Photo courtesy of Yahoo! Sports.
Just a few months ago, this Flyers team was in the Eastern Conference Finals. They had defeated top-seeded Montreal and third-seeded Washington.
Hopes were very high for this young team heading into the year. But injuries hit the defense hard right before the season.
The team got off to a 0-3-3 start. Not good at all. But the way they were losing was even worse. They were getting out shot and were taking terrible penalties. The Flyers team I had seen just a few months ago had vanished.
Tonight was the first really good game from this Flyers team.
The defense didn't play phenomenally, but they did their job. Martin Biron didn't play great, but he did his job. The offense did play very well, and are definitely showing signs of that depth they had so much of last year.
So now that this team has gotten their first win, and is just two points out of a playoff spot—never too early to think about those!—let's look into the issues of the team and the lighter aspects of the team so far.
On defense, all has been...terrible.
The defense has given up the most goals allowed per game in the entire NHL. In fact, they are 0.43 points higher than the second-to-worst team! Now I know that a lot of that does come from their poor goaltending, but the defense needs to hold the opposition to less shots (they've allowed the seventh-most per game).
But, I do give them a bit of a break. I mean, come on. They are without five of their defenseman from last year—Jason Smith, Derian Hatcher, Randy Jones, Ryan Parent, and Jaroslav Modry. Modry may not be the most skillful defenseman, and Hatcher and Smith may not be the most energetic and lively, but they are better than Ossi Vaananen and Andrew Alberts.
Before the season, I was avidly saying the Flyers wouldn't miss Jason Smith...oops, my mistake.
In net, the Flyers have tons of issues, but can't seem to find any tissues.
Both goaltenders have been ugly. Martin Biron has been the uglier of the two, but Antero Niittymaki hasn't been to wonderful himself.
Niitty has posted a 3.81 goals-against average with a save percentage of 88 percent. Biron has posted a 4.50 goals-against average with a save percentage of 85 percent.
That's a big oucher right there.
So what are the Flyers to do about their defense and goaltending problems?
In my opinion, I think they need to give up someone like Mike Knuble or Claude Giroux for a reliable defenseman who can get the job done. Knuble is aging and is expendable, but is still attractive to teams who need a garbage man in front of the net. And who wouldn't want Giroux? I really hate to lose him, but I think it's for the best.
As for goalies, I think they just need to stick with what they havem and declare Antero Nittymaki the starter.
If you want to talk about offense, at least it will be a good conversation.
The offense is starting to get back into their groove, and their depth is increasing. Joffrey Lupul and Scottie Hartnell are getting back into it, which will be crucial for success this season.
In fact, the offense is playing so well they are second in the league in goals per game. The same can't be said with shots per game, but they're working on it.
But if you haven't heard, Daniel Briere is out for three to four weeks with a sports hernia. It's good that this comes early in the year, and not later, but it's never good to lose one of your best players to injury.
All in all, I would say it's not a very good start for this Flyers' team this year. We all expected more from this talented group, so let's hope they get this thing turn around in a jiff—because we don't want another 2006-2007 season, do we?