Saturday, January 10, 2015

Inside Access: Boston Bruins vs. Philadelphia Flyers

It's a privilege to cover an NHL game. I've been fortunate to have worked professionally for nearly 25 years, with approximately half of that time (combining all FT, PT, and freelance efforts) spent in various sporting worlds. And such was the case today, January 10, 2015, at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. 

Iced Pregame Tidbits

Bruins 21-15-6, 48 points (110 goals scored, 110 goals allowed)

Flyers 16-18-7, 39 points (111 goals scored, 123 goals allowed)

Through 120 games as the Flyers' head coach, Craig Berube has a 58-45-17 record (133 points, .554 winning percentage).

Into this twelfth NHL season as a head coach for the Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils and Bruins (since 2007-08), Claude Julien has a combined record of 450-266-10(ties)-94 through 818 games (1,004 points, .614 winning percentage). Julien's post-season accomplishments include leading the Bruins to their first Stanley Cup championship since 1971-72, when the B's defeated the Vancouver Canucks in seven games in 2010-11. The Bruins also were Eastern Conference champions in 2012-13.

Former Flyer Simon Gagne left the Bruins in early December. His indefinite leave of absence was due to his father's terminal illness (cancer). Pierre Gagne passed away the day after Christmas.

The Flyers have a small chance of making a legitimate playoff push unless a number of players who aren't named Jakub Voracek, Claude Giroux and Mark Streit begin scoring on more-regular basis.

Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier are having decent offensive seasons. But, each player needs to contribute to greater degrees. Whether those individual expectations are fair is a different question.

Patrice Bergeron (11 goals) and Brad Marchand (10 goals) rank as the only Bruins with double-digit goal totals.

Flyers' starting goalie: Steve Mason 8-12-6, .919 save percentage and a 2.48 GAA started in goal for the Flyers.

Bruins' starting goalie Tuukka Rask had a 16-10-6 record, .913 save percentage and a 2.52 GAA.

First Period

Early fight Adam McQuaid – Nick Schultz resulted in a 2-minute power play and a game misconduct for the Bruins' defenseman.

7:07 into game, Mason leaves after suffering some type of injury after making a save. Appeared to be a right-knee issue. Ray Emery (7-6-1, .893 save percentage, 3.19 GAA) relieved 'Mase'. Would 48-year-old goalie coach Jeff Reese sign a one-day contract during the game if needed in an emergency situation? All jests aside, an orange defender would surely stand between the pipes.

11:23 - 18-year-old David Pastrnak (#88 was the first round pick of the Bruins last summer) scored his first NHL goal in his seventh career game. Assists: Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara.

Shots: Bruins 10, Flyers 8

Notes: Offensive pressure inconsistencies continue. Evident in shot total and of course, goose egg showing for Flyers during first period intermission.

Second Period

Notes: A few Flyers' power play chances went by the wayside. Through 45 minutes of play Philadelphia had only managed 13 shots. However, the Bruins also sported a meager 14.

When shot totals represent the lede after a period ends, the on-ice action was surely not compelling.

Total shots: Flyers 16, Bruins 14

Third Period

4:48 Pastrnak nets second goal of game/career. Assists: David Krejci and Adam McQuaid.

9:51 Chris Kelly's short-handed goal (1st SHG of season/6th of career, 10th overall goal) seemingly cinches game for B's. Assists Loui Eriksson and Zdeno Chara. Boston's fourth short-handed goal of the season. Kelly, an original Ottawa Senator (2003-2011) is on pace to top seasonal career-high (20 in 2011-12, with the Bruins).

Despite numerous PP chances and late-third period shot total lead (20-18). Flyers can't sustain any pressure. Rebound shots anyone?

14:13 Claude Giroux scored his fourteenth goal (on a direct, non-rebound shot). Assists: Mark Streit and Jakub Voracek.

Emery pulled with less than two minutes to go in the game. 30-second timeout called. No goals resulted by the time the final horn blew.

Notes: Mounting pointless' games are leading to an inevitable non-playoff season, barring a Broad Street-based miracle from now through spring. Craig Berube didn't have much to offer postgame, at this press conference. But, at this point what can he really say?

Final score: Bruins 3, Flyers 1

Final shot totals: Flyers 25, Bruins 18

Final thoughts

While the Flyers didn't apply much pressure, Bruins' goalie Tuuka Rask deserves credit for defeating Philadelphia, as he only allowed one shot past the goal line.

All-Star game selections were set to be announced at 6pm ET on game day. As a result of existing rules and deservedly so, former Flyers' coach Peter Laviolette (Nashville Predators) was tapped to lead the Eastern Conference, while Darryl Sutter (Los Angeles Kings) will lead the Western Conference squad. The first NHL All-Star game in three seasons, due to the League lockout and subsequent Olympic Games, is set to take place on January 25.

Kimmo Timonen's approaching medical test results, related to his blood clot condition, will determine this veteran's immediate and apparently, most-likely, hockey future. Considering the life-threatening position he could put himself in, it seems ill-advised to even consider doing anything more than remaining on the scratched list during what could be the final season of his long and impressive career. But, risk is an individual assessment.

Mason's medical evaluation is now the more-pressing issue. As a side-note, he was the first player scheduled to address the media after the game. But, he didn't do so.

Next up: Tampa Bay. The Lightning serve as the Flyers' last opponent in the four-game homestand and currently sport an Eastern Conference-leading 58 points (27-12-4, 58 points). Tampa Bay has a fifteenth-ranked defense (110 goals allowed), but an NHL-leading 138 goals-scored.

*There are plenty of quality hockey resources available. Bill Meltzer's ever-great HockeyBuzz blog, David Strehle's always-insightful Twitter feed @DstrehleTFP and connected articles, and Charlie Flowe's are worth regular digital reads. 

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