on their battered and bruised belt. All season long, they’ve had players fill the void and put the team in a position at the top of the Eastern Conference, leading the league in scoring.

“All team’s want to have that,” said Jody Shelley. “All teams wonder what happens when you’re down, what happens when things are bad, what happens when things are missing. We haven’t spent any time talking or thinking about it as far as Pronger and now G and things like that. I think that just tests our system and our young energy I guess. It’s almost like an ignorance to even spend time looking at that.

“We’re in Washington. We have a game and I’ve said it before — the 20 guys who are wearing the Philadelphia Flyers jerseys are representing the organization and we play one way and we’re gonna do it again tonight.”

But Giroux leads not only the team, but the entire league in scoring with 39 points. He has 16 goals and 23 assists. That’s not just a hole, that’s a gaping crater into the team’s offense.

“Obviously he’s a guy you can’t replace,” said James van Riemsdyk. “It’s gonna take a lot of people to step it up and fill the role that he plays. He does everything for us: penalty kill, power play, scores big goals, makes big hits, blocks shots, does it all. So we’re gonna have to kind of step up our game here. Just let him rest and not rush him back.”

And, once again, another player will have to step up his game for the loss of an injured player. On most teams, that would make guys sweat. On the Flyers, it’s par for the course this season.

“We don’t sit here and look for a crutch or a hold and think we’re gonna sit back on it,” said Shelley. “There’s guys that are from the first moment in camp where we’re like ‘Wow, where’d this guy come from?’ or ‘Wow, this guy impressed us tonight or this week or this month.’ So, we have a situation I think too where guys are waiting to jump in a spot and show what they’ve got.

“You look at Couturier sitting on the fourth line. He’s a great talent. He’s done a great job and now he’s getting an opportunity. He’s excited and I think we’re all excited for those situations and see how they play out.”

Couturier is expected to get the call to man Giroux’s spot on the top line with Scott Hartnell and Jaromir Jagr. Yes, a 19-year-old rookie will man the top line, but the Flyers aren’t sweating. Nope, not one bit.

Jagr Not Happy To Return To Washington

13 Dec

VOORHEES, N.J. — The allure is starting to wear off for Jaromir Jagr. For the third time in a month, he will play against a former team. The 39-year-old isn’t so happy to be playing in Washington on Tuesday, but it has nothing to do with the fact that the Capitals are his former team.

“I don’t like that arena much,” said Jagr. “I’ve not really had luck there. It’s a tough place to play, even if I was in Pittsburgh and New York. It was always tough. But hopefully we can stay on winning.”

In seven games since being traded to the New York Rangers, he has two goals and six assists at the Verizon Center. Eight points in seven games is hardly struggling for an NHL player. Evidently, by Jagr’s standards that’s not good enough.

Much like Pittsburgh, Washington fans say they have a bad taste in their mouths because of Jagr. After scoring 121 points in 81 games with the Penguins, he got 79 points in 69 games in his debut season with the Capitals. Halfway through his third season in the nation’s capital, he was shipped to New York. He hasn’t thought much about his time there since.

“I think it’s like seven or eight years, the last time I played there,” he said.

While the fans may still be sour on Jagr, the current Caps are not. They know that he’ll present a challenge to the Capitals who have won two in a row and own one of the league’s best records at home at 10-4-1.

“When I’ve seen him play, he’s been playing real well,” Capitals coach Dale Hunter told reporters in Washington. “He looks in great shape and he’s moving his legs. I don’t know how old he is. You commit yourself like he has, and he’s having a great season.”

Between a coach who hasn’t even been around for seven games and a very young Capitals team, there’s no one left but Jeff Halpern from the last team that Jagr played for in Washington and even he left and came back. So the young Caps don’t know Jagr very well first-hand, only from the Oct. 20 5-2 win over the Flyers.

“He’s one of the best players ever to play in this league and to play the game,” Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner told reporters in Washington. “It doesn’t matter what age he’s going to be, he’s still going to bring something to the table. Playing against him last time, he is hard because he’s good at defending the puck.

“He’s great with his stick and he’s still got a little bit of the pre-lockout rules in him – you can tell with his clutching and grabbing. He gets away with it pretty good. He’s a smart player.”

Jagr has only 12 penalty minutes this season, so if he is “clutching and grabbing,” he is getting away from it. But his concern isn’t so much getting away with penalties as it is continuing his hot streak. He has seven points in the last five games.

Whether that comes against one of his former teams or not, that doesn’t much matter to the 39-year-old.