Finally, things are starting to look up. The defense was tighter, we scored a few goals, and most importantly, Mike Richards has started to look like our leader. The 5 game home stand wasn’t great, but things are looking up a bit.
Going into the third period, Toronto was still in the game. Despite being outshot and outplayed, they sat only one goal back. And our Flyers held them to only 3 shots? That’s the defense I want to see around here. Briere continues his hot start to the season, and Leino and Hartnell are starting to chip in on the offense. Looks like the chemistry is back with that line. And if they keep it going on a consistent basis, that will benefit us a lot. The other lines still boast bigger names will get more attention, giving these three an opportunity to wreak havoc. And if teams do decide to use their top defensive pairs against them, that just gives Richards, Carter and Giroux more breathing space. I’ll take that any day.
Still, it all comes back to Richards, and he came through for us. He registered his first goal of the year and added a pair of assists. After the game, he admitted that not scoring was weighing on him a bit, and a few other guys said they were happy for him but weren’t worried. Richards isn’t that best at anything on this team, but he is the most important player on this team. And sure, when he’s not scoring he still contributes in other areas. But his whole life he was an offensive star. In the NHL, he’s not going to put up MVP numbers, but if he’s suffers scoring droughts, it will affect him in other areas. But when he’s on his game, and happy, it will cover up for other problems that the team is having.
And while it’s good that the defense is getting stingier, and Richards is on the board, there are still a few issues that need work. The powerplay still isn’t where it needs to be. 1 for 6 against the Leafs doesn’t cut it. 9.1% for the season is pretty horrible. I don’t think it will stay this low all season long, but if it only improves a few %, that’s going to make this season a lot tougher than it needs to be. Last year our PP was third (21.5%), and we still barely squeaked into the playoffs. If we’re not scoring consistently with a man up, and have to rely even more on even strength to carry us into the playoffs, I expect a pretty tired group of guys towards the end of the year. There’s no better way to save energy than to play from in front, so these guys needs to step up their game soon.
Jeff Carter, we need more goals from you. It looks like he’s suffering from Briere-disease, where playing a center out on the wing is limiting his offense. Giroux has slowed down a bit from the first few games, so maybe interchanging him and Carter in the middle will get things going. Lavy is shifting the lines around a bit anyway, so I might as well abandon my stand against that type of coaching. If we have to move a few centers around to keep everyone productive, so be it. We can’t just let our offense get stale but not putting guys in position to score. I thought putting Carter on the wing and letting him fire away and worry less about defense would work out well, but he’s scored only one goal in 7 games against an actual goalie. Clearly that’s not working. That, or he needs to be with a center that will feed him the puck in better spots.
Zherdev isn’t looking as great offensively as we’d all hoped he would either. He had a reputation as a spotty defender, but at least one that contributes on the score sheet. So far, we haven’t gotten much of that either. It would be nice for everyone to play with Giroux, but that’s not possible. Although, JVR looks pretty good, and he’s generating chances, but he’s not scoring a ton either. Maybe pairing Zherdev with Giroux will get him going because he’s a better pure sniper than JVR, and can take better advantage of getting set up by Giroux. Meanwhile, JVR can pair up with Richards, and start creating chances for him.
I guess we’ll wait and see how things work out over the next few days. We’ve got Columbus tonight, Buffalo tomorrow, Pittsburgh on Friday, and the Islanders on Saturday this week. None of those will be a gimme game, so let’s hope the 5-2 domination over Toronto wasn’t a fluke. If we play our game, and get a bit better each day, 5-6 points out of a possible 8 is definitely attainable.
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