Phialdelphia Break Time is Over
The Philadelphia Flyers through 35 games
- 22-8-5 record (best in the NHL)
- 117 goals for (seventh in the NHL)
- 87 goals against (fourth in the NHL)
- 21st on power play
- 11th on penalty kill
It’s hard to argue with what the Flyers have been able to accomplish this season offensively. They are one of the most dangerous teams and can seemingly score at will – most games. They have eight players on pace for 20+ goals and another who is on pace to come close. Despite all of the gaudy numbers – the Flyers still lack the spark offensively game-in and game-out. Balanced scoring is all fine and dandy if it shows up and you get contributions every game. Unfortunately, when that scoring doesn’t, you need to rely on your top players to be able to carry the team, and sometimes the Flyers ‘elite’ players lack to do that because the Flyers don’t have a ‘go-to’ top-line with their best players on it. Without a doubt, there most successful line has been Scott Hartnell-Danny Briere-Ville Leino. But there are nights when that line is shut down. When that happens, the team must rely on Mike Richards and Jeff Carter to step up – and quite frankly, on occasion, it doesn’t get done.
For all intents and purposes, the Flyers defense has been quite impressive – but it’s amazing what a talented goaltender can do for that. There have been some lapses in the defensive zone and the goaltender has had to bail the boys out – but for the most part, the D has been on point. Entering the season, the Flyers defense was tabbed as one of the deepest defensive groups in the league, and the crew hasn’t done anything to show otherwise. Even with the loss of Chris Pronger for the next handful of games, the defense has all of the pieces in place to maintain success. When signed, Andrej Meszaros and Sean O’Donnell may have been identified as little pieces to the puzzle, but along the way, the two have turned out to be the biggest surprises. Meszaros leads the entire NHL in plus/minus with a +20 and his partner is top-five in the league.
No matter who has been in net for the Flyers this season – they have gotten the job done. Rookie Sergei Bobrovsky has shown flashes of brilliance while Brian Boucher may been even more surprising.
The man called Bob sports a 15-5-3 record with a 2.44 goals-against average and .919 save percentage. Boosh has been even better going 7-3-2 with a 2.11 goals-against average and .921 save percentage. Bobrovsky is the goalie of the future, but after what Boucher has been able to accomplish this season on the heels of his performance last year – the Flyers must be feeling confident with either man in net. Oh yeah, Michael Leighton is active and on the roster for the Flyers long west coast road swing. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get some action along the way. Big decisions to come on what the Flyers will do in net.
- Special Teams
Special teams haven’t been so special for the Orange-and-Black so far. The power play has been powerless and the penalty kill has been OK. Okay, for the talent the Flyers sport on the ice – their power play has been awful. The Flyers lack a player who can successfully carry the puck into the attacking zone and set up the power play. When they rely on point shots, the shots get blocked. For something that has been worked on so hard this season at practice – a change in personnel must be in store for the top units.
If you had to pick a Flyers MVP thus far, who would you take? I’m taking Claude Giroux. He has been the Flyers most dangerous weapon and the potential of a highlight reel play is alive and well, every time he’s on the ice. He has 31 points in 35 games and has been one of the most – if not the most – impressive player on the ice for the Flyers. Mike Richards has been quite impressive too, putting up a ton of points with some eyebrow-raising line mates.
STEP IT UP
Nikolay Zherdev the fact that he is on pace for 32 goals this season, and has still been a healthy scratch four+ times says it all. For how good he’s been at putting the puck into the net – his defensive play and “spark” has been equally bad. He needs to stop gliding around on the ice in the offensive and defensive zone and start skating. Zherdev needs to at least look like he’s hungry and wants to be an elite player or he will find himself in Peter Laviolette’s doghouse once again.
My three stars go to Claude Giroux. He’s done it all.
Two stars for Mike Richards. The captain has stepped it up – still needs to do it more consistently.
One star for Brian Boucher. Who thought Boucher could actually compete with Bobrovsky? Not me.
The Flyers are going to have a very, very challenging road-trip. This stretch coming up for the team will say a lot about them, including back-to-back games against the Kings and Ducks the 30th and New Years Eve. Following the road-trip, the Flyers will play a handful of competitive games against Boston, New York, Buffalo and Atlanta.
Tuesday, December 28 at Vancouver
Thursday, December 30 at Los Angeles
Friday, December 31 at Anaheim
Sunday, January 2 at Detroit