With a extremely busy weekend for myself combined with the lack of internet during a good portion of it, I’m back with a few quick tidbits for a weekend recap:
-Flyers won their 3rd straight with a convincing win on Friday night where they got to Buffalo’s hot goaltender Ryan Miller.
-Flyers won their 4th straight in a shootout win on Saturday night hosting the St. Louis Blues. Claude Giroux’s move was dazzling, and Pyorala scored the winner in the 4th round.
-Tollefsen suffered a mild concussion on Saturday night and Van Riemsdyk fractured the tip of his left pinkie finger. Van Riemsdyk should be back soon, but probably not going to make their next game at home against Ottawa on Thursday. Tollefsen most likely will not play, and if Ryan Parent cannot as well, expect Bartulis or possibly Bourdon to come up from the Phantoms.
Back in the dog days of summer, I posted an article about what I thought the Flyers needed to work on in order to have success this season. How have they fared so far? Read on.
With the key addition of Blair Betts in the off-season, we are now 7-0 with him in the line-up. We won the first 3 and then he got injured. But, when he came back we won four straight and counting. He currently boasts a 53% face-off win percentage which is favorable especially since he sees a lot of penalty-kill time. Meanwhile, Jeff Carter has a 51.5%, Danny Briere has straight 50%, and Mike Richards has 49.6%. These around the same numbers these players had last year, but they are improving and I feel that this team is doing the right things in order to win face-offs. They may not be dominant or close to that peak yet, but I like the strides they are making in that direction.
So far this has been the tell-tale sign of us winning games. The games that we wound up winning were ones where we controlled the tempo of games and got our four deep lines rolling. The past three games have been breakout for our bottom lines, especially the line of Betts centering Carcillo and LaPerriere (and the occasional Powe or Pyorala). They’ve gotten pucks in deep and just flat out outworked the opposition. The Flyers have been scoring goals and setting up in the offensive zone which is always good to see from a young team.
So far the Flyers were on top of the world in their first three games, then had a rough stretch before coming back and winning four straight. This is an area of their game where we really cannot judge them too fairly until at least the Olympic break. However, even then it isn’t very accurate because you play an 82-game season for a reason.
The Flyers have 241 penalty minutes at this point which is 9th most in the league. They had the second most last season with 1408 PIM, but there has been a bit more discipline so far by this team. We are always going to drop the gloves and rack up PIMs by fighting, but I’ll take the 78 minors we’ve committed so far compared to having 92 like Carolina does (they lead the league in minor penalties).
Ray Emery hasn’t exactly been perfect in all his starts as he’s shown he’s human and incapable of stopping everything. Brian Boucher had one start so far against his former team the San Jose Sharks and it was probably the worst game the Flyers played all year. I’m not completely sold on Boucher being a great back-up but I believe he is capable. Keeping in mind he also was hurt in pre-season, I’m still up for giving him a shot.
Emery has stoned other teams at times with his athletic ability of being able to cover both sides. His “flopping fish” saves are somewhat becoming reminiscent of Hextall’s days in Philadelphia, and I can honestly say I’ve been happy with his performance as of late. His stats aren’t too shabby either. 9-3-1, a SV% of .922, and a GAA of 2.27 with one shutout. One aspect of his game I really like is that he can actually play the puck. That can be a little thing to most people but he can get the puck to his defenders quickly for a nice break-out which is something we have not had in a while.
As far as defenseman go, Chris Pronger is 3rd in the league in both points and +/- with 14 and 11, respectively. Matt Carle is 2nd in the league with +/- with 14, and has 12 points himself. That pairing has been dominant since the get go and as predicted, Carle playing with Pronger has really brought him back to form as a good defensive player who can put the puck in the net and set up plays. His confidence has risen to good levels and you can see it in the way he plays the puck compared to last year. They’re averaging almost 30 minutes of ice-time a night so look for Stevens to continue cutting their ice-time.
Timmonen and Coburn have had their share of problems this year as they are both at a -4. Timmonen has 9 points and Coburn has 6, but they’ve had some bad bounces and some bad plays that have led to crucial goals. Coburn has had at least 2 plays go in off of him into the net which are not entirely his fault, but he was in a funk for a good portion of the season so far. He is starting to score some goals again and get some assists so his confidence and level of play is starting to get better as the season goes on. As our 2nd pairing and 2nd PP unit, these guys need to simply get better.
Ryan Parent needs to get healthy and so does Tollefsen. Tollefsen has played with Syvret a few games and although they’ve done some good things, they are both very young and sometimes take years off of my life when I watch them in their own zone. Their ice-time as a 3rd pair regardless of which of these 3 are playing has been very low to say the least, yet they all have 2 points so far this season. I look forward to their progression as a 3rd unit.
We had six 25-goal scorers last season and we lost two of them to free agency and trade. Going into the season, we had the promise of Giroux coming back after his explosion near the end of the last season and the prospect of Danny Briere returning to the line-up healthy. We’re known for our depth at the forward position at this point, which has led to many line combinations so far this season due to injuries and Stevens’ toying around with chemistry.
Gagne and Briere have been out the past couple weeks with lower body injuries, but Briere looks to make a return soon while Gagne will be out for the next month or two after having surgery. Besides that, the Flyers have flexed their scoring depth muscles. Rookie forward James Van Riemsdyk made the team out of camp and is tied for the lead in rookies with 14 points. Another surprise was David Laliberte from the Phantoms who moved up last week and has 3 points in four games.
The 3rd and 4th lines have started scoring, and except for Pyorala, Betts and Cote, everyone has at least scored a goal. Pyorala (shootout winner last night albeit not official) and Betts both have assists at least. Richards and Carter both have 15 points apiece, and Hartnell has had a strong showing the past few games and his point total is currently at 12. The Flyers have a chance to score no matter which line is on the ice, and that will be dangerous to teams this season; especially if we can match up well against them line against line.
The Flyers have had their share of injuries and problems so far, but I’m liking what I’m seeing from this team overall this season. They’ve played some good hockey up to this point, and I only expect them to move on and get better. See you on Thursday for a home game hosting Ottawa.