Hey, so, you know that thing the Penguins do where they trick everyone into thinking they’re not very good and then right around February they just start crapping in everyone’s Wheaties? Yeah, keep those cereal boxes sealed.
The Pens are 4-1-0 in five games over this two-week span, and Geno is a major reason why. With eight goals and 11 points over the five contests, Malkin leads the league by two points in overall scoring in that span, and teammate Phil Kessel is the one trailing him. Possibly even more impressive is the fact that in the first game of the five, he was held scoreless, so he’s actually put up those numbers across just four contests. Throw in three power play tallies, a game-winner, and a cartoonish .40 shooting percentage, and it’s not hard to see why Malkin gets the nod here.
I’m honestly very glad I checked the stats page on this, because I was jotting down Tuukka Rask‘s name when I saw he had actually been bested.
Hutton continues an absolutely ridiculous run this season with a perfect 4-0-0 record and seemingly-impossible advanced stats with a .984 save percentage and 0.50 GAA over the past two weeks. He’s given up two goals on 123 shots, and I literally cannot even come up with anything witty for that.
The 32-year old career journeyman now boasts a 14-4-1 record on the season with a .947 save percentage and 1.61 GAA. When the Blues traded Brian Elliott, it was because they felt they now possessed a true #1 goaltender for the future. But I’m pretty sure Hutton was not the name they were thinking of at the time.
Game of the Week: Super Bowl LII
The empire has fallen. Behold a god that bleeds.
News, Notes, & Nonsense:
Rick Nash has submitted his list of teams that he would not accept a trade to upon the Rangers’ request. The former Rocket Richard winner is now in his mid-30s and has seen his production dip signficantly, though some think a change of scenery could reinvigorate his career. The popular narrative is that he returns to Columbus, but I think I speak for most intelligent CBJ fans when I say ‘Dear god please no’.
Jaromir Jagr retired from the NHL and returned to his native Czech Republic to continue his career back home. There were many touching sendoffs from around the NHL, but I’m honestly not sure why considering he’ll just come back in about three years and be a productive player for a few more teams.
Filip Forsberg was suspended for three games following a very illegal hit, a decision that has apparently shocked and upset his teammates. Now I will definitely say the Department of Player Safety has been less than stellar with some decisions this year, and I am certainly of the opinion that good clean hits cause far too much hooplah anymore, but I don’t know how anyone can defend a hit as late and dirty as this one.
Rookie sensation Charlie McAvoy made his triumphant return to the Bruins lineup just 12 days after undergoing a procedure on his heart to treat an abnormal rhythm. I’m not a doctor, but that sounds like a pretty heroic comeback effort to me after literally having the thing that keeps you alive fixed.
Radko Gudas is back at the center of controversy, because of course he is. The oft-suspended Flyers defenseman made airborne contact with Kyle Palmieri after attempting to avoid leg-on-leg contact with teammate Wayne Simmonds by leaping out of the way, only to be met by a backchecking Palmieri. I am actually of the belief that this was truly an accident, but Gudas’ history probably doesn’t help his case.
No one knows what goaltender interference actually is anymore, so everybody get your licks in on that guy who always stones you on breakaways while you can.
Nick and Connor breakdown the news and notes from the latest week in the NHL leading up to the 2018 NHL All-Star break. Mike Smith is going back to the All-Star Game and we’re celebrating with #DTFRMissionAccomplished.
The prodigal son has returned, and it is time, once again, for me to assault your reading receptacles with my meaningless awards and incessant ramblings. Thanks to Cap’n for stepping in for me while I was off going to random ECHL games and concerts.
A special note: I’ve dropped the ‘Team of the Week’ section of these articles in favor of a new bit of weekly content that will be debuting here shortly. It will be replaced by a split of the ‘Player of the Week’ section, now giving one award to a skater, and one to a goaltender.
Heyyyyyyyyyy, HEYYY BAI-LEY, ooh…ahh, I wanna KNOWWWWOhhohhohh-Ohhoh, if you’ll score my goals…and assists…
Anyway, in the season’s first repeat performance, Josh Bailey again earns the nod for being the only Islander better at being underappreciated league-wide than John Tavares. The New York centerman is on a five-game point streak, four of those taking place this week. In those four games, he has four goals and four assists, including a hat trick in a losing effort to the Columbus Blue Jackets (the first time in franchise history the CBJ allowed a hat trick and won the game, a stellar 1-32-1 record for my boys in blue), and has a scarcely-believable 40 points in just 33 games this season. For reference, Bailey has previously topped the 40-point plateau only twice in a full season in his entire career. 28 years old seems a bit late for a coming-out party, but Isles fans are hardly going to complain about finally giving JT some depth scoring support.
Possibly the only thing hotter than the Philadelphia Flyers of late is their own goaltender. Riding a six-game winning streak overall, including a perfect three-win performance this week, Ells has drastically altered the fortunes of the once-floundering Flyers, and has the Philly Phaithful at least starting to bother watching anything but Eagles games.
Starting off the week with 20 saves on 22 shots to down the Leafs, Elliott followed that up with single-goal games against Buffalo and Dallas to carry a superb .943 save percentage and 1.31 GAA through the week. The Flyers are still a few games back from the current Wild Card teams, but they hold games in hand on a good portion of the conference, and are much closer than any team that at one point lost 10 consecutive games should realistically be.
Game of the Week: Pittsburgh Penguins 1 @ Vegas Golden Knights 2, Thursday December 14th, 2017
I’m not even going to bother with the advanced stats, or play-by-play, or whatever else you think pertains to being the game of the week. This game was basically from a movie script. Recently-returned Marc-Andre Fleury facing the only team he had ever known prior to this season, he gets a hug from opposing goaltender Matthew Murray, who’s reasoning was simply “I missed the guy!”, and if you don’t love that you have no friends.
Four total former Penguins have found refuge with the upstart Knights, who continue to crush every single expert’s opinion about what an expansion team is capable of and are slowly shedding their ‘Island of Misfit Toys’ appearance in favor of being a legitimate contender.
Fleury stops 24 of 25, two of the three other former Pens tally points, and the franchise that didn’t exist last year beats the two-time defending Stanley Cup champs. Somebody call Disney.
News, Notes, & Nonsense:
Longtime Senator Chris Neil decided to hang up the skates this week, after a career spanning 15 seasons and over 1,000 games. One of the last of the ‘enforcer’ breed remaining, Neil was always known as one of the most complete players to wear the tough guy label, and was a highly-respected player both within his own locker room and throughout the league. All the best to Chris in his future endeavors.
In other Senators news, owner Eugene Melnyk said this week that while he has no aspirations of selling his team, he would consider relocating the franchise. While I’d imagine this resulted in numerous flaming bags of feces being placed upon his doorstep by Ottawa residents, I’m sure Quebec City natives happily sacrificed their shoes for their new hero.
Devan Dubnyk went down with a lower-body injury this week and is considered ‘week-to-week’, and if you open your window and listen very carefully, you can hear the screams of Wild fans from hundreds of miles away. (Note: If you’re in the Eastern Time Zone and north of the Ohio-Michigan border, these screams do mix in with the screams of Nordiques fans trying to remove their flaming pants.)
Oh, also in Ottawa news, holy frigg did that NHL 100 Classic look cold. I mean, I know with it being Ontario there were probably shirtless locals in attendance, but I was more than happy to watch from home.
Seattle looks poised to be the next expansion city, which is great, but I’m only going to really get on board if they decide to go with popular opinion and name the team the Seattle McSeattle Faces.
Kari Lehtonen joined a fairly exclusive club this week, as one of just 33 goaltenders to earn 300 wins in an NHL career. All the props in the world to him, because as someone who has spent his entire career with mostly-lackluster teams (I mean, he played for the Thrashers), it’s one hell of an accomplishment. Kari also surpassed Miikka Kiprusoff for most games played by Finnish goaltenders in the same contest, and trails only Kipper in wins by Finns. But with Preds stud Pekka Rinne at 285 career wins, the race to catch that record could be interesting. Cam Ward also reached 300 wins this week, but only managed to hold on to the distinction of ‘Most Unlikely 300-win Goalie’ for about 24 hours before Lehtonen would steal the distinction.
This season on Down the Frozen River we’re going to write some more feature stories, starting with ourselves, of course. Here’s one about DTFR member, Frank Fanelli.
A tall, young, bearded man ambles up to the door of a four-story brick building with a Philadelphia Flyers jacket on that makes him look like he should be behind the bench as the equipment manager, at least— if not athletic trainer— and approaches with a grin. We exchange pleasantries then head up to the Down the Frozen River studio to begin this interview.
Born in Arlington, Texas, Frank Fanelli has moved a total of seven times in 18 years. He’s lived in Texas, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and now currently resides in North Carolina, though he doesn’t remember much up until about New Jersey. Fanelli and his family have bounced around the country as his father’s job has called them to new and exciting lands within the United States.
The middle child, technically by 20 minutes, says he was reminded a lot when he was younger of the fact that his older twin sister was born first. Fanelli grew up in a household with two siblings, his older twin sister and a younger sister. He says they’ve always been pretty tight and have never argued much, but that they have always had a bit of healthy competition between the three of them.
While Fanelli and his family were living in Pennsylvania, he fell in love with hockey. Fanelli quickly became a Philadelphia Flyers fan when Mike Richards was with the team and playing in his prime, however, Fanelli’s love for the Flyers was not easily reciprocated by the people he was surrounded by. You see, he was a Flyers fan, living in Pittsburgh Penguins territory. Unlike the City of Brotherly Love, there’s no love in Pittsburgh. At least if you’re a Flyers fan.
Yet for Fanelli’s sake, he could take comfort in knowing that only his closest friends knew he was a Flyers fan and that “no one really [other than them] knew or would give me trash [otherwise] unless I wore a Flyers jersey.” Fanelli proudly wore Philadelphia apparel to Penguins-Flyers matchups at Mellon Arena growing up.
“People would lay into you and I wanted to say something back, but unfortunately I couldn’t. It bothered me, but I got used to it over the eight years of living there,” Fanelli recalled. He explained how the atmosphere of a Penguins vs. Flyers game is unlike any other he has experienced in that there’s usually a brawl, intense momentum swings, lead changes and lots of blown leads between the two teams. But that’s all part of the highs and lows of the sport.
One of the more memorable highs of the sport in Fanelli’s lifetime was when the Flyers went on to face the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final. He explained the emotional rollercoaster of a ride that the then 13-year old version of himself was part of during the Flyers comeback in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Boston Bruins that led to the unthinkable, though ultimately disappointing 2010 Stanley Cup Final run.
Despite the fact that the Flyers lost, Fanelli took residence in the holistic approach to hockey— the experience of the sport in one of its best forms, on one of its largest stages. Fanelli was at Game 1.
“I remember a lot— I probably won’t remember a lot when I’m 80 though,” Fanelli remarked. “My dad worked for Dick’s [Sporting Goods] at the time and got tickets from the NHL. We were sitting behind one of the nets.” Fanelli remembers the remarkable atmosphere of an Original Six arena, long dehydrated from a Stanley Cup run. “[Chicago’s] goal horn and ‘Chelsea Dagger’ got embedded in my mind. Usually when your team scores five goals, you expect them to win, but that wasn’t the case for the Flyers that night.”
Philadelphia dropped Game 1, 6-5. While leaving the United Center, Fanelli experienced some trash talk from the notoriously passionate Blackhawks fans, but he took it in stride as part of the road game experience.
Aside from attending Game 1 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Final, Fanelli’s other most enjoyable experience as a fan happened when he went to the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic between the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers. Although, once again, Fanelli watched his team lose, the overall atmosphere of an outdoor NHL game as the home team made it that much better at the end of the day.
“The United Center [in 2010] had the best overall atmosphere, but the 2012 Winter Classic is definitely a close second,” Fanelli remarked as he then explained how he became a Flyers fan. “It’s because I played hockey at the time— I still do— but becoming a professional hockey player was something I wanted to be when I was five years old.”
When Fanelli was young and just started to get into the sport, his eyes latched onto one Flyers forward in his prime— Mike Richards. There was just something about the way that Richards played that drew Fanelli to the TV for every game broadcast, combined with the style of play Philadelphia has long been accustomed to.
Brash, hard hitting, tough; the Broad Street Bullies have been shoving their weight around the NHL since 1967, but have been number one in the hearts of their city and fans forever, as the team has matched the work ethic of the citizens of Philadelphia— never give up. Fanelli admits to not being as “successful” as some players are growing up playing youth hockey, scoring many goals and mimicking their heroes, but his style of play has always had a role on any team. He doesn’t give up on a play and knows when to come in clutch— like the work ethic of many Flyers over the years.
For a while, Richards was Fanelli’s favorite player (and not just because 18 was Richards’ jersey number and Fanelli’s favorite number— though it was his favorite number before associating it with Richards ever since. “It just came naturally,” he exclaimed). He was devastated when Philadelphia traded their captain, Mike Richards, and Flyers prospect, Rob Bordson, to the Los Angeles Kings in June 2011.
Although the Flyers got Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and the Kings’ 2012 2nd round pick in the deal, Fanelli was less than thrilled. In fact, Fanelli has had a few qualms to say about former Philadelphia GM, now President of the Flyers, Paul Holmgren’s time with the organization. Fanelli hated the Richards trade and wasn’t a fan when Holmgren traded Simon Gagne to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for Matt Walker and a 2011 4th round pick in July 2010.
But by now, Fanelli’s used to the revolving door side of the business of hockey— and that’s helped grow his interest in the sport. Players come and players go— sometimes a lot quicker than you want, other times agonizingly too slow to watch as a fan. Prior to being a fan of Richards, Fanelli’s favorite Flyer was Daniel Briere. Since Mike Richards, it’s been Claude Giroux.
His all time favorite Flyer “would have to be either Eric Lindros or Bobby Clarke.” From the mindset of a player, Fanelli understands the business side of the sport and the urge to win, but as a Sport Management major at Queens University of Charlotte, Fanelli’s passion for the front office has grown.
“I want to work for a sports team— preferably a hockey team [in any league]. I want to work for the business operations side or hockey operations side— GM, Vice President, President, Owner, Coach; you name it. Mainly I want to work as a marketing or analytics guy,” Fanelli added, while also mentioning that he wouldn’t mind working in a scouting department too. “It may change, but that’s what I have my mind set on.”
Change is part of the sport, but one thing remains the same, his love for Philadelphia. To help celebrate 50 years of the single largest moment of expansion in NHL history (when the league doubled in size from six teams to 12 with the addition of the California Golden Seals, Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota North Stars and St. Louis Blues), this season’s Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game is being held between the Penguins and the Flyers at Heinz Field.
And like any Philly fan, Fanelli wants to be there, in enemy territory, to cheer on the Flyers. February 25, 2017 won’t just be his third outdoor game; it might become his favorite moment in Flyers history, if his team is able to pull off the win.
“I’m looking forward to the atmosphere. Just seeing the atmosphere and an outside game… …it’s the greatest thing in the world.” But it could be said that anywhere there’s a rink is the greatest thing in the world. There’s not a day that goes by that Fanelli isn’t wearing something associated with the Flyers (or any Philly sports team for that matter).
While graduation is just a couple of years away, one can only assume that Fanelli is not that far away from nesting his home somewhere in the realm of one of his favorite teams, whether it’s the Flyers, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Philadelphia Union or the Philadelphia 76ers, the time is almost now for him to begin the ascension to the throne of a front office position in Philadelphia sports.