Philadelphia Flyers: 5 Reasons Eastern Conference Title Is Within Reach
Philadelphia fans should find comfort in the notion that it is virtually impossible for the Flyers to not make the playoffs. The worst the team can finish is fifth and to some this could be an advantage since they will be playing a team like Florida compared to their expected opponent in Pittsburgh.
Regardless of who they play, it is without question that Philly has a legitimate shot at taking this year's Eastern Conference.
1. Philly Has Done Well in Recent Postseasons
Philly has made the playoffs for five straight seasons now. A statistic that should say a lot in regards to the caliber at which the Flyers have been playing.
During these playoff trips, the Flyers have seen only one postseason end in the first round, '08-'09 where they lost two games to four to the Penguins. These trips also include a trip to the championship round and a trip to the finals.
The recent postseason success—despite the lack of a title since the '74-'75—suggests that the Flyers are just a player or productive season away from clinching a long elusive title.
One also must realize that this pattern of close-but-no-cigar results will give Philly a lot to play for coming into this postseason along with the team looking to avenge last season's semifinals loss to the Boston Bruins, who went on to win the Cup.
2. Depth at Goalie
Now, many are going to make the argument that both Flyers goaltenders, Ilya Bryzgalov and Sergei Bobrovsky have been streaky at best. The hot-and-cold play by both goalies has been spoken for by the Flyers defensive skaters who have taken the blame for allowing too many shots on either goalie.
That problem is hopefully patched up by the last-minute trades for defensemen Pavel Kubina and Nicklaus Grossman, both of which had team-leading defensive numbers for their previous clubs before being traded to Philly. So with the defense being set, hopefully, the goalies will have a better focus during the game.
With that issue now stated, back to the goalies themselves. Both Bryzgalov and Bobrovsky have had good seasons in net for Philly. Bryzgalov holds a 32-16 record in net and has a .908 save percentage. Bobrovsky also holds a winning record at 14-9 with a slightly inferior save percentage of .901.
These figures don't make these goalies the best in the league but it shows that the Flyers hold two competent players that can be interchangeable if one were to succumb to injury or start playing poorly.
The duality the Flyers possess at this position will prove invaluable come the playoffs if they make a title run. This being even more prevalent since Bryzgalov has only played in one game since suffering a chip fracture in his foot that caused him to miss more than a week of play.
3. Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell
The combination of Scott Hartnell at left wing and Claude Giroux on the right have proved deadly this season.
Giroux has earned 92 total points with 64 assists, third overall and second overall in the league respectively. Giroux is also going into the remaining games of this season carrying a streak of nine games where he has scored at least three points a contest.
With this kind of scoring power, it's no surprise that Giroux leads the Flyers in points and assists.
Looking at Giroux's stats, one will realize that he does not lead the Flyers in goals. Enter Scott Hartnell. Hartnell has scored 37 goals this season, 16 of which have been a result of a power play, second best in the league. Hartnell isn't selfish, though, and his 30 assists can attest to that.
With such a deadly duo on the ice, the Flyers offense will be in good hands.
4. The Flyers Are Hot Despite Injury
The Flyers have suffered the loss of veteran players like defensive captain Chris Pronger in October, Ian Laperriere by way of a brain contusion, and most recently Danny Briere who suffered an upper back contusion earlier this month.
To pick up the slack these injuries created, the rest of the team has come together and pieced a playoff bound season together.
These injuries also prompted the Flyers management to bring in defense men Kubinaand Grossman. These additions could very well have filled holes that may have proven disastrous.
Players like Giroux, Hartnell, and veteran Jaromir Jagr have stepped up play and lead the team to perform at post season caliber as they close in on potential home ice for the playoffs.
This pattern of team cohesiveness could very well carry over into the post season as the Flyers look to bring home a long elusive Cup.
5. Home or Away: It Doesn't Matter to the Flyers
Even though home ice would be great for any team to have during the postseason, the Flyers have a chance of doing well regardless of where they play.
On paper, the Flyers would be better off on the road since they won more away games than they did home this season. But again, nobody in their right mind would turn down the opportunity to play at home, in front of their own fans and have no travel to endure.
To make this situation sweeter, Pittsburgh—who the Flyers will most likely be playing in the first round of playoffs—have not had good history when the Flyers visit them. In fact, the Flyers haven't lost an away game in Pittsburgh since the Penguins moved to their new arena
No matter what the Flyers end up doing they will have a unique advantage over their adversary. It's a very advantageous scenario when you're a team unaffected by travel and will certainly play a part in their postseason play.