Frank Seravalli: Flyers forced to get defensive

The Flyers' Zac Rinaldo is in the process of getting beat by 4-year-old Kaine McKee, of Huntingdon Valley, in a Wii game during the 35th Annual Flyers Wives Fight for Lives Carnival at the Wells Fargo Center yesterday. 'I never fail,' Kaine said. The carnival has raised over $23 million for Philadelphia-area charities since 1977.
The Flyers' Zac Rinaldo is in the process of getting beat by 4-year-old Kaine McKee, of Huntingdon Valley, in a Wii game during the 35th Annual Flyers Wives Fight for Lives Carnival at the Wells Fargo Center yesterday. 'I never fail,' Kaine said. The carnival has raised over $23 million for Philadelphia-area charities since 1977. (APRIL SAUL / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: February 20, 2012

In a span OF 3 nights, the Flyers added nearly 484 pounds of beef to their blue line with defensemen Pavel Kubina and Nicklas Grossman.

The two defensemen have combined to block 203 shots this season, which is almost as many as Braydon Coburn, Andrej Meszaros and Marc-Andre Bourdon have stopped from getting to the net.

Notice a pattern?

Hey, if your $51 million goaltender can't stop a puck, I guess you better limit how many he sees on a nightly basis.

"With the addition of Nicklas and Pavel, we've certainly replaced some of the size and maybe some of the nastiness that Chris [Pronger] brought to our team," Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said yesterday at the 35th annual Flyers' Wives Carnival. "They're both experienced and big bodies and they both can do good things for our hockey team."

Few would question Holmgren's intentions.

Truth be told, it's hard to sit here and write that this Flyers team is not better with the additions of Kubina and Grossman. Kubina, 34, is known as a shut-down defender. He won a Stanley Cup with the Lightning in 2004. Grossman, 27, is a rugged Swede whose face more resembles Shrek than it does Brad Pitt, which is not an insult but a testament to tough-but-smart game he plays.

But does adding either of these players really make the Rangers or Bruins lose sleep at night?

That's the big question.

Sure, a little snarl on the blue line can't hurt a team that hasn't had trouble scoring - No. 1 in the NHL in goals - but has had a tougher time keeping them out of their own net.

Since Dec. 17, when the Flyers were pounded by Boston, 6-0, at home, they have scored 3.07 goals per game and given up 3.26. Their record is 12-12-4. And most importantly, they are 1-7-1 against the Rangers, Bruins, Red Wings and Penguins.

Does that sound like a team that needs to add Columbus superstar Rick Nash to the mix?

Those rumors appear to be dying by the minute. Columbus general manager Scott Howson and senior adviser Craig Patrick were in Philadelphia on Saturday for the second time in a week, to both scout and chat with Holmgren face-to-face. The Blue Jackets are apparently asking for Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn and either Sergei Bobrovsky or James van Riemsdyk, in addition to draft picks.

That price would be too much to stomach, as it would gut the Flyers' biggest asset - their offensive depth. And that's just the impact on this season, let alone the future.

As such, it appears that Howson is taking his bat and ball elsewhere; he was spotted meeting with Toronto general manager Brian Burke in a New York City hotel yesterday morning. The Rangers are still interested and the Los Angeles Kings, who haven't scored in two straight games, are getting more desperate by the day.

Perhaps the best move, though, would be adding another goaltender to the mix - but Holmgren contends the "thought hasn't entered my mind."

CBC's Elliotte Friedman first said in December that the Flyers might be interested in adding a third goaltender to shore up their tumultuous net. Another report over the weekend said they might be kicking the tires on the Islanders' soon-to-be free agent Evgeni Nabokov, who just shut out the Flyers 2 weeks back. Holmgren's pal, Garth Snow, is on the record saying that New York has no interest in moving Nabokov.

Yesterday, Holmgren admitted that the recent trades were a "recognition" of the overall poor play in net and in front of it.

"I don't think either of our goalies are very happy with their games of late, either," Holmgren said. "It's a recognition of that. They are both part of the team. Players from time to time go through tough stretches. Maybe they're both struggling a little bit right now. But I believe they both work hard and are committed."

After Saturday's scary quote, in which Bryzgalov said he will "try to find peace in my soul to play in this city," it's fair to wonder whether he really is committed to playing in Philadelphia - regardless of his signature on that large contract.

It's also fair to wonder whether the Flyers would look to add to the circus - the one that Flyers chairman Ed Snider said "never again" to happening.

"No," Holmgren said when asked. "I like our goalies. I believe they are going to play better."

And that's why the Rangers and Bruins will sleep soundly tonight.

QUOTABLE

"It's awkward me being here and not having him here. It's been disappointing. We all wish he was here and on the ice, which is what he enjoys the most. But today just wasn't one of those days. It's been tough, to say the least. We're all trying to find our way right now, to support Chris in any way that we can. But we're battling."

- Lauren Pronger, the wife of Flyers captain Chris Pronger, to Comcast SportsNet on her husband's status and his absence from yesterday's Flyers Wives Fight for Lives Carnival at the Wells Fargo Center. The Carnival, celebrating its 35th anniversary, sought to raise more than $1 million to benefit 40-plus area charitable causes.

ON-ICE

STAT WATCH

4-9-1: The Flyers' record in games this season that start before 7 o'clock, after Saturday's 6-4 loss to the Penguins. That's more than half of their total losses in regulation (19) this season.

117: Career two-goal games for Jaromir Jagr, after scoring twice against Pittsburgh on Saturday. He now has just three goals since the calendar turned to 2012.

147: Combined games played for Brayden Schenn, Matt Read and Sean Couturier in their NHL careers.

203: Combined blocked shots by new guys Nicklas Grossman and Pavel

Kubina this season. With an additional eight on Saturday, Grossman set a new career-high of 103.

CAP SENSE

With the acquisition of Pavel Kubina (prorated $3.8 million), the demotion of rookie defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon ($875,000) and the addition of injured winger Tom Sestito ($550,000) to the long-term injury list, it appears that the Flyers have approximately $939,000 in additional salary acquisition space before the Feb. 27 trade deadline.

The estimates, though, have varied based on the source. CapGeek.com says the Flyers could afford a salary cap hit of $1.07 million. CSNPhilly.com uses a league source who says the Flyers have $890,000 in space.

Either way, the Flyers are cap compliant. But it's still hard to figure how they could afford to add a salary like Rick Nash's $7.8 million from Columbus. And that's just for the remainder of the season.

TRADE TRACKER

Deadline: Feb. 27, 2012, at 3 p.m.

Since Feb. 1: Nine trades, 13 teams, seven NHL players, 10 minor leaguers, 9 future draft picks.

PLAYERS' POLL

257 players were anonymously quizzed for an NHLPA / Hockey Night in Canada poll. Here's a sampling of one of the questions:

Which goalie is the most difficult to score on? (For shooters only)

Henrik Lundqvist (N.Y. Rangers), 38%

Pekka Rinne (Nashville), 19%

Tim Thomas (Boston), 16%

Carey Price (Montreal), 5%

Mikka Kiprusoff (Calgary), 3%

Jimmy Howard (Detroit), 3%.

See full poll at: www.philly.com/

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