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What better place than here, what better time than now?

Two friends. Two teams. One rivalry.

The 2016-17 season seems like the perfect jumping off point as it marks the 50th anniversary of the 1967 NHL Expansion, the time both the Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins entered the league.

Separated by 300+ miles, but tied together with an undying love for the game (and contempt for the other team) we look to provide you with a view from both sides of the ice.

Two friends. Two teams. One rivalry.

4 wins away…

Here we go again…
Stanley. Cup. Finals.
The hardest trophy to win in sports is just 4 wins away for two teams. The Preds were the pre-season favorites, and I wanted to pick them in my (abysmal) playoff bracket. The Pens have had some highs and lows through the regular season and playoffs battling some significant and lengthy absences from everyday players. 

This could be the last set of games for multiple players in a Penguins uniform and a couple more may choose to retire. Matt Cullen is looking for his third cup ring and might very well hang them up at the end of the year. Kunitz, a guy I have constantly said the Penguins should trade, is going for his fourth, and without him the Pens might not be in this situation. Kunitz may very well cement himself in grinder history with his Cup rings and Olympic Gold, and who would blame the 37 year old forward? Stories like these are what push the Pens. Hagelin stated after ECF G7 that he looked at Cullen sitting beside him on the bench and didn’t want his last NHL game to be a Game 7 loss. 

Most analysts break down series by comparing the teams Goaltending, Defense, and Forwards against each other. I think if you compare Rinne vs. Murray, Preds top 4 D vs. Pens patchwork backend, and the Top 2 lines of both teams, I don’t think anyone can say the Predators are NOT the favorite to win Lord Stanley’s Mug. 

BUT…

Murray doesn’t face Rinne head to head. The D-men don’t go out there to match up against Subban & Josi. 

The Penguins have rolled their lines all season so expect then to do that early in games and when they have a lead. They go four centers deep and with a few tweaks and some hopeful injury reports have speed and grit on every line. How will the Preds D withstand a constant attack? Rinne can stop anything at points in his game, but if the Penguins can keep enough pressure and throw the kitchen sink at him, will he remain a brick wall? The Penguins blueliners have done an excellent job insulating Murray who has been nothing short of fabulous since returning. This patchwork-6 goes out, does a yeoman’s work and waits for their next opportunity. Murray is calm beyond his years, thrives under pressure, and has excellent hair. 

Looking from this point of view, I find it much harder to pick a favorite. The ’08 Penguins making their first SCF got shellacked in their first 2 games against the Red Wings and couldn’t scratch their way back for a third win. From this homer (not to be confused with Homer [Iliad] or Homer [Simpsons]) I’m looking for the Penguins to come out strong and keep their home ice advantage. 

Whatever you do, whomever you root for, just watch the games and enjoy!

The Continuation of the Chronicling of the Chronicles

Ladies and gentlemen, you can cease your relentless outrage; by popular demand, PA Puck Chronicles has returned, with more Philly surliness, more Pittsburgh (expletive) and a complete and thorough omission of any mention of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.  Except for that one.

Speaking of which, let’s talk about anything else.  

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You know, I’d sign a hockey jersey for somebody too if they wore a picture of my face to a game.

Therapists have told me, and several bartenders agreed, that I should just enjoy these playoffs and appreciate the opportunity to see the creativity and drive of hockey’s best on the sport’s most exciting platform.  I don’t understand why I can’t find a therapist who is a reasonable human being.  

Instead, I’m going to stubbornly hang out over here in the offseason.

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The Flyers find themselves in the advantageous spot of selecting second overall in next month’s entry draft.  From what I’ve read from the scouting community, there is little consensus in the debate between Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier other than that Patrick has the size advantage and a superior shot, but Hischier is more creative and a better overall skater.  

And ol’ Ronny Hextall gets to sit back, congratulate his scouts on a job well done and let the New Jersey Devils decide who they take second overall.  And then he’ll tell his scouts to get back to work because the Flyers have ten more picks after that first rounder.

Don’t you worry PA Puck Chroniclers, we’ll be back soon.  I just can’t deal with the hate mail any longer.  And the protesting has to stop (We have a lot of fans in Venezuela).

Special thanks to the overwhelming support of our fan.  

El Capitan Returns

Let us just call Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews rabbits…

Sidney Crosby returned from a concussion on Tuesday after an abysmal display by the Penguins in the previous game against Nashville. The Panthers did an excellent job keeping him off the scoreboard. Until they didn’t. They left him alone in the slot. On a powerplay. ALONE.

That play helped spark the Penguins to another 3-2 win, their 4th of the season. And let’s face it…the Penguins going 3-2-1 without Crosby is about as good as they could hope for. The big stars stepped up as expected but there is only so much you can accomplish without having the best player on the world in your lineup.

I can’t wait to see if he can go on a tear and run the league as he has in the past.

McDavid and Matthews came out of the gate firing on all cylinders. I am surprised Matthews has been able to score like he has and the Toronto media hasn’t eaten him alive yet. I expect McDavid to stay in the top 5 in scoring all season. IF he can stay healthy (with the big goon Lucic by his side, I don’t expect too many body shots getting through without repercussions).

Shout out to Matt Cullen, the ageless wonder. Not many 4th line centers in this league that coach would willingly put in the spot typically occupied by the #1 center.

 

Fleury Watch is on….
-Murray signs a new deal
-Murray returns from injury and is placed in the back up roll awaiting his first start of the season
-Penguins don’t send Condon down yet to risk losing him on waivers

…this will be a fun progression of events as the trade deadline approaches. If he doesn’t move by then, I wonder what tricks JR has up his sleeve for the expansion draft.

 
Fun fact:
There are 79 rookie skaters in the NHL so far this year…the Penguins have 1, Scott Wilson. They also have 1 rookie goalie waiting to play his first game of the season (4 rookie goalies have GP in the NHL this season) and he has his name on the Cup…Matt Murray.

 

 

Fleury Trade Theories

Let’s face it: Fleury’s on his way out of Pittsburgh.  Here are some of my hopeful trade partners and possible returns:

 

Pittsburgh: Marc-Andre Fleury

for

Winnipeg: An antique Atlanta Thrashers jersey with fabled Russian star Ilya Kovalchuk’s name on the back (Current ebay price: $40)

 

Pittsburgh: Marc-Andre Fleury + Kris Letang’s hair

for

SKT Moscow: An actual flower and Kris Letang’s lost dignity

 

Pittsburgh: Marc-Andre Fleury + Matt Cullen’s freedom

for

Buffalo: Ryan O’Reilly’s stick.

 

Pittsburgh: Marc-Andre Fleury

for

Las Vegas: ….  ….  maybe they’ll pay for his plane ticket after the expansion draft?

 

But on to real news.  Travis Konecny has more points than all but 3 players in the Penguins lineup.  This kid has shown poise, creativity and confidence.  I’m elated.

Oh, and let’s not talk about Sean Couturier just yet.  Let’s let everyone else figure it out on their own…

The Flyers early schedule has been rocky, to say the least, but has also shown flashes of excellence in short bursts.  The Flyers will pair up Ivan Provorov with Brandon Manning tonight, as the Streit/Provo combination hasn’t lived up to expectation thus far.  This may initially look like a throwaway pairing, but Manning has built a modicum of trust with the coaches in the first four games, and his 3 assists and +3 rating really represent the effort he’s been putting forward in my eyes.

I’m unlikely to catch tonight’s game, unfortunately, unless my lovely girlfriend and I are going to start making hockey games at weddings a tradition, which, now that I’m thinking about it, is kind of an excellent idea.

Side Note: Good for Vancouver and good for Edmonton.  So far.

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A New Era Unfolds

Let’s not mince words; the 2016 postseason did not happen for Philly fans.  We calmly and smugly existed (as we so often do) in expectation of our team’s future, plausibly ignoring whatever scumbag team heartbreakingly killed the San Jose Sharks’ and Joe Thorton’s dreams of finally hoisting the cup.  It was Tampa, right?  

This upcoming season, however, is the proverbial beginning of what is expected to become a contending franchise for the foreseeable future.  Gone are the days of trading youth for rentals, overspending on free agents and ignoring every draft pick past the first round.  This season the Flyers will begin to capitalize on an incredible combination of veteran and young talent, a process that has been in the works for multiple years.  And in Philly, our attention spans don’t last that long (RIP Chip Kelly’s reputation).

It’s been a long time and a tough wait,, but there’s something I want to say on behalf of every hockey fan on the correct side of Pennsylvania:

Dear Ron Hextall,

Thanks for being brilliant,

Sincerely,

Who’s Asking?

 

Ron Hextall has announced that rookies Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny are staying with the team for the full season.  Provorov is expected to slot in next to Streit, who could earn every penny in his contract if he can mentor Ivan and help his transition into the NHL.  There’s a lot expected from this young star.  

Konecny, on the other hand, joins an already stable foundation of top-6 talent on offense, led by a whole bunch of names I don’t need to mention because you already know them…. *inhales* GirouxVoracekSimmondsSchennCouturier.

This season, the team will look from more from Scott Laughton and Nick Cousins, who should hopefully be aided by newcomer Dale Weise.  Weise has already played for four different NHL franchises at 28, but excelled in a secondary role in 2014 with Montreal, scoring 29 points (10/19) and going +21 on the season.  Matt Read is another player the team hopes to get more from, especially given that he’s signed through 2018 to a hefty $3.625m cap hit.  The Flyers bottom six is lacking size and will have to contribute through a combination of grit and effort, particularly early in the season while Laughton is sidelined with injury.

Shayne Gostisbehere looks to build on the most promising rookie season in Philly sports since Carson Wentz (….  ….   ….. wait), and will likely be called upon early with Michael Del Zotto sidelined 4-5 weeks and Radko Gudas serving suspension (for a pretty silly mistake, if we’re being honest).  There is plenty of opportunity on the blueline for players to step up, and guys like Andrew MacDonald and Brandon Manning have an enormous opportunity to prove that they belong on an NHL roster.  

And even though our goaltending tandem is only the second best in the state *coughs loudly*, the combination of Steve Mason and Michael Neuvirth gives the Flyers a solid, if unspectacular duo.  Mason is likely the starter, but both netminders are talented and capable, if a little unreliable occasionally.

We will likely see several callups throughout this season as well.  I was gifted with an opportunity to catch the Phantoms play the Charlotte Checkers in the preseason, and spent much of the night expecting Sam Morin to stop playing hockey and start munching on his stick.  If he were to fight a bear, the bear would first insist on being allowed to wear hockey pads.  You get it; the guy is huge.  I thought Taylor Leier looked particularly confident in the game as well.

All in all, I’m incredibly motivated by the young talent joining the team and by last season’s stretch of regular season success after a tough start, but my reasonable hopes for this team are to finish second in the division, for Konecny and Provorov to each have a season in which they learn and adapt to the NHL without struggling mentally, for Voracek to find his game again and to watch the Pittsburgh Penguins franchise fade into obscurity as the new powerhouse of the Metropolitan begins its ascent to power.

But I have only have one major prediction for the upcoming Flyers season, and that is that nobody will throw a beer can at any of our own players, unless it’s Ryan Howard doing so ironically.  

Oh, and also, the top goaltending duo in Pennsylvania is obviously the Lehigh Valley Phantoms combo of Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon.  What were you thinking?