October 29, 2011 Leave a comment
Ten games are already in the books and the Flyers sit at 5-4-1 with 11 points, good for second place in the Atlantic Division, behind the powerful, yet injury-riddled Pittsburgh Penguins. The Flyers have looked good at times thus far, but also terrible in certain games. It’s still a bit early to call them a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, specifically with so many new faces and still a questionable amount of chemistry on each line. Nonetheless, let’s take a look at the pluses and minuses of the Philadelphia Flyers’ first ten games of the 2011-12 NHL season:
Everyone in the Philadelphia area has known how talented Claude Giroux is. But his rise to superstardom is just starting to trickle through the NHL ranks. Jaromir Jagr is one of the best players in NHL history, sitting third all-time in points per game, behind Gretzky and Lemieux. There were questions about how much he had left in the tank, but he answered those questions with the rigor of a Rhodes Scholar. Together, the two create one of the most dangerous 1-2 punches in the NHL.
The Flyers are fourth in the league in penalty minutes per game, with 16.8. But the more troubling figure is their 56 minor penalties, which leads the league. Most of these are lazy penalties such as tripping, holding, or hooking, or stick fouls. The Flyers seem to commit these penalties at the most inopportune times, such as after they score a goal or in the midst of their own power play. Twelve Flyers already have at least six penalty minutes, which makes them as undisciplined as a fifth-grade class clown.
+ Defensive play/Coaching
The two may not seem to belong in the same category, but the Flyers’ great zone defense is reflective of the effectiveness of the coaching staff. Peter Laviolette’s trademark Box Plus-1 is generally holding opponents to the outside of the ice and creating numerous counter rush opportunities for the speedy forwards on Philly’s roster. The team ranks fourth in the league in blocked shots (albeit 16th in takeaways). The penalty kill has also looked fairly good, notwithstanding an 80.4 percent success rate.
The largest goaltending pickup in Flyers’ history has been nothing to write home about just yet. Although he shows flashes of the great goaltender he is, Bryzgalov has made many fans as nervous and worried as a Jewish mother. His puckhandling skills rival that of a mite, while he simply looks careless most of the time. The Flyers surely didn’t pay millions of dollars for a .870 save percentage, a 3.45 goals against average, and a 28th league ranking in goals against per game. Bryzgalov clearly has the ability and the talent to be one of the best in the league – but he needs to start showing it.
+ Offensive Depth/Rookies
Every full-time Flyers forward has a goal already, and almost everyone looks like they belong on this roster. Five rookies (Sean Couturier, Matt Read, Harry Zolnierczyk, Zac Rinaldo, and Brayden Schenn) making impacts have also been a large point of interest for the entire organization. This has been the trademark of the Flyers since the lockout, and will be the main reason for their eventual success. The power play has been helped by this depth as well, ranked fourth in the league.
The first five games were great. After that, it pretty much went downhill. Their five-on-five goals ratio dropped from second in the league to 19th. They beat some good teams, then lost to those who were struggling. The team also has won just 43 percent of the games in which they scored, showing just how inconsistent this organization is throughout a game and how difficult a time they are having holding a lead.
Alan Bass, a former writer for The Hockey News and THN.com, is the author of The Great Expansion: The Ultimate Risk That Changed The NHL Forever. He has worked for the Philadelphia Flyers’ Fan Development department, going to schools throughout the tri-state area to teach about fitness and the importance of teamwork. He is the General Manager of the Muhlenberg College Division II hockey team as well. You can contact him at Alanbasswriting@aol.com.