|05.02.11 at 1:28 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — From the first moment Kate Smith‘s rendition of “God Bless America” replaced the national anthem at a Flyers’ home game on Dec. 11, 1969, the song has sent chills up the spines of everyone in attendance.
Tonight, it will reach a whole new level – and meaning – altogether. And, all of America and the world will be watching. With the news of Osama bin Laden‘s execution on Sunday night, Americans have been celebrating the news with the pledge of allegiance and singing “God Bless America.”
The Flyers still show a video of Smith – who died in 1986 – singing “God Bless America” in lieu of “The Star Spangled Banner” for good luck before important games. The video of her performance is now accompanied by Lauren Hart, daughter of the late Hockey Hall of Fame broadcaster, Gene Hart, the longtime voice of the Flyers.
Bruins coach Claude Julien is more than aware of what the atmosphere will be in the building come 7:30, in the moments before faceoff.
“That’s something that went though my mind this morning, no doubt about that,” Julien said. “When something major like that happens, I guess all the attention is drawn that way but our guys this morning seemed fine. In the morning skate, I like their focus, I liked everything else.
“There’s two teams. If one team’s going through it, I’m sure the other one is as well. I think our guys are very professional and capable of separating the things that are important when the time comes. Everybody was obviously very interested in hearing what’s happened in the last little while with that but at the same time, it’s important to be ready for the game and I think the guys understand that.”
The Flyers understand it, too, and may be under greater pressure to balance energy with emotion, especially at the start.
‘The fans and the atmosphere should be great for that part of the game,’ Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk told WEEI.com’s D.J. Bean. ‘It’s a proud day in our history, you could say now, is the day that this guy was brought to justice. At that point last night, I know hockey was put on the back burner for a second there when you kind of think of all the things that have been affected and all the people close to you that maybe lost someone. It’s obviously a good thing that all this came to justice last night.’
Bruins fans old enough to remember recall another special day when Smith performed in person.
Smith was called in to the Spectrum in front of a capacity crowd of 17,007 fans before Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals on May 19, 1974. That’s when B’s captain Phil Esposito infamously tried to jinx the Flyers’ good luck charm by presenting her with a bouquet of roses after her performance. It didn’t work. Bernie Parent blanked Espo, Bobby Orr and the B’s, 1-0, for the first of two straight Stanley Cups.
Including Saturday’s loss to the Bruins, the Flyers are 95-27-4 when trotting out the old standby.
So tonight, just before faceoff, turn up the TV and listen for Flyers public address announcer Lou Nolan to say, “Ladies and gentlemen, at this time, we ask that you please rise and remove your hats and salute to our flags and welcome the number 1 ranked anthemist in the NHL, Lauren Hart, as she sings God Bless America, accompanied by the great Kate Smith.”
And good luck hearing the duet from there.
|05.02.11 at 12:42 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — Bruins forward Chris Kelly is still sporting the full cage, and he’s itching to get rid of it. Kelly has had to wear the cage since Game 4 of the first round, when he slid head-first into the post in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Canadiens. Though he’s feeling better, he’s still proceeding with caution.
“The face is fine,” he said Monday. “I’m not sure how long, but obviously I’ll go on what the trainer suggests and kind of go forward from there.”
As for when the cage will come on, Kelly just hopes it’s as soon as possible. He had joked in Montreal that if he played well with it, he might keep it on as a signature piece of equipment, a la Richard Hamilton with the Detroit Pistons. Coincidentally or not, Kelly has five points in five games since he started wearing the cage, after totaling one in the first three playoff games prior. Monday, he corrected the record, noting that even if he struggles without the cage, that he’ll just “deal with it.” Once the mask comes off, he hopes it will be off for good.
“I’m not a superstitious person,” he said with a smile. “Not by that extreme.”
It’s hard to miss Kelly when he’s on the ice given the cage, something he says he hasn’t worn since he was 14 years old. It could make him a target for chirping, but if Flyers players are saying things, he isn’t hearing them.
“Not that I’ve heard of,” he said when asked if players have been poking fun at him. “Maybe I don’t hear as much with the cage on. Maybe they are chirping. I don’t know.”
|05.02.11 at 11:43 am ET|
PHILADELPHIA ‘ The Flyers have a game to focus on Monday night, but the morning after it was learned that Osama bin Laden had been killed, Philadelphia forward and New Jersey native and former UNH Wildcat James van Riemsdyk couldn’t help but think back to what it was like as a youngster as the events of Sept. 11, 2001, unfolded.
“I remember exactly where I was when everything happened,” van Riemsdyk, 21, said Monday. “I remember being in middle school, sixth grade. I think I was at lunch at the time — that’s when we first found out — and they didn’t want to tell us what happened, but there were rumors going around the school, and then we got home. To see all the stuff that had happened, it was just a terrible thing. It was just a very tough time.
“There was a buzz about it, and I think right before I went home, we heard about what happened. I actually had a computer class, and they told us to stay off the Internet, but I was pretty eager and curious to see what happened and go on CNN.com to hear what had happened.”
A friend of van Riemsdyk’s lost his father in the terrorist attacks, as he was at the World Trade Center at the time, while two people from his home town of Middletown, N.J., also were killed.
“There was a big memorial in our town that they did a pretty nice job on,” van Riemsdyk said. “It definitely affected a lot of people close to me. ‘¦ It was definitely a sad day. A lot of good people died that day, but it’s good that some justice finally came out of it now.”
The winger, who has represented the United States in international play in multiple competitions, including winning the gold with the U.S. under-18 team in 2006, said his father could see the events unfold from where he worked. Frans van Riemsdyk was one of the first people he spoke to Monday morning.
“They saw the second plane come cruising in,” he said. “They thought it was like an accident at first. No one knew what was going on, and then you see this plane take a direct course [toward the World Trade Center]. It was a pretty crazy thing.”
A day after chants of “USA” broke out at Citizens Bank Park during Sunday night’s Phillies-Mets game, JVR can only imagine what the atmosphere will be like for the Flyers’ pregame tradition of “God Bless America,” a duet sung by Lauren Hart with a video of the late Kate Smith.
“The fans and the atmosphere should be great for that part of the game,” van Riemsdyk said. “It’s a proud day in our history, you could say now, is the day that this guy was brought to justice. At that point last night, I know hockey was put on the back burner for a second there when you kind of think of all the things that have been affected and all the people close to you that maybe lost someone. It’s obviously a good thing that all this came to justice last night.”
|05.02.11 at 11:39 am ET|
PHILADELPHIA — After allowing five goals on just 23 shots in Game 1 Saturday, Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette announced Monday morning that Brian Boucher will get a second chance and will start Game 2 tonight against the Bruins at Wells Fargo Center.
“Brian will go back in net today,” Laviolette announced after the Flyers pregame skate at Wells Fargo. “Today is a game, for me, where we all get to go back in there and right some wrongs so, everybody gets an opportunity. He’s deserves it.”
The Flyers have been in crisis mode with their goaltending in the playoffs so far, with Laviolette changing goalies midgame already four times in the first eight playoffs games, and six times in their last 14 postseason games, dating back to last year’s Stanley Cup finals against the Blackhawks.
On Saturday, after yielding the fifth goal in the second period, Laviolette turned to rookie Sergei Bobrovsky, who allowed two goals in the third period of Boston’s 7-3 romp that put the Bruins up, 1-0, in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Flyers could be without two of their top players tonight as defenseman Chris Pronger and forward Jeff Carter both missed the morning skate. Pronger came back late in the first round after dealing with a broken hand while Carter injured his knee during the Sabres series and hasn’t returned.
|05.01.11 at 6:09 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — The Bruins’ power play struggles have gone from concerning, to laughable, to just being a sensitive subject. An 0-for-26 showing in the playoffs will do that, but right now the B’s are simply looking for signs of progress.
“We’re just trying,” Zdeno Chara said after Sunday’s practice at Wells Fargo Center. “We’re always trying to get better. We’re still working on it, and I thought we created some better scoring opportunities yesterday. Hopefully it happens sooner rather than later.
“We controlled the puck pretty well, made some plays, had some quality shots. We had some power plays where we got in really easily, and we had some of them where we couldn’t really get past the blue line. It’s just a little inconsistent on that part.”
The Flyers, who killed off all five of the Bruins’ power plays in Boston’s 7-3 Game 1 victory Saturday, boasted a middle-of-the-pack penalty kill unit in the regular season. Their 82.7 penalty kill percentage was 15th in the NHL, though in the first round against the Sabres, they gave up seven goals on 31 Buffalo power plays, meaning they were successful only 77 percent of the time. Against a team that’s struggled as much on the man advantage, it doesn’t seem to matter how the Flyers’ PK operates.
“No results,” Claude Julien said Sunday of the team’s power play. “That’s one thing, but I thought there was a few things better. Hopefully it continues to get that way, but we just need it going.”
The Bruins will make their latest attempt at breaking the unflattering streak Monday night in Game 2.
|05.01.11 at 3:43 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — Flyers forward Danny Briere isn’t about to put up a stink over a missed call in the Bruins’ 7-3 Game 1 victory over Philadelphia Saturday. Speaking with reporters after Sunday’s practice, Briere said he didn’t think Zdeno Chara meant any harm when he got him with a stick to the face in front of the net during the third period, but that it could have been avoided.
‘I don’t think it was intentional,” Briere told reporters Sunday. “He was battling with someone else in front of the net, but the thing with him is that every time he battles he always has his stick is always in the air. At the size he has, I don’t think he needs to do that. You are supposed to be in control of your stick. But it happened, [and] like I said, it wasn’t intentional on his part.’
Briere said Chara’s stick got him on the right side of his head. No penalty was called on the play, though the Bruins did take five penalties in the third period.
The 33-year-old Briere had the Flyers’ first goal of the game Saturday, beating Tim Thomas to tie the game at a goal apiece in the first period. He leads all postseason skaters with seven goals in the playoffs thus far.
|05.01.11 at 3:11 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — There’s been no sign of Marc Savard since he sat at a podium, choked up, as general manager Peter Chiarelli announced the center’s season was finished on Feb. 7 at TD Garden. The 33-year-old returned to his home in Peterborough, Ontario, and since then, neither Bruins fans nor the media have heard a peep from the center. They’ve heard about him, as he reportedly has dealt with memory issues, but have gotten nothing from the horse’s mouth.
On Sunday, Claude Julien touched on the contact that he’s had with Savard since he was shut down due to post-concussion syndrome. Text-messaging has kept the two in touch, with Savard even trying to help his boss call the shots at times.
“I’ve been texting back and forth with Marc, no doubt. For me personally, there’s the player and then there’s the individual. I care for him as an individual and I really hope that he gets better for the ask of his personal life,” Julien said after Sunday’s practice. “I’ve been texting to see how he’s doing, and every once in a while I’ve said, ‘I thought you were going to text me to give me some tips on certain parts of our game.’ As soon as I opened that door, he took advantage of it. I’ve gotten a few tips from him.”
One area in which Savard should be instructing Julien is the power play. The B’s are 0-for-26 thus far in the postseason, and Julien admitted Sunday that the unit’s performance might not be so bleak if they still had a healthy Savard.
“He was a guy that did such a good job on the power play,” Julien said. “We definitely miss him there, and that’s not a big secret. The way he was just poised and playing those areas, where to move the puck, it certainly created some awareness for the other team. They knew how dangerous he was. That’s a part where, yeah, we lost that part when we lost Marc Savard. It’s not a part that’s easily replaceable.
“Somehow we’ve got to find a way to improve our power play without Marc Savard. It’s been a challenge, but even Marc this year was not as good a player as he was before that major injury of his, and I still remember the first few years I had him. You couldn’t have asked for a better power play guy. When you lose a guy like that, you’re losing a real good player and a real good piece of your power play.”