Positives and Negatives from the Start of the Philadelphia Flyers' 2013 Season
The first five games of the 2013 season have already been a roller-coaster ride for the Philadelphia Flyers.
Three straight losses to start the shortened campaign were followed by back-to-back victories, including the team's first triumph over the rival New York Rangers in its last nine tries.
A sputtering offense that produced just five goals through the first four games gave rise to a seven-goal outburst in the squad's most recent outing.
It's all part of a topsy-turvy opening week of the new year. Here's a look at the positives and negatives to the start of the Flyers' 2013 season.
Positive: Claude Giroux
Much was expected of the newly appointed Flyers captain, and so far, the budding 25-year-old superstar hasn't disappointed.
He scored in each of Philadelphia's first two games, and after failing to point in the next two contests, the native of Hearst, Ontario responded with his first multi-point outing of the season in a 7-1 rout of the Florida Panthers.
Giroux has registered multiple shots on goal in four of the five tilts so far and has helped to generate countless additional scoring opportunities for his teammates.
Averaging more than 20 minutes in ice time per game, Giroux has played in all situations and has shown outstanding hockey acumen at even strength, on the power play and on the penalty kill.
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Injuries are a reality of the shortened season.
The condensed schedule will see many clubs being forced to play back-to-back games throughout the 2013 season, and those quick turnarounds will take a physical toll.
Unfortunately for Philadelphia, the Flyers have already seen this.
Danny Briere started the season on the shelf.
Then, in just the team's third game, Philly lost its leading goal scorer from a season ago for four to six weeks when Scott Hartnell suffered a broken bone in his foot.
Finally, in the Flyers' fourth game, Philadelphia lost defenseman Andrej Meszaros for a month after suffering a left shoulder injury.
Neither is a completely crushing blow to the Flyers this early in the season, but they make any future injuries for the Orange and Black awfully difficult to overcome.
Positive: Ilya Bryzgalov
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As the biggest question mark heading into the Flyers' season, Ilya Bryzgalov has been downright awesome for Philadelphia so far.
He has surrendered more than three goals just once in five starts so far and has allowed just one goal against in each of his last two appearances.
Bryzgalov has recorded 30 or more saves twice already this season and boasts an impressive early season .923 save percentage, coupled with a stingy 2.22 goals against average.
He has looked steady and confident in the cage, and his in-game body language, which was called into question late last season, has been a marked area of improvement for the enigmatic netminder.
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Heading into Sunday's action, no NHL team had committed more minor penalties than the Flyers.
The Orange and Black had been penalized for 33 minors through the team's first five games, producing the third-most short-handed scenarios (24) in the league to date.
The Flyers want, and quite frankly need, to play a physical brand of hockey, but the constant trips to the penalty box won't help a Philadelphia squad that has struggled so mightily on the penalty kill in the season's opening week.
Through five contests, Philadelphia owns the league's 24th-ranked penalty kill at 70.8 percent. The Flyers have already surrendered seven power-play goals and have allowed at least one man-advantage marker against in four of the team's first five outings.
Positive: Power Play
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Philadelphia's power play certainly wasn't a positive through the team's first three games, but it has been a key contributor to back-to-back wins for the Flyers.
After producing just one man-advantage conversion through the team's first 15 power-play opportunities, Philly has gone 3-of-10 with the extra attacker in two games since and has won both contests.
Jake Voracek's man-advantage marker was the eventual game-winner in Philadelphia's 2-1 triumph over the Rangers on Thursday while the power play poured in a pair of conversions in Saturday's 7-1 dismantling of the Florida Panthers. The first of those was the ever-critical first goal of the contest while the second power-play strike completed the first career NHL hat trick for sophomore Matt Read.
The Flyers have the offensive weapons to showcase one of the deadliest power-play units in the league. It took a little warming up, but Philly's man advantage appears ready to strike.
Negative: Jake Voracek
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While Voracek may have notched the game-winner in Philadelphia's first win of the season, that's been one of just a few bright spots for the young winger at the start of the 2013 season.
He has tallied just two points (goal, assist) in five games and boasts the team's lowest plus/minus rating at minus-three. What's worse, Voracek has yet to record a positive plus/minus rating in any of his first five games.
Inked to a four-year, $17 million contract over the summer, Voracek was expected to replace the offense that was lost when Jaromir Jagr left for the Dallas Stars via free agency. Instead, the 23-year-old forward ranks second among all Flyers with 15 shots on goal and has registered just the one conversion.
While the sample size to date has been awfully small, the early season returns for Voracek haven't been what the Flyers need to compete in the highly competitive Eastern Conference.
Positive: Luke Schenn
The Flyers needed to add defensive depth over the summer, and they did just that when they acquired Luke Schenn from the Toronto Maple Leafs for James van Riemsdyk.
Through the first five games, Schenn ranked third among all Flyers blueliners in ice time, averaging better than 19 minutes per tilt. Even more impressive, the 6'2", 230-pound defenseman led all Philly defenders with a plus-three rating.
The NHL leader in hits last season, Schenn had compiled 18 bumps through the first five games, including an astounding 11 hits in Philadelphia's victory in Florida on Saturday.
Never projected as a tremendous offensive contributor on the back end, Schenn had still found a way to chip in a goal and an assist through the first five games.
A lingering question throughout the offseason, Philadelphia's defense looks a lot stronger now that the season is underway, thanks in large part to the addition and subsequent contributions of Luke Schenn.