As of this writing, the LA Kings are up 3-0 in their series with the Phoenix Coyotes, and likely will be the Western Conference rep in the Stanley Cup Finals. Meanwhile, the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils have split the first two games, and are even at 0-0 during the second intermission of game 3. I just wanted to examine how the teams are playing, and if the Flyers can be close to being at this level next season.
All 4 of these teams are head and shoulders better than us on defense. They are aggressive on the PK, and don’t give up a ton of chances. When they have late leads, they don’t let them slip away. Every good chance given up is earned, it doesn’t usually come from poor defense. I don’t see many teams doing line changes when the opposition has clear control of the puck.
I think my favorite moment of the 3rd round was when Vyacheslav Voynov went into the Coyotes zone in the final two minutes, with his team clinging to a 2-1 lead. By himself, he cycled the puck and killed a good 20-30 seconds of valuable time. After Phoenix finally took possession, pulled the goalie, and went on the attack, they were called for a penalty. They never got another chance to pull their goalie, as LA penned them in their own zone. The entire team is so dedicated to making it hard to move the puck towards their goal, it’s just fun to watch.
While both series feature excellent defense, and some great goaltending, they are far from boring. Instead, the closeness of each game just makes it that much more intense. It’s a brand of hockey that the Flyers rarely exhibited this season. Blame injuries, or youth, or personnel changes. It doesn’t matter what the cause is, it just matters that we cannot portect our own cage well enough.
It’s sad, because last season we had a good enough team D. Now we don’t. I don’t know if we’ll have it back next season or not. It’s hard to make any guesses now, not knowing who will be here, and not knowing what changes we will see over this summer. I just hope that the orange and black can get back some of their nastiness, and play a lot more responsible hockey. The offense will come on it’s own. The plan for this past season was that we would give up some offense, but would be even harder to score against. Instead, we scored a ton, but gave up just as much. It was a fun ride, that ultimately ended without a Stanley Cup, again.
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