Philadelphia Flyers: Grading Each Player's NHL Playoffs 2012 Performance
With the Philadelphia Flyers eliminated from the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, passionate Flyers fans are searching for answers as to why the team performed so well against the Pittsburgh Penguins and yet so poorly against the New Jersey Devils.
Every player who played significant time in the first two series seems to be under a microscope. Some are seeing their value assessed as a result of impending free agency. Others are having their large contracts scrutinized by the media and fanbase alike, while others are being evaluated for their long-term impact on the franchise.
Though Philadelphia’s playoff tenure was cut painfully short, the 11 games played by the team can be very telling for the organization’s future.
Here are grades for each player’s performance during the 2012 playoffs.
Danny Briere: B+
As of this writing, Briere is still tied for the playoff lead in goals (eight) despite having been eliminated from the playoffs already.
However, the young Flyers team was clearly in need of some veteran leadership against the Devils, and while Briere was solid, he did not ignite the team.
Sean Couturier: A
Couturier contributed only four points to the Flyers’ playoff effort, but he clearly understood the gravity of his role. The rookie shut down likely Hart Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin through most of the Pittsburgh series and held Jersey superstar Ilya Kovalchuk without a shot in Philly’s only second-round win.
Any Flyers fan who asked more of Couturier simply expected far too much from a 19-year-old who was given fourth-line duties.
Claude Giroux: A-
At the moment, Claude Giroux’s 17 playoff points are still four better than anyone else’s, and his intensity and leadership in the first round convinced many Flyers fans that he is the heir apparent to Chris Pronger’s captaincy.
Unfortunately, the passionate superstar let his emotions overtake his game in Game 4 of the Devils series, and he was suspended for the decisive fifth game. Once Giroux develops a level head, he’ll be a near-unstoppable force in the NHL.
Scott Hartnell: C-
Scott Hartnell notched eight points but was a team-worst minus-seven in the playoffs. The team’s leading goal scorer during the regular season was expected to be more of a factor in the playoffs, but Hartnell seemed unable to find his groove.
A surprisingly pleasant regular season was somewhat clouded by a bad postseason for Hartnell.
Jaromir Jagr: D+
Before the playoffs, Jaromir Jagr seemed like an important piece of the Flyers’ near future. After the postseason, he seems to simply be a 40-year-old on his last legs.
A rookie team needs veteran leadership in the playoffs, and Jagr failed to provide it. Don’t be surprised if GM Paul Holmgren finds other uses for $3.3 million in the offseason.
Matt Read: B-
As the oldest of Philly’s rookies, Matt Read was expected to be the most comfortable newcomer in the playoffs. Unfortunately, Read’s five points made little statement, and he found his even-strength minutes reduced on the third line.
However, Read’s penalty-killing was crucial for the Flyers. He showed poise and potential in a specialized role, even under pressure.
Zac Rinaldo: B
Give Zac Rinaldo a C- for his performance in the Pens series and an A+ for his one game against the Devils. The average is a B.
Rinaldo is exactly what you would expect: The energy is invaluable; the emotion is a liability.
Brayden Schenn: B+
Schenn’s nine points were good for fourth on the Flyers during the playoffs, and Schenn was no stranger to important goals. He found a niche breaking the ice for the team, and when his stick wasn’t doing the work, his body was. Schenn proved to be a major physical presence on the ice.
However, his rookie side showed in Game 3 against New Jersey, when a tired Schenn attempted a risky line change in overtime, resulting in an odd-man rush that led to the Devils’ winning goal. Schenn will have all summer to digest the lesson in that mishap.
Wayne Simmonds: C
Simmonds was brought into Philadelphia to be an emotional leader and tough customer in front of opposing netminders. Despite some significant regular-season success, Simmonds saw little production in the playoffs.
He only notched one goal and six points, and seemed virtually invisible in both series despite the fact that the Flyers were playing high-intensity games against bitter rivals. One would have expected Simmonds to make a statement.
Max Talbot: A-
The Flyers were no strangers to the penalty box in the playoffs, and offseason acquisition Max Talbot proved his worth in the penalty-killing role.
Two of Talbot’s four goals came shorthanded, and he was a rare bright spot for the Flyers throughout the series against the Devils.
James Van Riemsdyk: D
Last season, JVR played 11 postseason games and scored seven goals. This year, he played seven games after coming back from injury and managed only one goal.
Blame it on the foot if you must, but JVR’s stunted development will have him the subject of trade speculation during the offseason.
Jakub Voracek: A+
Jake Voracek was the most consistent overachiever on the Flyers during the playoffs, and for good reason. Voracek will be a restricted free agent on July 1, and the Flyers will make it their top priority to make sure No. 93 dons the orange and black again next year.
His 10 playoff points were good for third on the team, and Voracek proved to be both opportunistic and reliable. Only one player in a Flyers uniform exceeded expectations and played well consistently, and that was Voracek.
Eric Wellwood: C+
Wellwood’s role was limited, and the backup penalty killer proved reliable when Peter Laviolette used him.
However, Wellwood’s speed, which seemed to be a factor in many regular-season games, failed to impress opposing defenses in the playoffs. A more well-rounded game will be a necessary development for Wellwood’s future.
Matt Carle: B-
Matt Carle led all Flyers defensemen in points, tallying six in 11 games. As a puck-moving defenseman, Carle fulfilled his role, but as always, the pending free agent found himself in trouble with turnovers.
He did not play badly in either series, but he did not play well enough to justify Paul Holmgren moving money around to keep Carle on the roster.
Braydon Coburn: C+
Coburn was assigned to play big minutes against Pittsburgh and New Jersey’s top forwards, and while he did not fall asleep on the job, the big blueliner failed to make a statement in these playoffs.
The Flyers put their faith in Coburn by extending his contract in November, but he failed to show why he is such a valuable part of the team during the postseason.
Nicklas Grossmann: B-
Grossmann’s role has been well defined since he came to Philadelphia: clear the crease.
While the Philly defense was unable to shut down New Jersey, Grossmann was more consistent than most defensemen in achieving the goals the team set for him. He made sure teams couldn’t score in tight; unfortunately, the Devils figured out plenty of other ways to put the puck in the net.
That said, Grossman looked just a little slower than the opponents he faced.
Erik Gustafsson: C+
Despite being ranked second on the team in plus/minus during the playoffs, Erik Gustafsson reminded the whole city of Philadelphia that he was a rookie in the second round against New Jersey.
Gus was uncomfortable with the puck and had trouble transitioning cleanly out of the defensive zone. Most egregiously, he and Brayden Schenn attempted a risky line change in overtime of Game 3 against New Jersey, resulting in the series-altering goal.
The talent is there, but the playoffs were clearly too much for the young D-man.
Pavel Kubina: F
When the Flyers traded for Pavel Kubina, the move seemed like the perfect fit to make up for Chris Pronger’s absence.
Instead, Kubina turned out to be a waste of a roster spot and he will undoubtedly be allowed to walk in July. His five games in the playoffs produced nothing of value anywhere on the ice and he was soon replaced by Erik Gustafsson.
Andreas Lilja: A-
An old, slow defenseman, Andreas Lilja was only on the playoff roster to start because Nicklas Grossmann was recovering from a concussion. However, Lilja’s playoff experience became apparent when he proved to be one of the most defensively responsible defensemen on the team.
Granted, Lilja’s expectations were lower than those of Carle, Coburn and Timonen, but Lilja turned out to be a pleasant playoff surprise.
Kimmo Timonen: B-
Chris Pronger’s season-ending injury forced Kimmo Timonen to inherit the role of top defenseman and team leader, and while Kimmo was extremely valuable during the regular season, his playoff performance simply wasn’t up to snuff.
The Flyers were clearly outplayed in their own zone be the Devils, and the bulk of the responsibility falls upon the veteran blueliner, who failed to motivate his teammates to keep up with New Jersey.
Ilya Bryzgalov: C
Ilya Bryzgalov’s playoff performance, overall, is best described as “dramatically average.” The netminder won the Pittsburgh series while seeming to allow a goal every two or three shots, and he lost the New Jersey series despite giving his team a chance to win games each night.
He was never brilliant against the Devils, but given how badly the offense and defense performed, Bryzgalov turned out to be one of the five best Flyers in the series. In the future, if Bryz plays the way he did in the second round and the rest of the team improves its play everywhere on the ice, a cup is not out of Philadelphia’s reach.
Of course, between now and then, Bryz will have to deal with being the scapegoat.