2009/02/20

Flyers Looking Toward Stretch Run


Checking in on the guys in orange and black, and we see the usual consistency we are used to from them. The Flyers are one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, currently in the 4 spot, and are in 2nd place behind the Devils, who apparently don't lose anymore, in the Atlantic Division.

The story with the Flyers is never getting to playoffs, and having a successful season. Since the mid 90's, the Flyers have consistently been one of the best teams in the NHL and have often gone far in the playoffs. The Eagles brass would tell you that they are the gold standard of the NHL because of this, however, the Flyers actually realize that they need to win Lord Stanley's Cup one of these years to be considered an ultimate success. With the offensive firepower the Flyers have on this team, with a lot of young talent, we hope that the Flyers stand pat when the trade deadline rolls around on March 4. The Flyers will be adding Danny Briere to the lineup shortly, which will only add to the great offense this team has, and assuming he stays healthy, Briere will be a big key to the offense in the postseason. Briere will fit in to a team that has one of the most cohesive, well-rounded top three lines in the league. The top line is on fire right now, with Richards, Gagne, and Knuble all playing well. The second line has carried the Flyers most of the season with Jeff Carter, 2nd in the NHL in goals, Hartnell, and Lupul. When Briere returns, he should center a 3rd line made up of rookie phenom Claude Giroux, and Scottie Upshall. Any of those three lines can carry the Flyers at any given time, and put up a lot of points.

The Flyers goaltending is another situation to look at. When Biron has a couple bad starts, Niittymaki plays well. Then when Niittymaki plays poorly, Biron plays well. Even though Nitty has better numbers for the season, if they are still playing fairly equal come playoff time, Stevens may elect to go with Biron because of his excellent play in the playoffs last season. Either way, both goalies have shown that they can get the job done, and both goalies have shows inconsistency. One of them will need to step up in this late season run and hopefully continue that into the playoffs, much like Biron did last season.

The defense for the Flyers is the unit that really needs to step it up and play well come playoff time. The defense is playing better as of late, and that needs to continue. We are not worried about the play of Coburn, or Timonen, but rather the guys like Alberts, Carle, and Jones will need to step it up come playoff time. The Flyers defense will be contending with a lot of strong offensive teams in the playoffs. It will not be easy to come out of the Eastern Conference this season. The Devils, Capitals, and Canadiens all have solid teams, among others.

So, the Flyers have for the most part a fairly young team, which currently doesn't even include youngsters like Sbisa, who will be a beast, and James Van Riemsdyk, who is the Flyers former #2 overall pick, which means they should be a good team for a while. However, as Flyers fans, we have been waiting a while for a Cup victory. We are not content with just being competitive. With the offense that the Flyers have, if the defense steps it up, and one of the goaltenders emerges come playoff time, this could be the year for the orange and black.

1 comment:

T-Bone said...

"...we have been waiting a while for a Cup victory." Jeez, ya think? We're only going on 34 years now. Since when did you become such a proponent of understatement, Mr. Green? Of course, to be fair, this trumps Team Gold Standard who've come up short for the last 49 years, so I guess we should be grateful for the Orange & Black. And you're quite right to observe that the Flyers don't emulate the smug self-satisfaction of our NFL also-rans. Aside from a few stupid comments from Snider a year or so ago (meant to shine his already blinding ego), the folks who actually run the organization act like they get it: they clearly try to address weaknesses, add strengths, and don't seem content with anything less than a Cup. Unfortunately, it never happens. This team always seems to have an Achilles heel, which changes from one game to the next, much less from one season to the next. If the offense is clicking, the defense makes miscues. If the defense dominates, the offense can't get the puck in the net. If both are functioning well, the goaltending goes south. The main concern I have with the Flyboys is that it seems they need every component functioning almost flawlessly to get W's. Other top teams seem to be able to claw out wins despite periods of mediocre performance, while the Flyers invariably get burned. Not sure what the answer to this is overall, but there's no question that consistent goaltending is critically important for this team in particular. Biron & Nitty need to start "standing on their heads," or this year will be the same old story.