Philadelphia Flyers: The Force Is Strong With This One

RonnybrookCorrespondent IMarch 23, 2010

MONTE CARLO, MONACO - MAY 20: Darth Vader and storm troopers visit the Red Bull motorhome prior to the Monaco F1 Grand Prix on May 20, 2005, in Monte Carlo, Monaco. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose/Getty Images

You remember that scene in Revenge Of The Sith?

You know the one where, after coming out on the wrong end of a light saber duel with Obi Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker finds himself dragging his body from the lava pits of the planet Mustafar, missing an arm, both legs, and covered in burns to over 150 percent of his body?

Kinda seems like an appropriate metaphor for the Flyers these days, doesn’t it?

Yesterday’s unexpected news of Jeff Carter’s injury (a broken foot, out 3-4 weeks) would seem a fatal blow to a team already reeling from the loss of its two starting goaltenders for the remainder of the regular season.

The Flyers find themselves entering a critical juncture of their season without the team’s leading scorer, leaving their fortunes in the hands of Brian Boucher (the third goalie on the Flyers depth chart) and a crop of forwards that have been, to put it kindly, maddeningly inconsistent for much of the regular season.

A calamity of this magnitude at such a late stage in the year has the Flyers clawing their way out of their own personal lava pit, laying upon the smoking ruins of a season which started with so much promise, now seemingly mortally wounded.

Yet despite all that this team has endured (key injuries, inconsistency, the regression of several players), the Flyers still remain in control of their own destiny.

As of this morning, the Flyers sit in sixth place in the Eastern Conference with 79 points.

To enter the postseason, the Flyers will need to hold off one of the three teams within striking distance of the final two playoff spots: Montreal, Boston, and Atlanta.

Montreal has the easiest road, facing four playoff quality teams over their final nine games: Buffalo (twice), Philadelphia, and New Jersey.

Boston has the toughest road, facing seven potential playoff teams over their final 11 games: Buffalo (twice), Washington (twice), Atlanta, New Jersey, and Calgary.

It’s hard to look at Brian Boucher at this point in the season and think of him as anything other than an NHL backup.

But who among us foresaw a tandem of Ray Emery and Michael Leighton collaborating for a 32-16-3 record this season, at a combined cap hit of $1.8 million?

Much like Boucher, Emery and Leighton were both plucked from the NHL scrap heap, dusted off, and given the opportunity to win games—which they did.

The Flyers were absolutely correct in their assessment of both goaltenders. Could they be right about Brian Boucher as well?

The loss of Carter will mean a new look for much of the Flyers forward corps down the stretch, with players like Claude Giroux poised to take a more prominent role on a top scoring line.

The loss of Carter, Leighton, and Emery complicate the Flyers chances for a playoff spot, but all is not lost.

The Flyers postseason fortunes depend on the performance of whichever player fills Carter’s role as the second line center and whether or not the team can rally around Boucher for the stretch run.

The Flyers are wounded, but they’re not dead. Don’t count this team out just yet.

The Force is strong with this one.


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