Three Factors That Have the Philadelphia Flyers Off to a 3-0 Start

Nelson SantosCorrespondent IOctober 8, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - SEPTEMBER 29:  Chris Pronger #20 of the Philadelphia Flyers skates against the Minnesota Wild during the preseason NHL game at the Wachovia Center on September 29, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  The Wild defeated the Flyers 5-4 in shootout overtime. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

We all know Gary Bettman doesn't present any team captains with the Stanley Cup at the beginning of October.

However the start of the season is equally as important as the end of the season when you are a team that is considered a heavy Stanley Cup contender all through the summer.

When Paul Holmgren acquired Chris Pronger from the Anaheim Ducks for Joffrey Lupul, Luca Sbisa, and two first round picks. He was announcing to the fans and the league that the Flyers would be "there" in June.

Holmgren followed up that move by signing Ray Emery a proved, but troubled netminder. The opinions of the hockey world were a consensus. If Emery could keep his head right the Flyers would have sturdy and steady goaltending for a very cheap price tag.

So here we are just over a week into the NHL season and the City of Brotherly Love is all a flutter with everything Orange and Black. With that here are my three factors as to why the good start is actually the beginning of a what should be a very good season.

The first factor is Chris Pronger and not just Pronger himself but all the intangibles he's had a direct effect on. Firstly we know he is a no nonsense leader and anyone that has watched any of the games thus far can see that leadership on screen.

However Pronger's biggest impact is that this one man allowed John Stevens to have three terrific defensive pairing. Something he did not have last year.

Matt Carle is back to his rookie season form. He is skating with the puck beautifully and making solid decisions off the puck. This stems directly from playing with a world class partner and knowing he has you covered.

Braydon Coburn is showing flashes of his play from two seasons ago when he had 36 points. The reason for his inspired and confident play is packaged in a five foot, ten inch Finn. Kimmo Timonen seems to inderstand Coburn's skill sets better than Cobie does and it almost seems like Timonen directs Coburn all night, every night.

Nathan Parent looks like he is ready to be that uber-stay-at-home defenseman that every team dreams of having in the number five slot. A no worry type guy that always makes the safe and correct play.

He has also paired up quite comfortably with Danny Syvret who's gifted skating allows for him to maneuver around the ice and avoid the physical abuse his smallish frame couldn't endure over time while making crisp and accurate passes.

So there you have it. How one man has the defensive strength of six.

Factor number two is simply Ray Emery starting the season solid and letting his play grab media attention. Everyone knows that solid goaltending allows for forwards and defensemen to be more aggressive on the offensive side of the puck.

Starting the regular season with a shutout and then following that up with a spectacular performance against New Jersey instilled the type of faith all players want in their goaltender.

More importantly a solid start for Emery lessens the chances of his head not being right. Winning makes everyone feel better and act more appropriately and that is exactly what Holmgren was looking for I'm sure.

Lastly factor No. 3. Offensive depth. Plain and simple the opposition doesn't get a shift off against this year's addition of the Flyers' offense. When a 30 goal scorer like Hartnell spends time alternating Power Play time with two young players (vanRiemsdyk and Giroux) you know you have depth.

Line 1a has looked terrific even though the right side is being manned by a 28-year-old NHL rookie in Mika Pyorala. Gagne and Richards are creating chance after chance and Richards is capitalizing on his at this point. Gagne will soon be turning on the red light as well.

Line 1b has last year's second leading goal scorer at centre, Jeff Carter who has two goals through three games along with a healthy looking Danny Briere who has averaged a point per game clip since joining the Flyers even though he's been oft-injured.

That of course leaves us with the winger that does a bit of everything. Hartnell is up to his old ways of causing havoc which allows for that much more room for the skill guys to operate.

The checking line features two of the NHL's brightest young stars, not much of a checking really. James vanRiemsdyk (JVR) has proven he is ready for the big time with three assists in three games (left the Washington game in the second and played only one shift in the third period).

Claude Giroux is the type of playmaker that elevates the level of his linemates and he has shown that by making the "checking" line a dangerous scoring threat thus far. Darrell Powe is a nice compliment to the kids and he is physical and a very intelligent and reliable player.

Finally the fourth line features no scorers but it has three very solid and reliable players that can help turn momentum or keep it moving in the proper direct. Betts has been dynamite on the draw, Lappy has pitched in with a goal and Carcillo has been physical without crossing a line.

It may only be October but this could be a very long season...for the opposition.


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