5) More shots from Claude Giroux
Claude Giroux is a lot like Danny Briere . They have the same skill sets: superb passing, blazing speed and an accurate shot.
The difference between the two is that Briere has 21 goals while Giroux has 12. Their shooting percentages are very close: Briere leads all regulars at 15.9%, while Giroux is tied for fourth at 12.4% (Blair Betts – 14.3%, Mike Richards – 13.5%).
However, Briere shoots the puck more, despite playing alongside Jeff Carter who has nearly 100 shots more than anyone else on the team (259 to Cappy’s 178). Giroux is a mere eighth on the team with 97 shots, tying him with Braydon Coburn .
And it’s not a question of ice time, as Giroux averages five seconds more per game than Briere.
Claude scored as many as 48 goals in juniors, and last season’s 26 combined goals between the Phantoms and Flyers was his lowest total since his debut with Gatineau of the QMJHL in 2005-06.
On a team that sometimes struggles to score, not to mention tally shots, Giroux needs to help lead the charge to the net.
4) Win Interdivision Matchups
Not only are divisional matchups the greatest opportunity to shake up the standings, they’re also the greatest way to build momentum.
Atlantic Division games are traditionally physical, down-to-the-wire battles full of emotion and intensity. Winning these games builds confidence and character, something this team occasionally seems to lack on the ice.
Stringing together a nice stretch of victories—especially against rival teams—could give this team the boost it has lacked all season.
3) Don’t Fear the Goalie
It doesn’t really matter who is in net because one goalie isn’t much better than the other.
Both Ray Emery and Michael Leighton are very athletic goalies with almost identical statistics. Leighton has posted a 2.73 GAA with a .905 SV% (2.19, .925 since joining the Flyers). Compare that to Emery’s 2.64 GAA and .905 SV%.
The only place they differ is in win percentage, where Leighton tops Emery 61.9% to 57.1% (75% with the Orange and Black).
It is the opinion of this author that the edge goes to Leighton for the fact that he’s healthy and that he has had to teach himself how to be a good goaltender and not just rely on pure athletic ability, relating to a greater degree of consistency.
No track record? Take a look at Craig Anderson. Tim Thomas is another great example. Goalies tend to come into their own around their mid-to-late 20s.
Leighton is 28.
2) Stay Aggressive
Aggressiveness is the key to Peter Laviolette’s system. It’s also what has made teams successful in the NHL. And in this city, it’s a necessity.
When this team has won games, and won them convincingly, they were hitting, skating and shooting with a purpose. They were dictating the pace of the game. You noticed Carter and Richards.
When the team failed, you didn’t notice those players and the team looked lethargic.
For the Flyers to keep winning games they need to dominate special teams play, stay strong on the forecheck and backcheck, and play with active sticks. They need to protect their net while attacking the opponents. And they need to bang bodies and stir the pot, but avoid penalties between the whistles.
In a strong finish to the unofficial first-half, that’s the way the Flyers played. And if they can’t keep up that style of play, they’ll be fighting for their playoff lives come April.
1) Succeed on Home Ice
Ultimately, though, the teams that are most successful are the teams that win on home ice. In any sport, if a team can’t take advantage of their home building, that team will ultimately fail.
However, the team needs to continue to dominate the Wachovia Center.
The Flyers play in what has been dubbed by many players as the toughest place to play in the NHL. Their home ice record needs to show it. It should be more like that of the Capitals (23-3-3). Right now, at 18-11-2, it’s good but not great.
If the team continues to play aggressively as Laviolette’s system dictates, their Wachovia Center success—and their rise up the standings—should take care of themselves. If they don't, they'll be lucky to make the playoffs.