Hockey is back, and like the other major sports the effects the lockout has on a season can make things very interesting.
For instance, the lack of a training camp adds rust to plays and players’ legs, and a shortened season will cause less recovery time and possibly more injuries. So, with all this being said, it is a strange season and therefore a little too early to panic about the Philadelphia Flyers’ 2-4 record.
Now let’s see what problems Philly has and if they can be solved.
Bryzgalov is a Sitting Duck
Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov has not gotten the necessary help this season but has still managed to post a save percentage of .923 by allowing 2.22 goals a game. The numbers are not All-Star-worthy, but Philadelphia’s defense is inconsistent and mediocre (they gave up five goals in the only game he didn’t start), and they clearly miss defender Chris Pronger.
Newcomers on defense like Luke Schenn, Bruno Gervais and Kurtis Foster have added depth, but not stellar play. Schenn has been the only one to stand out, which is easy to do because even returning Flyers like Braydon Coburn have been plagued with erratic play yet again this season.
There is time to improve the defense because they haven’t played much together yet, but with the shortened season, the Flyers are really hoping for Erik Gustafsson and Marc-Andre Bourdon to return to health. They could really use the help after only Washington and Florida have allowed more goals this season with 19.
The Stars Need to Shine
Claude Giroux deserved the NHL 13 cover and all the hype going into this season after his breakout year in 2011-2012. Through six games, the newly appointed captain has only registered four points (two goals, two assists) on only 10 shots. This is not the production of a superstar. Right winger Wayne Simmonds has not taken over, but has played slightly better and brings a spark to the offense that has been lacking this year.
Giroux’s struggles are hopefully just a slump, and I have no doubt he can return to last season’s form or maybe even improve. He needs to shoot the puck more, plain and simple. When he is launching the puck toward the net, good things tend to happen.
Where’s the Power Play?
One of the Flyers’ best strengths from a season ago was their incredible power play. It is nonexistent this year. Philly is posting goals on only 12.9 percent of their penalties, which is down from 19.7 percent from last year—good enough for sixth in the league.
Is it fixable? Yes. Although losing Jaromir Jagr to free agency has proven to have a negative impact, and Scott Hartnell will be out for four to six weeks, at least Danny Briere is returning to form. With Briere running the power plays again, consistency and production should come.
It’s never good to see your team in 13th place in their conference in a 42-game season, but with more time together and some patience, the Flyers have the tools to dramatically improve. The fans just need to keep the faith that they’ll turn it around, which has been hard to do with the seasons of the Sixers and Eagles.