Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE

SO We're Hitting the Home Stretch

For the third time in eight games a dreaded SO was needed in order to award two points. I’ll admit that I’ve grown to like the shootout this season, but I’m tired of seeing them so frequently, especially when the score going in to them is either 0-0, or 1-1. I think that Bryzgalov’s rapid rise to back to back NHL first star of the week awards has made the Flyers less aggressive on the offensive end.

In March the Flyers have only scored four goals or more twice in 12 games, let’s compare that to the month of December. Philly played 13 games that month and scored four or more goals eight times. The overall record for each month? December 9-3-1, 2 overtime games, 1 shootout; March 9-2-1, 1 overtime game that was won by Hartnell with 00.9 on the clock, 3 shootout games. Let’s keep the theme going; in that torrid offensive run in December, 43 goals were scored by the Flyers. So far in March the Flyers have scored 31 goals and have played one less game then they did in Dec.

It was inevitable that the Flyers offensive pace was going to level out, but even with this current offensive slump the only team that is ahead of Philadelphia in total goals scored is Pittsburgh(235-230). It still amazes me just how good of a job Holmgren did after essentially blowing last year’s team to smithereens. The Flyers are winning games, but each time a comeback is needed (somewhere T.O. is jealous). Instead of just squeaking by with two points, opposing teams should leave the Wells Fargo Center feeling like they just got hit by a mid August Kansas tornado.

It seems to me that the Flyers are passing up good shots to try and take even better shots, I’m looking at you number 28. Cute is probably the best adjective to describe the offense in the past month. When everything clicks there are plays that are really just mind boggling. Last night I watched the Washington feed of the game and at one point Joe Beninati, the Caps announcer, compared the Flyers puck movement to that of the Harlem Globetrotters. The silcky smooth passing is great to watch and provides highlight real goals (Giroux to Hartnell against the Pens this past Sunday, which had a Pens defender spinning his head like the girl in the Exorcist). However those plays have about a 5% success rate. I often call the Kings Flyers West just because of the personnel, but actually the Flyers are the Canucks East, at least offensively.

The offense needs to resemble a freight train that is barreling down the tracks, rather than a blimp that just hovers around and takes pretty pictures. For example this past Tuesday the Panthers came to town, got outshot 36-13, but escaped with a 2-1 victory. 36-13! That was a prime example of the boxscore skewing what really happened. Yes the Flyers did control the puck in the offensive zone for much of the game, but they only had three to four good shots besides the goal. With 1:27 Bryzgalov was pulled and that’s when the Panthers almost surrendered to the freight train. In the last 87 seconds the Flyers ripped off six good scoring chances. There wasn’t any time to sit and wait for the perfect play to develop, just get the puck and fire it at the net was the motto and you know what maybe that’s what it needs to be from here on out.

Maybe I’m just nitpicking here. After all the Flyers have all but clinched a playoff spot, they’re only six points away from taking over first place in the Eastern Conference. The more likely scenario however? A first round matchup with either the Pens (hottest team in the league), or the Rangers (owned the Flyers this year). When Bryzgalov is playing well, the offense isn’t and vice versa. The puzzle of a team just hasn’t been quite put together this season for an extended period of time, scary isn’t it?

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Tags: Claude Giroux Flyers Ilya Bryzgalov Peter Laviolette Philadelphia Flyers Scott Hartnell

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