10 Ways the Philadelphia Flyers Can Make Quick Improvements
As the Philadelphia Flyers look for some consistency in the short season, the team will need to quickly capitalize on opportunities to improve its play. Granted, the team has played much better hockey compared to its dreadful start of the season, Philly's inconsistency is still a major cause for concern.
The Flyers are currently battling for the No.8-seed in the playoff hunt, and with only 27 games remaining in the season, the team cannot afford to play mediocre hockey.
The clock is ticking on the Flyers, but here are 10 quick improvements that could help turn their season around.
1. Continue to Pour on the Hits
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
The Flyers will always have to live up to the reputation of the Broad Street Bullies, who played no-nonsense, physical hockey.
Players such as Zac Rinaldo, Wayne Simmonds, Luke Schenn and Scott Hartnell will need to continue throwing their weight around and punishing their opponents—setting the tone of the game.
Speaking of Rinaldo, according to Daily News (via Philly.com), the Flyers' forward is thriving in his new shutdown role on the ice, which has earned him more playing time and more hits.
Coach Peter Laviolette needs to continue letting his players legally crush their opposition and capture the momentum in every game.
2. Backup Goalies Need to Step Up Play
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Ilya Bryzgalov leads all goalies in minutes played and is noticeably tired.
The Flyers' goalie was the most consistent player, but lately he has struggled in net. Bryzgalovwas replaced by Brian Boucher for the second time this season, which led to the Flyers' starter throwing his stick down the tunnel after the move.
Reserve goaltender Boucher, on his third stint with the team, was forced into the position after goalie Michael Leighton was placed on injured reserve. Both goaltenders have started just one game this season and are winless and equally unimpressive.
Bryzgalov has proved to be the man in Philly, but in a short season, the team needs depth at the goalie position and whether it's Boucher or Leighton—both must elevate their play.
3. Find Rhythm and Shoot More on Net
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images
Philadelphia has drastically improved on the power play, mainly due to players taking more shots on net. Yet, the Flyers are still ranked in the middle of the league when it comes to overall average shots per game and must fire more pucks on goal.
With Scott Hartnell returning to the ice, the Flyers should get more shots off and offensive players such as Jake Voracek and Brayden Schenn need to continue flooding opposing goalies.
Defenders also need to get in on the shooting act. Kimmo Timonen and Luke Schenn will play a key role in attempting high-quality shots, instead of opting for the pass.
This mentality is easier said than done, but if the team can find a rhythm with puck movement, it should create opportunities for all players to shoot the puck.
4. Strategically Picking Their Battles
The Flyers love to fight.
Almost every game, Wayne Simmonds appears to drop the gloves any chance he can get. According to CSN, Coach Laviolette believed Simmons' recent fight against the Winnipeg Jets is what turned the entire game around.
The team has many players on the roster capable of being game changers, and since the Flyers have struggled jumping out to early leads, these services will be called upon more often.
But knowing when and why to drop the gloves is a key strategy, and if it is not executed properly, can hurt the team. It's important Coach Laviolette instill this philosophy into every player's mind before taking a swing.
5. Try to Limit Penalties
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
An ongoing struggle the Flyers faced this season has been the number of penalties committed. Currently, the team has sent the most players to the box and leads the league in total penalties—by a wide margin.
Philadelphia must quickly learn to play more disciplined hockey, keeping players on the ice and giving team goalie Bryzgalov a fighting shot.
Now the penalty kill has drastically improved since early on, but during a short season, it's more important to play at full strength and save the players' energy and bodies.
Every game must now be treated like a playoff game and the fewer mistakes made, the greater chance the Flyers have to continue into the postseason.
6. Allow Scott Hartnell to Run Wild
Rick Stewart/Getty Images
When Scott Hartnell returned to the ice against the Winnipeg Jets, it provided a much-needed spark for the Flyers.
Philly persevered through Hartnell's absence the best it could, but there's no question his skill, passion and heart were sorely missed during the stretch. And now that he's ready to roll, it's time to quickly put his services to use.
The clock is ticking on this abbreviated season and Hartnell must rapidly attempt adjusting to game speed and conditioning.
If the Flyers are serious about making a playoff run this season, then they cannot hold back their All-Star forward, but instead let him run wild.
7. Strike Early and Play Complete Games
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images
The Flyers have played 21 games on the season prior to their matchup against the Washington Capitals, and in only nine of those games has the team score the opening goal.
Therefore, the Flyers have been forced to conjure a come-from-behind victory in over half their games this season.
As if that wasn't scary enough, in games where the Flyers do score the first goal, they own a winning percentage of .750, and games they are trailing first, it drops down to a .250 percentage (via NHL). The numbers don't lie.
But this theme must end and should be a top priority for Coach Laviolette and his players.
Currently, the team plays extremely well in portions of the game, but has struggled to piece together a complete game. According to CSNPhilly, Flyers' captain Claude Giroux called out his teammates (again) saying, "We got to learn to play 60 minutes and it hurt us again tonight."
It's time for the Flyers to wake up and realize the importance of each and every game.
8. Get Andrej Meszaros Back on the Ice
Philadelphia is still very thin on defense and Andrej Meszaros, who has been recovering from a shoulder injury since January 24, could be returning to the team in the next week or two (via Courier Post).
Meszaros, a versatile defenseman, would immediately contribute with the club's improving special teams and provide needed depth during the compact season.
It's also apparent that current Flyers defender Kimmo Timonen has lost a step, leading to a number of penalties and miscues. There's no question Kimmo could use Meszaros' help on the ice and beef up the Philly blue liners.
The Flyers desperately need him back on the ice to quickly help turn the season around.
9. Keep Giving Youngsters More Ice Time
Al Bello/Getty Images
The Philadelphia Flyers' young forwards have tremendously stepped up their games in recent weeks.
Before Matt Read went down with a muscle tear in his ribs, the young forward led the Flyers in goals and was the team's most consistent offensive weapon. Read is now scheduled to be out at least six weeks to recover.
But others have mightily elevated their play and deserve more playing time. Wayne Simmonds is playing the role of Mr. Everything on the ice. With two—yes two— Gordie Howe hat tricks last week, Simmonds has sparked the Flyers on both sides of the puck.
Brayden Schenn has also picked up his play by contributing with at least one point in 10 of his last 12 games. Schenn is also tied for second on the team with a plus-three on the season. Only younger brother Luke Schenn is better with a plus-four.
Last, there's Jake Voracek, who is the hottest player in the league. The NHL recently named him the No. 1 star for last week—totaling 11 points in four games. The young star is taking full advantage of his opportunity to play on the first line with captain Claude Giroux and All-Star forward Scott Hartnell, and it's paying dividends for the entire team.
There are no changes needed to this recipe, but Lavy must maintain and continue to have these young players on the ice to quickly help push for a playoff spot.
10. GM Paul Holmgren Makes a Bold Move?
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
General manager Paul Holmgren has quite a decision to make with the direction of his Flyers team.
Homer has already executed two minor moves today, as the Flyers first traded AHL forward Mike Testwuide to the Calgary Flames in exchange for another AHL forward Mitch Wahl, according to TSN. Then later the official Flyers' twitter profile tweeted, Philly brought back fan-favorite Simon Gagne from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for a conditional fourth-round draft pick.
The latter of the two moves might have been executed, as the Flyers received some bad news where rookie Tye McGinn could miss two weeks with a broken orbital bone suffered during his fight with Toronto Maple Leafs' Mike Brown (tweeted by Daily News' Frank Seravalli).
But could the unpredictable GM have another big move up his sleeve? The Flyers desperately need an offensive blueliner to contribute on special teams and scoring. B/R's Nick Goss recently wrote an article outlining potential defensemen the team should target, although it's unlikely the team will make a major splash this season.
But with Holmgren, anything is possible.