Somehow we are 41 games into the regular season already, with the all star game and race to the playoffs in the near future it is time to either get on the bandwagon or jump off and start watching the Sixers, or begin to countdown the days until the Phillies report to Clearwater.
Half of the games have been played in the 2011-12 Flyers season and yet the same problems still linger from last season. The biggest is of course the goaltending situation. This offseason was supposed to bring an end to a problem that has plagued this organization since Bernie Parent’s departure 32 years ago. The acquisition of Ilya Bryzgalov has not only been a major flop so far, but it has muddled up the goalie situation even more in the city of brotherly love.
The other major problem that the Flyers have had to deal with is figuring out how to play defense without their bulldog Chris Pronger. Last season Pronger couldn’t finish out the regular season and the rest of the team couldn’t pick up the slack, so far this season Bryzgalov has shielded the blame away from the defense with his mediocre play and off the ice comments.
To be fair this team destroyed the thought that this was going to be a rebuilding year by leading the Eastern Conference for over a month and leading the league in goals for a good chunk of the first half. There have been numerous times where the offense looked like an unstoppable freight train barring down on the opposition, with the conductor being all-star Claude Giroux.
Bright spots: Claude Giroux, Max Talbot, Scott Hartnell, Matt Read, Jaromir Jagr, Sean Couturier
That list is in a specific order. Claude Giroux has stepped up and become not only the best playmaker on this team, but has put himself in serious consideration for the Hart Trophy. Much has been noted of Giroux’s rise this year, but what about Talbot. A 4th line grinder on the Pittsburgh Penguins for six years was the biggest surprise offensively on this team. His career high for goals in a season is 13, currently he is at 10, honestly who could have predicted that he would be this valuable?
The other big surprise in the first half of this season has been the return to form of Scott Hartnell. In the first couple games of this season he was just flat out invisible. He was barely getting over 10 minutes of ice time leaving many to wonder if his time in Philly was about to run out. Well Peter Laviolette heard the veteran’s complaints of wanting to be more involved in the offense and paired him with Jagr and Giroux, which might just be the best move that Lavi has ever made.
Hartnell is currently tied with Giroux for the team lead in goals (18) and is second behind only Giroux in points (37). Even though the counter at hartnelldown.com is currently at 166, he has looked much better on his feet this season and has made his fair share of amazing passes this season. The team will go as far as this first line takes them.
Not so bright spots: James van Reimsdyk, Danny Briere,
I know Briere just had a hat trick last Saturday against Ottawa, but that means he only had 26 points in 37 games this season. His office behind the net has been squeezed down to a small cubicle. It might only be a matter of time before Brayden Schenn takes over as the second best offensive center.
JVR was my preseason pick to become the MVP of the Flyers and I couldn’t have been more wrong. He has reportedly been playing with injuries that have slowed him up, but even so he looks disinterested at times. The force that was last year in the playoffs is nowhere to be found and it is a shame because this team is lacking a big fast forward with the same exact skill set as van Reimsdyk. He is still very young, but he needs to play like he did against Chicago to make everyone forget about a disappointing first half.