Last year, the Philadelphia Flyers made their surprising playoff run culminating in a Stanley Cup Finals loss. Despite the loss, due to the lengthy run, many players started to get the recognition they deserved.
This year, the Flyers regular season was stunning. Then, as the end of the season approached, the Flyers began to falter. They went into the playoffs on a low note and that hurt them.
They came back to beat the Buffalo Sabres in seven games, but were swept by the Boston Bruins in four. With early exits in the playoffs, the focus is typically on certain players that didn’t perform up to par. For that, one can find endless references to Philadelphia goaltending and captain Mike Richards.
Yet, despite the loss, there were some good performances from Flyers—Danny Briere and Claude Giroux being the most recognized of that group.
Other players were overshadowed by Briere and Giroux, but still played well. Here are those players that contributed, despite not seeing the desired results.
Yes, I have included Jeff Carter on this list.
Sure, the arguments against Carter are valid: He has a long, expensive contract and he has yet to show much for that. In all fairness though, he has battled injuries, especially in the last few years and playoffs.
Of the 11 Flyers postseason games, Carter played in just six of them. In those six games, he recorded two points, a goal and an assist, along with 18 shots.
He could have increased those numbers had he been healthy.
Braydon Coburn only recorded one goal and two assists during the 2011 playoffs. However, his goal came at the most opportune time, getting the scoring started in Game 7 against the Buffalo Sabres, with just 19 seconds left in the first period.
That goal had to be a huge momentum boost for the Flyers, going into that first intermission. It had to have impacted their eventual defeat of the Sabres, 5-2 (not to mention the effect his goal that close to intermission had on the Sabres’ psyche).
Without Coburn’s timely goal, the Flyers may never have even made it into the second round.
Chris Pronger is widely regarded as the top Philadelphia Flyers defenseman, so understandably when Pronger went down, fans and analysts were concerned about the Flyers blue line.
The worry was short-lived, at least initially, because Kimmo Timonen was still there and played very well.
In the series against Buffalo, Timonen was second on the team in most ice time and led the league with a plus/minus rating of plus-nine.
"I think he's a very underrated guy. He's got some of that Finnish Viking blood or whatever you want to call it in him. Takes a lot to take him out of the lineup. He plays through a lot of bumps and bruises," teammate Sean O'Donnell said.
Even after the poor play against the Bruins, Timonen finished with a goal and five assists. He also had a plus-three rating, the best plus/minus rating of all the Flyers defensemen.
It is impressive that he maintained a plus rating after that series, considering that the Flyers were outscored 20-7 by the Bruins.
Everyone is heaping criticism on the captain and it's true that he didn’t produce as expected of a team’s captain. However, he did have an impact—he played hard, as he always does (though some may say too hard).
Despite his disappointing productivity, Richards was tied for third place in Flyers postseason scoring with one goal and six assists. That one goal was on 43 shots.
That’s a far cry from last year’s 23 points in 23 games (seven goals and 16 assists).
However, I think it would be fair to believe that Richards was playing through an injury. Sure, that’s not a great excuse since most players in the playoffs are playing through something.
Yet, Richards was given two “maintenance” days off from practice in the first round, the first with a “head cold.”
That, bad luck or a combination of both would be good explanations for Richards' lack of productivity since it certainly wasn't for lack of trying, as evidenced by his number of shots.
They say that if you throw enough shots at the net, eventually they’ll start going in. The Flyers were looking for offense against the Boston Bruins and didn’t find much, leading to the Bruins’ four-game sweep of the Flyers.
However, James van Riemsdyk did his best, throwing a league-leading 64 shots at nets in the playoffs. For all those shots, seven went in for JVR, tying him with Danny Briere for the Flyers lead in goals this postseason.
His seven points tied him with captain Mike Richards for the Flyers’ third-leading scorer. Yet, JVR hasn't had much of a spotlight on him, being overshadowed by Briere's postseason performance and then, of course, the Flyers' early exit against the Bruins.
Some people noticed though. After the Flyers exit, JVR was invited to join the U.S. men’s national team in Slovakia for the IIHF World Championships and he accepted.