The Flyers look strong, but is it enough?

In Uncategorized on February 16, 2009 at 1:52 am

page8flyersAs playoff time for the NHL looms on the horizon many Philadelphia hockey fans are wondering if the Flyers can bring a second championship back to the city of Brotherly Love. So far, so good. Philadelphia has to like where their second place standing in the Atlantic Division behind only the New Jersey Devils, and a fourth place standing in the Eastern Conference. Complementing this nicely is Jeff Carter’s breakout season and solid contributions from Captain Mike Richards, Scott Hartnell, and a finally healthy Simone Gagne. Suddenly a team without Briere doesn’t seem so bad. And on that note, the less they play Briere’s good friend, goaltender Martin Biron, the better they do as well.

If there is one chink in the Flyers’ armor this season it has been goaltending. At the end of last season Biron looked like he was ready to take the number one role between the pipes, but has done little to prove that this season. He sits at an unimpressive 15-11-5 record with a 2.96 goals against average. Meanwhile his counterpart in the net, Antero Nittymaki, has a 13-4-4 record coupled with a .924 save percentage. The only problem with this is that no Philadelphia fan can forget the dismal 2006-2007 season where they posted a record breaking number of losses with— guess who—Nittymaki as the number one goalie. I’ll stake the claim now that Nittymaki is only doing well because he has the role of coming in and saving the day when Biron is falling apart, if the spotlight gets put on him I think we’ll see some different results.

Of course, a possible solution for the Flyers might be to stop letting 30 shots or more per game. But something tells me they won’t be stopping that  now. Instead of developing a new defensive structure, the Flyers have opted to just ramp up the offense to the point where it doesn’t matter if a team is scoring three goals on them a game. Probably the most impressive example of this is their 4-3 overtime win over the Conference leading Boston Bruins last week (in Boston!). A win against the Bruins is no small feat, let alone a comeback win in overtime.

For the next five games the Flyers have a decent opportunity to pick up three or four more wins. If the rival New York Rangers manage to stay in a slump that leaves some favorable matches against Ottawa, Pittsburgh, and Buffalo, and a good opportunity to start padding their points for the playoffs.

Right now the key for the Flyers is to stick with what works. They don’t quite match the finely tuned machine that is the Detroit Red Wings, or the explosiveness of the Bruins, but Philadelphia has something good going for them. The number one key for them is to get Biron playing at the level they need him at while letting Nittymaki get just enough time to stay hot. As far as the offense goes, don’t change anything. Expect 80-points or more seasons from Carter, Richards, and Gagne, also look for Carter to break 50 goals this year. With point production like that Philly has a great chance of sneaking up and taking over the spotlight when it gets into the late rounds of the playoffs this April and, God willing, this May.


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