Philadelphia Flyers: 5 Things They Must Do to Become Stanley Cup Champions
As they head into the All-Star break, the Philadephia Flyers find themselves comfortably in fourth place of the Eastern Conference.
Despite losing three of their top six forwards to injury prior to Sunday's game with the defending champion Boston Bruins, the Flyers found themselves in position to win after regulation and overtime.
However the Flyers came up short.
Win or lose, this team with eight rookies in the lineup and two AHL call-ups showed it can play well enough to beat anyone.
After the All-Star break, games will be more frequent and intense going into the playoffs. The Flyers cannot hang their hats on good effort if hoisting Lord Stanley's cup is their goal.
Despite signing veteran goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year $51 million contract, there is still uncertainty in net.
Captain Chris Pronger is in all likelihood lost for the season, and fans are clamoring for Paul Holmgren to find a Shea Weber at the trade deadline.
Whether Holmgren can pull a Shea Weber rabbit out of his hat, there are five things this team must do to achieve the ultimate goal. Please enjoy and allow me to present them.
When Chris Pronger was lost for the season, Flyer fans felt a collective punch in the mouth.
That punch was followed up by a Frazier-esque left hook to the jaw this month by losing Danny Briere and James Van Riemsdyk to concussions.
Van Riemsdyk was last year's biggest surprise in the playoffs.
Briere basically took over the first-round series against Buffalo.
The Flyers cannot afford to lose any more top six forwards or regular defensemen to injury. They just won't win with waiver wire pickups and AHL call-ups.
How do they do this? Keep their heads up and take fewer chances. Yes that is easier to say than do but the safety awareness has to be elevated even if it's at an all-time high.
Either way, it cannot be debated that the injuries have to remain minimized to maintain their chance at a cup.
Get Jaromir Jagr Going
When the Flyers signed Jaromir Jagr to a one-year contract last summer, it wasn't to sell tickets. It was to add veteran depth in the postseason.
Since aggravating his groin at the Winter Classic, Jagr has been a negative four and registered three assists without any goals.
He has been visibly hampered by this injury. However, right now the games aren't that important that Jagr can't take the extra time to get healthy and stay fresh.
The Flyers need him for April, May and June, not January through February.
They managed to steal a point from probably the best team in the league last weekend without him.
If Jagr can be the guy he was last fall this spring, the Flyers will have the best line in hockey again with Scott Hartnell and Claude Giroux next to him.
Find Another Defenseman by the Trade Deadline
The team has leaned more on Andreas Lilja without Chris Pronger, who became a visible pylon with increased ice time.
Promising rookie Erik Gustafson has been a breath of fresh air since his return but he's not enough.
The Flyers need someone to share the load with Kimo Timmonen. That someone needs to bring the nasty physical edge Timmonen lacks.
Even though the Flyers played a great game against the Boston Bruins, they still found themselves getting outmuscled in front of their own net.
Pronger, like his Boston counterpart Zdeno Chara, doesn't get outmuscled too often. Even when they do, it seems like they are smart enough to minimize the impact.
Tim Gleason seems to be the front runner for GM's looking for a frugal trade. Shea Weber is every fanbase's fantasy pickup, but in reality it most likely won't happen.
Even if the Flyers can't get Gleason, there are other defensemen out there who can fill the Flyers' void without blowing up the roster.
They need to be firing on all cylinders going into the playoffs, and to do that they need another defenseman.
Commit to Physical Play and Team Defense
The Flyers out-hit the toughest team in hockey Sunday, 39-24, and it irritated and got under the skin of the superior team. Despite a depleted roster, the Flyers pushed the game past overtime to a shootout.
This style of play will not yield a loss every time.
Brayden Schenn and Tom Sestito were two rookies leading the cause out there. They even went after 6'9" giant Zdeno Chara with reckless abandon.
The Flyers played it close in their own zone, which has been uncharacteristic for them this year.
With horrid numbers put up by starter Ilya Bryzgalov, fans have made their annual grumblings for the back up to supplant the starter.
However, last week against the Islanders sloppy defensive play in front of Sergei Bobrovsky led to a 4-1 loss.
The loose play in their own zone couldn't be ignored anymore. The Flyers tightened things up against the Devils on Saturday but against the Bruins the depleted manpower seemed to catch up.
Too many shooters were left open to Bryzgalov's blind side.
On the last regulation goal Bryzgalov failed to keep his paddle down, but rookie Erik Gustafson failed to cancel the shooters stick by lifting it. He did move the shooter but could have been called for a cross check, especially the way that game was called.
In games like this every little detail counts, and in the defensive zone, it seems like the Flyers always manage to neglect something which leads to a scoring chance.
They need to eliminate as many of these mistakes as possible.
Determine the No. 1 Goaltender
Personally I'd love to see Bryzgalov get back to his Phoenix form, but if he just can't do it this year, then by all means, go with Bobrovsky.
If Earl Morrall could keep legendary quarterback Johnny Unitas on the bench, then there's no reason Bobrovsky can't do the same with Bryzgalov.
I know it's two different sports, but it's the same concept, and both positions have the same impact on their teams.
This just might not be Bryzgalov's year. If not, so what?
Why let that spoil the chance of winning a cup? It just might help Bryzgalov to have a bounceback year like he did in 2010 after a dismal 2009.
He's not the first goalie to struggle or the only one this year.
Just look at Buffalo and Ryan Miller.
Miller is better than what his numbers are this year and so is Bryzgalov.
However, Bryzgalov still has time to get it together this year. After all he did just put two starts together with only one goal allowed in each prior to Sunday's five spot.
Furthermore, he did break the shutout drought the Flyers found themselves in for over a calendar year earlier this season.
That concludes my presentation that hopefully everyone enjoyed.
Please feel free to leave questions, comments and complaints below.
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