In the Flyers season opening win over Boston, the numbers look pretty good. The Bruins had a grand total of one goal on 23 shots. And that shot total is thanks to a desperate push in the third period when they fired off 11 pucks towards Bryzgalov. Prior to that, there was a 10+ period of time when they couldn’t get anything on net. Sounds stifling, right? Well, those numbers don’t tell the entire story.
It’s not just about the quantity of shots, it’s about the quality. And Boston had plenty of chances in tight, thanks to passes right through our D. While Pronger wasn’t the only one that had coverage breakdowns, he did seem to have more than normal. On the Brad Marchand goal, he let his man slip in behind him and get off on the break. There were a few other times where he had a few bad angles and gave up some good chances.
Should we be worried that he’s not healthy and will be a liability this season? I’m not so sure. He said all along that he won’t play if he’s hurt. He said he’ll listen to doctors and follow orders. I think we can take him at his word because if he was going to push himself when he isn’t ready, then lat years playoffs would have been a great chance. But if he didn’t play all of the games then, he wouldn’t come back now and jeopardize another season.
So a healthy Pronger is a player we should not worry about. It’s not like his game is predicated on speed and amazing athleticism. He’s a large man who uses angles and positioning. He reads plays and tries to anticipate where the puck will go. He forces puck carriers to area’s of the ice that they can’t create dangerous shots. What we saw is not a guy who lost a step and is no longer an elite defenseman. What we saw was simply a player who needs to get into hockey shape. He missed a ton of time last year, he didn’t skate almost all summer, and he only played in one preseason game.
I’m not sure how long it will take. Maybe a handful of games, maybe a quarter of the season. I’d be a bit surprised if it took that long though. He’s been around the block a bit. He’s not new to the system, and he knows his defensive partner. Long story short, don’t worry about Pronger, he’ll be fine. And while he may need a bit of time to get adjusted to the speed and flow of the game, you know he never lost the mean streak. Things will be back to normal soon enough.
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