Blair Betts wore Rangers red, white, and blue for four seasons, establishing himself as one of the top defensive forwards and penalty killers in the entire National Hockey League.
Jody Shelley (photo) is a rugged nine-year NHL veteran who played an important role last season for the Blueshirts when they made a late-season---albeit failed---playoff push, after being acquired in a trade from San Jose in early February.
Both heart-and-soul players made an impact on Broadway, and now both are playing key supporting roles on a Flyers team that is tied with Washington, Los Angeles, and St. Louis for the most points currently in the NHL with 20.
Betts signed with the Flyers last season as a free agent when the Rangers let him walk. Shelley followed the same path this past summer when the Rangers would not commit to a third year and Philly did.
I had a chance to catch up with both late last week when I was down in Philadelphia, and was able to touch on several interesting topics with Betts and Shelley.
On Playing in the Stanley Cup Finals Last Spring
Betts: "It was a great experience, exciting. I can remember watching the Stanley Cup Finals the last few years and just feeling the intensity just watching the games, but to actually be on the ice playing, it's a different experience, a lot different from the day-to-days of the regular season. The intensity just gradually got bigger and bigger. It was crazy. It was disappointing to not end up winning, but maybe we'll learn from it and get there again and win it next time."
On Patrick Kane's Overtime Cup-Winning Goal for Chicago
Betts: "Nobody realized it was a goal. I just remember Kane jumping up and down, but he was kind of by himself. I don't think their team realized it was in. We were just kind of looking at the refs and it was like time stood still for a second. I think when (Michael) Leighton came to the bench and said it was a goal it kind of hit us pretty hard, kind of a weird ending to the year."
Losing in Finals is Motivation for This Year
Betts: "Look at Pittsburgh, maybe that first loss to Detroit helped them win the Cup the next year. There's just so much emotion and intensity, it's just all about controlling your mind. You want to be prepared for the game, but at the same time not get so worked up that you can't play. It's a tough thing to do, but you learn from having done it now."
Shelley: "Things that have gone on, situations they were in over the last year, I betcha' I haven't heard 20 words about them this year. There are some groups where that's all they would be taking about. 'Oh, we did this. Oh, we did that'. In this room there is the sense that they accomplished nothing. I don't know if you put that on the leadership or the whole group or what. But I have been very impressed. You know, I walk in and think Wow, this is a team that's really good, I don't want to walk in there and chink it up or step on anyone's toes. But the mindset is that it's a totally new year, which is great for the new guys coming in."
Peter Laviolette, the Motivator
Shelley: "He's very good day-to-day. He's like (John Tortorella) in that sense. He's a great motivator, understands what we are going through on a day-to-day situation. He knows on a day's situation where we're at, and he's very good where his last words (in meetings) are the most important. And that's the way Torts is, a great motivator. It really gets beyond the X's and O's. It's more words that motivate you before you go out there, and (Laviolette) really keeps us focused that way."
On Rookie Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky
Shelley: "The Bob! That's what everyone calls him here. Bob! He's always smiling, great kid. He and (Brian) Boucher do a great job, and Bouch is the type of guy who helps another guy like that. Bouch is like that, too, one that smiles in all situations, which is good for Bob to see. I don't pay much attention to goalies (laughs), but seriously he's doing a really good job here."
Betts: "He's been great, a really big surprise. Nobody thought he'd push for a spot like he did, but he is so calm, so poised and relaxed. For a young goaltender that's a pretty tough job to jump into. He doesn't speak too much English so he doesn't have too many distractions, you know?! He's very quick side-to-side. It was a revolving door last year (when Philly used 5 different goalies). It seemed like when one goaltender went down, someone else would just be healthy in time to start and then would coming and play well. Even at the end of the playoffs, guys coming back from injuries probably sooner than they would have wanted to."
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