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Sacks in 3 seasons for 2014 1st-round pick Marcus Smith, cut by Eagles on Wednesday

The Flyers are counting on familiar faces to develop together so this team can be a Stanley Cup contender. Eric Fisher doesn’t see the Flyers as a Cup contender, but thinks they may be better than some expect.

Monday’s win over Washington convinced Eric Fisher that Chip Kelly’s innovative techniques work. Fisher tries to incorporate Kelly’s style into this week’s column.

As general manager Sam Hinkie is finding out, it’s not easy to avoid winning games in the NBA. In addition to explaining how the Sixers won three games in one week, Eric Fisher examines MCW’s shooting woes, the Andrei Kirilenko situation and why this week’s schedule is particularly challenging.

Archive for the ‘NHL’ Category

Penguins, Crosby repeat as champions

Posted by Eric Fisher On June - 11 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Patric Hornqvist banks in a shot off the back of Predators goalie Pekka Rinne with 1:35 remaining to lift the Penguins to 2-0 Stanley Cup-clinching triumph in Game 6. The Penguins are the first team to repeat as champions since the Red Wings in 1997 and ’98.

Stanley Cup Finals: Can Penguins repeat?

Posted by Eric Fisher On May - 27 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Experience is certainly on the side of the defending-champion Penguins, who are trying to become the first team to repeat as Stanley Cup champions since the Red Wings in 1998. The Predators have just one player, captain Mike Fisher, who has played in the Stanley Cup Finals.

On the other hand, the Penguins have endured two seven-game series in the last two rounds. The Predators have played one less game in each round than the Penguins, so they should be better rested.

Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan is the third head coach in NHL history following the 1967-68 expansion to reach the Stanley Cup Finals in his first two seasons, joining Scotty Bowman and Larry Robinson. Predators head coach Peter Laviolette is the fourth NHL head coach to reach the Stanley Cup Finals with three different teams, having won the Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006 and reached the finals with the Flyers in 2010.

The key to the series may be the matchup between the Penguins’ high-scoring offense and Rinne and the Predators’ stingy defense.

Let’s take a peek inside the crystal puck, analyze the two finalists and predict which one will win the Stanley Cup.

STANELY CUP FINALS

SENATORS vs. PENGUINS

How the Predators got here: They swept the top-seeded Blackhawks in the first round, beat the Blue in six games in the second round, and then eliminated the Ducks in six games in the Western Conference Finals.

How the Penguins got here: They defeated the Blue Jackets in five games in the first round, eliminated the Capitals in seven games in the second round, and then needed seven games to defeat the Senators in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Predators: Pekka Rinne (31-19-9, 2.42 goals-against average, .918 save percentage) has had one or two hiccups, but his overall play has been outstanding during the postseason, leading the league in all major categories (12-4, 1.70 goals-against average, .941 save percentage). The Predators don’t have many superstars, but they have plenty of depth. That depth will be necessary after losing after losing center Ryan Johansen, their regular-season leader in assists (47) and, at the time, leading scorer during the postseason (3 goals, 10 assists in 14 games), to season-ending surgery on his thigh before Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. Twelve Predators scored in double figures during the regular season, including defensemen Ryan Ellis (16), Roman Josi (12 goals) and P.K. Subban (10). Ellis, with four goals and seven assists, trails only Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson (18) in playoff points. Ellis, Subban (2 goals, 8 assists), Josi (5, 5) and Mattias Ekholm (0, 8) have been effective at both ends of the ice. Also effective at both ends of the ice is left wing Filip Forsberg, who is far out in front in the NHL with a postseason plus/minus rating of plus-17. Forsberg shared team goal-scoring lead with Viktor Arvidsson during the regular season with 31, stepped up against the Ducks with eight points, giving him the team lead in postseason points (8 goals, 7 assists). That doesn’t mean, however, that they haven’t been effective. Arvidsson (2 goals, 8 assists) is plus-10. Veteran captain Mike Fisher (18 goals, 24 assists) does not have a postseason point this year, but he provides experience and depth, especially with Johansen being sidelined. Fisher, who missed the final two games of the Western Conference Finals with an undisclosed injury, is particularly valuable when the Predators are shorthanded or have a defensive zone face-off. James Neal (5 postseason goals) would love to defeat his former team. Auston Watson provides a physical presence and added some surprising offense against the Ducks, which is indicative of the Predators’ depth.

Crosby3Penguins: Penguins are all over the offensive leaderboard for the Stanley Cup playoffs. Evgeni Malkin leads postseason participants in assists (17) and points (24). Sidney Crosby (left) is second in points (20) despite missing a game due to a concussion. Phil Kessel (19) is tied for third in postseason scoring (7 goals, 12 assists), just one point behind Crosby. Rookie Jake Guentzel is tied for sixth in the NHL in scoring (16 points) and is tied for the postseason lead in goals with nine. The Penguins haven’t received as much depth scoring as they did while winning the Stanley Cup last season, but Bryan Rust scored the first goal during the Game 7 victory over the Capitals, and Chris Kunitz scored the game-winner in double-overtime in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Conor Sheary (23, 30 during the regular season), Justin Schultz (12, 39), Patric Hornqvist (21, 23) and third-line center Nick Bonino (18, 19) also can contribute offensively, although Hornqvist has missed the past six games with an “upper body” injury. Without defenseman Kris Letang (herniated disc in neck) during the postseason, the Penguins are relying on solid team defense to compensate for his absence. That depth was further tested by postseason injuries to Schultz and Trevor Daley. Schultz (3 goals, 7 assists during postseason) returned from an “upper body” injury in Game 7 against Senators after missing four games. He registered a goal and an assists. The biggest change for the Penguins is a return to goalie Matt Murray after Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Marc-Andre Fleury, an emergency starter after goalie Matt Murray was injured during warmups before Game 1of the first round,  shook off recent playoff failures to regain the form he displayed when the Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2009. But after Fleury allowed four goals in nine shots during Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, head coach Mike Sullivan replaced him with Murray.

Analysis: The Penguins scored the most goals in the NHL this season, and were leading again during the postseason until running into the defensive-minded Senators during the Eastern Conference Finals. The Predators have allowed the fewest goals per game during the postseason. They have a potential game-stealing and series-stealing goalie in Rinne, who is finally putting together a spectacular postseason. The key to this series may be the scoring prowess of Malkin, Crosby, Kessel & Co. against the Predators’ top four defensemen, who may be the best group in the league. The Predators have good scoring depth, but will they have enough to overcome the loss of center Ryan Johansen? A key for the Predators will be to get the lead. Head coach Peter Laviolette, the former Flyers head coach, likes to roll out four lines in an attempt to wear down the opposing defense. Having played consecutive seven-game series and with two defensemen having missed games with injuries, the Penguins’ backline could be susceptible to being worn down. I’d feel better about this selection if Johansen weren’t sidelined, but I’m picking the Predators. Predators in 6

Pirates' Jose Osuna throws out 3 Phillies