While the Philadelphia Flyers season is only six games old, we have already learned a few lessons about the 2011-12 team.
The jury may still be out on players like Jaromir Jagr and Scott Hartnell, but for the players and lessons listed here, the verdict is in. Who is the real deal? Read on to find out.
Here are five such lessons that we have learned during the Flyers' 4-1-1 start to the season.
As always, comments are welcome and appreciated. Enjoy!
After just six NHL games, Flyers' 2011 first-round draft pick Sean Couturier already looks at home in the NHL. He's found his scoring touch, notching four points (2G, 2A) while posting a team-high plus-four rating.
Beyond that, the young centerman has been excellent in the face-off circle and superb on the penalty kill, logging over 4 minutes of PK time in multiple games. Beyond that, his defensive acumen and natural play-making ability have allowed him to have a definite impact far quicker than most fans expected.
Sean Couturier is here to stay.
Going into the 2011-12 season, Matt Carle may have been the fans' most hated Flyer not named Scott Hartnell. Everyone, it seems, was fed up with his untimely turnovers and careless errors in the defensive zone. Many criticized his lack of aggression in the offensive zone and his unwillingness to shoot the puck into trafic.
Fortunately (or unfortunately, for his critics), the 2011-12 Matt Carle seems to have improved quite a bit. On the defensive end, he has been making smart decisions and protecting the puck (his partner, Chris Pronger, has more turnovers than does Carle). Offensively, Carle has been far more aggressive. He's pinching more frequently, he's using his excellent skating ability to join the rush, and he's shooting the puck in all situations.
The results have been promising thus far: through six games, Carle has recorded 4 points (1G, 3A), a plus-four rating and 10 scoring chances. Not bad for a defenseman most fans wanted to see shown the door.
The Philadelphia Flyers, it seems, were right to be high on Matt Read.
The 25-year-old winger from Bemidji State University has been a force at both ends of the ice through six games, recording six points (2G, 4A) and a team-high plus-four rating while playing in all situations.
Read has been excellent on special teams, even seeing time on the powerplay and the four-on-three PK. He's won a few key face-offs, played excellent positional defense and consistently made smart decisions with the puck.
Credit must go to the Flyers organization for sticking with Read. It certainly seems to be paying off thus far.
Let me preface this by saying it is not a knock on Brayden Schenn.
Wayne Simmonds may have been the steal of the offseason for the Philadelphia Flyers. When Mike Richards was traded, many around the NHL said that the Flyers would miss Richards' toughness, attitude, grit, heart, defense and scoring.
Well, through six games, Wayne Simmonds seems to have been a suitable replacement. He's provided some much-needed physicality and attitude, especially on the powerplay. Simmonds has managed to record four points (2G, 2A)—only one fewer than Richards (1G, 4A) while providing many of the intangibles lost with the departure of No. 18.
He has repeatedly shown his willingness to fight for the puck in the dirty areas of the ice, to take a hit to make a play and to stand up for his teammates regardless of the situation. Simmonds has even demonstrated what few realized he possessed—a refined scoring touch.
Anyone wondering if Ilya Bryzgalov was worth the contract he received from the Flyers need not look any farther than the first few games of the season.
It seems that the only way to score on Bryzgalov is for the Flyers to deflect pucks past their netminder or hang him out to dry with bone-headed turnovers and odd-man situations down low.
Beyond that, Bryzgalov has been a rock in net. He just seems to know where the puck is at all times and somehow manages to get himself between the puck and the net. It isn't always spectacular or dramatic, but it's effective.
And that is exactly what the Flyers needed. Effective. Reliable. Solid.