Following is a quick summary of my observations of the Flyer’s performance so far this season. Players are in no particular order.
Brian Boucher has clearly stepped it up and is showing the organization that he’s here to play and stay. He is 9-4-2 on the season with a .921 save percentage. In his last three starts he faced 81 shots and allowed only 5 goals. This is excellent considering our defense has not been at their best. It’s not hard to figure out that Peter Laviolette’s starter strategy is to start the goalie that is hot. We haven’t seen Sergei Bobrovsky since December 31st when the Flyers lost to the Anaheim ducks. What a great motivation tool though, who ever plays hard and wins hockey games gets to play, simple.
Scott Hartnell, Danny Briere and Ville Leino have been strong all season. Clearly they have continued their offensive dominance from last season and every time they are on the ice they make good things happen. This line has chemistry and have been consistent each and every game. Hartnell’s net presence has been the key to scoring 12 goals this season and Danny Briere leads the Flyers with 21 goals. Ville Leino always seems to be able to find his teammates in front of the net and has 20 assists. Thankfully Laviolette, for the most part, is keeping this line in tact because they will only get better given their strong chemistry on the ice.
James van Riemsdyk has played a much better game since he was a healthy scratch back in November. What a great way to kick-start a player, put him in the press box for four games. Any hockey player will tell you it’s not fun watching your team from above. He had a slow start this season but is finally starting to hit his stride. At 6-3 200lbs the Flyers need JVR to play an offensively physical game and in the past month he’s delivered. I’m looking forward to the second half of the season and I’m confident we will see JVR come into his own.
Captain Mike Richards leads all Flyers with 37 points. He has taken his game to the next level on many occasions this season when the team needed an offensive spark. He’s been a great leader on the ice with a never surrender mentality. He’s always ready to lay a big hit to get things moving and he takes full advantage of any opportunity to net the puck or set up a teammate for a scoring opportunity. He is arguably one of the best two-way players in the league He has bought into Laviolette’s coaching style and continues to lead by example. His growing maturity on the ice and his leadership in the locker room is in part, in my opinion, why the Flyers are where they are today.
Jeff Carter and Claude Giroux both have 16 goals on the season. Giroux with 37 points and Carter with 34. Both forwards have been dominant at times but have had lapses of offensive production. I’m hoping as the season progresses they will pick up their game and peak moving forward into the playoffs. Both players are great goal scorers and can make a difference in clutch situations.
Daryl Powe, Andreas Nodl and Blair Betts have been good this season chasing pucks in the offensive zone and grinding in the corners. I like these players and their strong work ethic has proven that we have offensive depth on all four lines. We can rest easy when they are on the ice providing our top lines with the rest they need.
Nikolay Zherdev is currently out of the line-up with a groin injury. When the Flyers acquired him in the summer I hoped for greater things than what we’ve seen so far. I am disappointed with his lack of consistency and although he has scored 12 goals this season he has not been the player I believe the Flyers were hoping for.
Jody Shelly and Dan Carcillo have been in and out of the line-up most of the season. Shelly has been suspended twice by the NHL and is doing what he was hired to do, fight. Carcillo or “Carbomb” as Flyer fans like to call him has lived up to his nickname. He’s an agitator but the Flyers haven’t had much need for his skills this season. Carcillo’s game play isn’t where it was last season and thankfully Laviolette recognizes that when you are winning hockey games there isn’t much room for “horse play”.
Chris Pronger will soon be back mixing it up on the ice and in the media. There are hockey fans that despise him and Flyer fans that love him. Say what you want about Chris Pronger but you can’t deny that he is one of the best. He is a Norris trophy winner, Stanley Cup winner, Olympic gold medalist and media entertainer. If anybody can push the opposition from the crease area, it’s Pronger. He has a great sense for the game and his “work smarter not harder” attitude has worked for him and his team. He will soon be healed and be back on the ice elbowing the opposition just in time for the second part of the season.
Andrei Meszaros is holding on to top spot in the +/- standing in the NHL. He has a +25 rating and has been one of the most dependable defenders. He has been a great acquisition by the Flyers from Tampa Bay. He has stepped up his play since Chris Pronger has been out of the line up and has 1 goal and 13 assists on the season.
Kimmo Timmonen has 18 assists on the season and has quietly come to work each day and been a solid defender. With Pronger out of the line-up it seems the organization has looked to Kimmo for his leadership skills and consistent game play. I believe he has delivered and will continue to be strong throughout the season.
Brayden Coburn, Matt Carle, and Sean O’Donnell have provided solid support for the offense. Matt Carle has 19 assists on the season, Coburn with 7 and O’Donnell with 9. O’Donnell has provided the blue line with some veteran presence and leadership.
Oskars Bartulis and Danny Syvret have been called up from the Phantoms to replace the injured Pronger in the line-up. Bartulis has not put any points on the board since being called up. Syvret has yet to play this season since being acquired from Anaheim. Bartulis has been less than effective and I’m hoping we will see Syvret in action soon.
Overall our record of 26-10-5 is good enough for first place in the Eastern Conference. The Flyers have been notorious for slow starts and at times playing a 20-40 minute game. The power play has suffered lately and the team will be grateful to have Pronger back to help with that. I can only assume that the Flyers are working hard to improve this part of their game. This team has all the makings of a Stanley Cup team and they have 40 or so games left to perfect these issues without hopefully giving up to many points in the process. Overall, Flyers fans should be confident moving forward. They have been lucky so far in the injury department in comparison to other teams. I know there will be games that I’m going to feel like throwing something at my TV but have no doubt that come crunch time they will deliver. Nobody wants a Stanley Cup more than this team given how close they came last season.