Bill Clement is an encyclopedia of hockey knowledge. Having played in the NHL for 11 seasons and having served as a television analyst since 1986, Clement knows the game.
A center on the Flyers' 1974 and '75 Stanley Cup title teams, he has been teaching even the most minute details of the game to hockey fans in living rooms and bars around the country for a long time. And with throngs of new fans jumping on the Flyers' bandwagon during their Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup finals, Clement has some outside-the-box advice for viewers.
"While the play is actually happening - Versus' coverage is tighter than CSN's - try to watch things that are in the corners of your screen as opposed to dead-center," said Clement, who currently serves as a panelist on Comcast SportsNet's Flyers pregame and postgame shows. "Follow the puck on the first couple replays, and then on the next ones watch the players around the play, not the ones that are on the puck. You'll see a lot of interesting things.
"You'll see things that actually influence the play, and often things that will influence goals. They might be subtle or they may be obvious. You'll see things that could've altered the course of history."
Clement, who was a gritty player in his day, also pointed out that fans should take note of the amount of sacrifices players make in a game (for more, search "Ian Laperriere" on YouTube).
"There's so much to it," Clement said. "Instead of watching the puck when it's being shot from the blue line, watch the players and where they're coming from. It's interesting to watch players make decisions on how and when to block shots. There are going to be a lot of players doing that."
After the 2004-2005 lockout ended, the NHL instituted several new rules, including the elimination of the two-line pass, which Clement believes has benefited the game.
"I really felt [taking away the two-line pass] would open up the game and it has," Clement said. "The breakaways and two-on-ones, they're exciting. The increase in odd-man rushes is exponential since the red line was taken out. It's created more action.
"Half of the games [before the lockout] were played between the blue lines. It was like watching a game of Pong. There wasn't much entertainment value to it. The game has become a 200-foot game; it goes from end to end."
Although, he'd like to see the trapezoids - the areas behind the goals that restrict goalie and player movement - removed.
"I prefer to call it the no-play zone," Clement said. "I wish they'd called the corners no-play zones. Goalies have to react to the angles and the speed of the puck going off the boards. If it stays in the no-play zone they can't play it. Watching the goalies' decision-making process is interesting."
Clement, always one to make an astute analysis, gave a quick prediction for the Flyers-Blackhawks series.
"The Flyers will win," Clement said, "if they can limit the damage of the Jonathan Toews-Patrick Kane-Dustin Byfuglien line and split the first two games in Chicago.
"Chicago will win, if that line is the most dominant line in the series, and if goalie Antti Niemi steals two games."
Former Flyers play-by-play voice Mike "Doc" Emrick will have the call on Versus for Games 1, 2, 6 and 7 and NBC for Games 3 and 4; all games will begin at 8 p.m. His partner, color analyst Eddie Olczyk, a former Blackhawk, will join Emrick in the broadcast booth, while Pierre McGuire will provide commentary from ice level.
"This series will go a lot longer than people think," McGuire said yesterday on a conference call. "There hasn't been enough credit given to the Philadelphia Flyers. The Chicago Blackhawks are a great team. Everybody knows that. I think most people before the season started thought Chicago would get to the finals. They are about where most people thought they would be. For Philadelphia, their best players are just starting to round into form."
Former Flyer Keith Jones will be breaking down the games between periods from the Versus studios. He believes the Flyers are gaining ground on the back-to-back National League champion Phillies.