What We Learned from the Philadelphia Flyers' Recent Road Trip
The road trip was an important one for the Flyers. After a dreadful 1-7-0 start to the season, Craig Berube's team got back past the .500 mark and was back in the thick of the playoff hunt in the Metropolitan Division.
If the Flyers slumped during the road trip, it would have undone much of the progress they made in November and December.
Instead, the Flyers went 5-1-0 on the road and have found themselves in second place in the division race. More importantly, they look like a team with the potential to do some damage when the playoffs get started this spring.
Here is a look at what we learned about the Flyers during their recent road trip. Feel free to comment on any of these or to add your own. As always, indicate why you feel the way you do.
5. The Flyers Are More Comfortable Playing Craig Berube's System
Obviously, when a new coach takes over behind the bench, there is an adjustment period. This was the case when Craig Berube became the Flyers' coach in October.
This road trip showed that once and for all, the players understand Berube's more defensive-oriented system and know how to execute it well.
The Flyers went 5-1-0 and responded to whatever adjustments Berube made. Berube has not been afraid to change his line combinations, whether due to injuries or poor performance or just a feeling that things need to be shaken up. More often than not, Berube's changes have worked.
Line matching and line combinations become more important in the playoffs. The fact that the team is responding well to Berube's decisions is an encouraging sign.
4. Vincent Lecavalier Is Struggling
While the Flyers scored 21 goals in six games on the road trip, not every player on the roster was producing offensively.
Vincent Lecavalier, who was so important to the team when the offense was struggling early in the season, has now cooled off.
During the six-game road trip, Lecavalier failed to score a goal and registered just one assist. He was a minus-four over the road trip and was not a plus player in any of the six contests.
The last time Lecavalier scored was Nov. 27 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The fact that the Flyers are still productive and winning without Lecavalier's contributions is good, but over the long haul, Philadelphia needs Lecavalier to be a consistent offensive force if the team hopes to play well in the spring when it's win or go home.
3. Team Defense Is Improving
Defense was a big concern for the Flyers as the season got under way, but this road trip shows the unit is improving.
The Flyers allowed 14 goals in six games on this trip, an average of 2.33 goals-per-game.
More importantly, the team was consistent, never allowing more than three goals in any of the six games on the road trip.
Not only are the defensemen playing well in their own zone, but the forwards are picking up their assignments well, cutting down on odd-man rushes allowed.
Philadelphia may not have an elite defense, but they are playing well enough to win and win on a regular basis.
2. The Flyers Can Win with Steve Mason
Goaltending was considered a big question mark entering the season, but Steve Mason has been a consistent performer all season.
Over the road trip, Mason went 3-1-0, and his only loss was a 2-1 defeat against the Colorado Avalanche.
Moreover, the Oakville, Ontario, native is 6-1-1 in his last eight starts and has an impressive 2.39 GAA and a .922 save percentage for the season.
Since Nov. 5, Mason is 14-3-4. His steady play gives the team plenty of confidence that he can keep them in games when they are not playing well and bail them out on the ice when they make mistakes.
1. Claude Giroux Is Back
For those fans who were concerned when Claude Giroux started the season without a goal in his first 15 games, his recent hot streak should put those worries to bed.
Giroux had three goals and six points during the six-game road trip, but he's been on a torrid pace for longer than that. In his last 13 games, the Flyers' captain has scored eight goals and 19 points.
While the hot streak came too late to get Giroux on the Canadian Olympic Team, it came just in time for the Flyers to get back into playoff contention.
While it's unlikely that Giroux will continue to produce at such a rapid pace, the fact that he is approaching a point-per-game pace for the season after starting so slowly can only mean good things for the Flyers. In fact, his snub from Team Canada may only inspire Giroux to play even better for the rest of the season to prove his detractors wrong.