Archive | 5:57 PM

Flyers Back Bobrovsky For Winter Classic Start

1 Jan

CITIZENS BANK PARK — They’re almost like polar opposites. Sergei Bobrovsky is calm and quiet. He rarely shows emotion, even if he’s on the wrong end of a blowout game. Ilya Bryzgalov, for better or worse, wears his heart on his sleeve.

With the entire hockey world watching, the Flyers will turn to Bobrovsky in the Winter Classic on Monday at 3 p.m. The team confirmed that Bobrovsky will start after Bryzgalov dramatically announced his benching following the team’s practice.

But Philadelphia is used to drama in the goal crease. There isn’t really any outrage over Bryzgalov starting the game. In fact, the Flyers were quick to credit Bobrovsky who quietly works behind the scenes.

“Talking with Bob last year when we were having our end-of-the-year meetings, he struggled at the end of the year and he knew it,” said Scott Hartnell. “I think he’s a little tired from playing 30 games to playing 50 or whatever he played. He said ‘I’m not sure if we’re going to get a goalie next year, but I want to be No. 1.’

“I think that’s given him fuel to work out every day after practice and when he gets a chance to play to be great. He deserves the start. He’s played great. I think it’s great to have healthy competition between the two.”

Hartnell isn’t alone.

“Credit to Bob. He works hard. He always stays late,” said Braydon Coburn. “He’s in unbelievable shape. People forget he was a rookie last year. The confidence I’ve seen him play with this year has been impressive. Good for him because he’s played well for us.”

This season, Bobrovsky is 8-2-1 with a 2.52 goals-against average and .914 save percentage. He was reluctant to talk about the opportunity to start in the Winter Classic, but his smile showed his interest.

“It doesn’t matter who starts because the most important thing is the result,” said Bobrovsky through a translator. “It’s a real game. It’s two points on the line, so it’ll be special, but the result is the most important thing.”

While Bobrovsky was talking about the seriousness of another regular season game, one against the Rangers who have beaten the Flyers twice already this year, Bryzgalov was caddy-corner in the dressing room, talking about what kind of tea he’ll be drinking from a thermos on the bench.

“It’ll be Earl Gray probably. Lemon, lots of sugar. Sweet. I hope I have enough for the whole game,” said Bryzgalov. “It’s supposed to be colder [on Monday], so we’ll see. I’ll probably make sure I have enough towels. I always wear long underwear and I usually wear lingerie too… what have you guys gotten from this conversation? Basically nothing, right?

“People don’t care how I feel. They want a show. They want entertainment. You remember Rome right? Antique Rome, the Roman Empire? What did the people want? Gladiators and bread. That’s all they wanted. The crowd hasn’t changed. It’s still the same. It’s going to be the same in the future.”

While Bryzgalov has certainly stolen the show this year, Bobrovsky hasn’t regressed at all after playing 54 games his rookie year. It can be a tough thing to do to take a seat in the back after spending most of the year in the driver’s position.

“I haven’t seen any of that from him,” said Coburn. “This guy probably is the last guy to leave from the practice rink every day. I know, because I’m usually the second to last.

“This guy works his butt off every day. He’s always out there keeping himself in shape and you can see the mental preparation he does before games. He’s kind of a little bit on an opposite to Bryz. He’s easygoing and Bryz is a personality.”

Bobrovsky did, however, admit it’s been tough.

“It’s not up to me,” he said. “It’s not my choice and there’s no other way. In comparison to playing every game, it is more difficult to be as confident and as prepared because I never know when I’ll start. There’s no rhythm for the preparation.”

Everyone will likely be a little thrown off by playing outdoors in the Winter Classic on Monday, so he won’t be alone in his awkward feeling. But he’ll be in there. Calm and quiet, Sergei Bobrovsky will be between the pipes.

Advertisements

Winter Classic Pushed Back To 3 p.m.

1 Jan

CITIZENS BANK PARK — The sun is usually a good thing for a forecast at Citizens Bank Park, but for the second time this weekend, it’s caused a game to be pushed back. According to the NHL, the start time for Monday’s Winter Classic has been pushed back to 3 p.m. based on the weather forecast and “should offer optimal game conditions for players and fans.”

The Flyers’ practice on Sunday morning was changed, at least partially, due to the weather. It was originally scheduled for 11:30 a.m. and the players took the ice at 9:00 a.m. which seemed to make a difference.

“It actually wasn’t that bad,” said Harry Zolnierczyk. “A little slow, it felt like. Definitely a different feel. The puck wasn’t moving as quick, but both teams are gonna be on it, so we’re gonna be dealing with the same thing.”

Before the alumni game, which was also moved back two hours, the ice was mostly puddles and the entire surface was covered by tarps. The crew was able to get the surface to a playable condition after the sun passed over the infield where the rink is and it made a difference.

“The ice feels real hard and hollow,” said Zac Rinaldo. “It’s a different feeling, but it should be a fun game [Monday].”

Flyers Not Concerned With Outspoken Bryzgalov

1 Jan

CITIZENS BANK PARK — Things were certainly different in Phoenix. There weren’t as many cameras and there was definitely no Winter Classic. So when Ilya Bryzgalov came east to one of the biggest hockey markets in the league, the Flyers knew they weren’t exactly getting the same goalie that played in Phoenix.

At the same time, that doesn’t mean they were expecting for him to announce, in dramatic fashion, that he had been benched for the Winter Classic, or say that he was “lost in the woods” in his first month as the Flyers’ starting goalie.

Through the first three months of the season, Bryzgalov posts a 14-8-3 record with a 3.01 goals-against average and .890 save percentage. His career average is a 2.57 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.

“When Bryz gets in the net … he’s gotta earn it back,” said Scott Hartnell. “I don’t think it’s a No. 1, No. 2 thing. It could be 1A and 1B. But not he’s gotta realize he’s gotta get his job back.

“Obviously, Ilya is a tremendous goalie, but I think he’s had some bad luck the last couple of games and even though it’s the Winter Classic and the big game, it’s still two points in the standings. We want to get it, and if Bob’s our best chance right now for us to get the points, then we gotta go with him.”

There is certainly a case to be made that the Flyers’ expensive shiny new toy, one that cost $51 million across nine years, didn’t know what he was getting himself into. Some say he’s more interested in being an off-ice personality than a Vezina Trophy candidate.

“People doesn’t care how I feel, right? They wants the show, they wants the entertainment,” said Bryzgalov. “You remember the Rome, right? Antique Rome? Roman Empire. What they want? Gladiators and bread. That’s all they want. The crowds doesn’t change: They still the same. It’s going to be past 300 years ago again in the future. It’s going to be the same. It’s all the crowd needs.”

While he’s certainly put on a show, as evidenced by HBO’s “24/7,” the Flyers would probably rather he focus more on his play. The past few days in practice, he’s worked a little bit extra with goalie coach Jeff Reese. That’s who told Bryzgalov he would be taking in the Winter Classic from the bench and the goalie then relayed the message to the media, much to the chagrin of Peter Laviolette.

Still, those in charge say they aren’t worried about the mental status of Bryzgalov.

“It’s good that Ilya’s had a couple of days here to do a couple of extra things with Jeff, talk through some things, I think he’ll be better because of it,” said general manager Paul Holmgren. “Am I worried about it? No. He’s seen Dr. Reese the last couple days.

“If Sergei [Bobrovsky]’s playing tomorrow, it can’t be a bad thing. He deserves to play. He’s played well. If Ilya was playing tomorrow, I’d think Ilya would have a good game too. I’m not concerned about who’s playing.”

“I’m not worried about Bryz,” said Danny Briere. “Bryz is a good goalie. He’s going to bounce back. He’s had some bad luck lately, but we all know he’s a good goalie. We’re going to need him down the stretch. We’re going to need him in the playoffs. I’m not worried at all.”

Laviolette, on the other hand, wasn’t willing to diagnose Bryzgalov’s mental status.

“You know, I’m not sure how to answer that question,” said the coach. “You can probably ask him that. I’m not sure. I think that’s more of a personal question, are you struggling. I can’t speak for him.”

The potential problem for the Flyers is when he speaks for himself.

Bryzgalov Says Team Is Better Without Him In Winter Classic

1 Jan

CITIZENS BANK PARK — Even when he’s not playing, Ilya Bryzgalov steals the spotlight. In front of all to see, the 31-year-old netminder announced to a locker room full of media members that when everyone is watching the Winter Classic on Monday, so will he. From the bench.

“I have great news and even better news,” said Bryzgalov. “OK, great news: I’m not playing tomorrow night. Good news: we have a chance to win the game tomorrow.”

Perhaps it is his famous sense of humor. Maybe it was the HBO cameras, but many people didn’t believe him.

“No, I’m not playing, guys. I’m telling you, definitely,” said Bryzgalov. “Yeah it was written down. Actually my goalie coach, Jeff Reese, he tell me I’m not playing.”

Well, surely he has to be disappointed. The Flyers signed him to a nine-year, $51 million deal in the offseason. He was supposed to be the guy to lean on.

“Yes. I’m a human,” said Bryzgalov. “I’m not made from steel, but it is what it is and I had a good practice again like yesterday and two days ago. We just keep moving forward and lots of games in front of us. Lots of hockey. I heard it was still the main goal in Philadelphia to win the Stanley Cup and prepare for this.”

So what will he do on Monday?

“Make sure I not forget in the morning my thermos, put some nice tea [in it] and enjoy the bench.”

That means that Sergei Bobrovsky will get the nod. He has won two in a row and four of five. Bobrovsky has a 2.52 goals-against average and .914 save percentage as opposed to Bryzgalov’s 3.01 goals-against average and .890 save percentage. He was reluctant to talk about the Winter Classic, noting that no official announcement had been made by Peter Laviolette.

For the second-year player, it was a veteran move. Bryzgalov said he hadn’t spoken to Laviolette, but was willing to disclose he wasn’t playing.

“No, I didn’t see the reason why,” said Bryzgalov. “He’s the head coach. He makes these decisions and he’s responsible for the results. I can understand. He probably wants to put the best lineup he’s got for [the game].”

Laviolette wasn’t willing to let Bryzgalov’s diatribe be the official stance of the team.

“I’ve been consistent with how I’ve made the announcement of goaltenders,” said Laviolette. “I have not spoken to either goaltender yet and I have not announced anything yet. We plan on making an announcement later on today as to who the starter will be.”

So why would Bryzgalov say that he wasn’t playing?

“I don’t know,” said Laviolette. “I haven’t spoken to either one of the goaltenders. I plan on speaking to them after I get done with you guys and we plan on making an announcement before the game…sticking with company policy that we’ve had since I’ve been here.

“New year, same policy.”

Yeah, we’re early in 2012, so early the fireworks haven’t stopped yet.

Alumni Impressed By Packed House

1 Jan

CITIZENS BANK PARK — When Eric Lindros stepped out of what is usually the Phillies dugout and made the trek out to the rink, stick in the air acknowledging the 45,808 people, most of them on their feet, the roar rivaled any cheer in Citizens Bank Park.

All those fans out to see a bunch of old geezers play some hockey. At least that was the lasting impression for the 29 Flyers alumni who took the ice.

“You couldn’t imagine something like this for an alumni game,” said Bobby Clarke. “Really it was incredible. It’s just a real tribute to Ed Snider and the Flyers organization and the great players that have come through the organization. To have this many people want to come out and cheer an alumni team…fabulous.”

When the Flyers scored, 9:30 into the first period, the crowd erupted again. The bell in right field rang and lit up when John LeClair lit the lamp with his first goal since Nov. 20, 2006. He beat Antero Niittymaki and the Flyers 5-3 as a member of the Penguins.

Obviously, the faithful forgave him.

“This was very special,” said Brian Propp who led the team in ice time with 16:11. “Even in warmup we were going through things, looking around, knowing where our families are and a lot of friends. We’ve been getting a lot of texts and emails about the game. Just to be part of the event was just — it was a very, very special day and something we won’t forget for a long time.”

For about 27 minutes, Mark Laforest had a pretty good view of all the fans from the Flyers’ crease. He was the standout goalie of a trio that also included Bernie Parent and Neil Little. Laforest stopped all of the 16 shots he faced.

“That’s wild! I just kept looking at the crowd going ‘this is insane.’ What a great city,” said Laforest who played 38 of his 103 NHL games as a Flyer. “What a hockey town, sports town. I’m so proud of their fans, man, I just loved it.”

Whether it was a player who didn’t play a full season or one of the most beloved Flyers, the sight of a baseball stadium full of Flyers fans was overwhelming and certainly a little more than the Spectrum ever held.

“I don’t know what to say there as far as our fan base goes there for hockey. It’s just second to none,” said Bill Barber. “I think all the guys who were out on the ice today are very appreciative of the Philadelphia Flyers fans and the fans of Philadelphia period. It doesn’t matter what sport; they’re honest.

“They demand a lot and I think all you have to do is play hard and they’ll be with you forever and we’re very fortunate that we won the Cup years in the early years. It was an honor.”

For those in attendance, the feeling appears to be mutual.