Philadelphia Flyers: 2011-12 Early Season Report Card and Grades
The Philadelphia Flyers are a few weeks into their 2011-2012 season now, and it is time to start looking at how the first few games are panning out.
The Flyers sit in second place in the Atlantic Division at 5-2-1. Their 11 points is tied for third in the Eastern Conference.
Now after a shocking offseason, some may be surprised at this start and some may be saying "I told you so."
Besides the obvious wins and losses, let's take a look at some key players and stats to see how the Flyers are doing in the first month's report card.
Last season, the centers were a strength for this team. Going into this new season, it did not look so strong with newcomers Brayden Schenn and Max Talbot filling in for Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.
Those critics can set those thoughts aside because these young centers are doing just fine when you throw in rookie Sean Couturier, who has fit in just fine with his fourth-line teammates.
The returning guys...are just studs. Claude Giroux is turning into one of the best centers in the league, and Danny Briere keeps fist pumping his way into scoring record books.
Giroux: Flat out stud who should be the East's starter in the All-Star Game. A
Briere: Slow start but has gotten two quick goals. A-
Schenn: Kind of thrown into the action. C
Couturier: This kid is 18? B+
Personally, I would have loved to see a line of James van Riemsdyk, Jaromir Jagr and Claude Giroux all season long. However, Peter Laviolette has already begun shifting up the lines and we are only a few weeks into the season.
On the offensive side of the puck, left wing is where the Flyers are seeing the least amount of offensive production so far. I'm not saying they won't pick it up soon, but JVR has to step up his game to how it was in last year's playoffs if he wants to keep improving as an emerging star.
van Riemsdyk: Four points and a minus three? B-
Voracek: This guy is all over the ice. B+
Hartnell: If it wasn't for the two-goal game, he'd be close to failing. B-
Talbot: Can't complain with the penalty kill. B+
I salute you Jaromir Jagr. It's been only eight games into this season and his $3 million contract is already looking like a steal. He finally got off the goal schneid with two goals against Toronto.
The rest of the wingers, (Simmonds, Read and Nodl) are looking very promising so far.
Jagr: Seven points and is just creating opportunities for so many. A
Simmonds: Exactly who the Flyers need in front of the net. B+
Read: Another rookie who has filled in and contributed. B+
Nodl: Not flashy but does his job. B-
Before Monday night's gruesome injury to Chris Pronger, the Flyers captain set the tone early for how the Flyers were going to play night in and night out each season.
Pronger is doing his job not only leading, but he is getting back to his scoring ways as well. His health concerns all fans but so far so good, unless this eye injury lingers longer than expected.
Pronger: As long as he's on the ice the Flyers have a much greater chance at winning. A-
Carle: Right where he ended last season. Two early goals and a plus-minus three. C+
Timonen: Hasn't really gotten the slap shot working, but is second on the team in ice time. B+
Meszaros: Continues to rack up the hits, but scoring is down so far. B-
Coburn: Doing a great job defensively as always, but zero points? C
Lilja: Not doing great. Not doing bad. He has potential. C+
Who was the Flyers' No. 1 goalie supposed to be this year? Which one got an enormous $51 million deal?
So far, Sergei Bobrovsky has been giving Ilya Bryzgalov a run for his money early on.
Bob is 2-0 with a 2.01 GAA. Bryzgalov, meanwhile, is 3-2-1 with a 2.85 GAA.
Bob has definitely earned himself some playing time. Bryzgalov's excuse is that he needs to create more chemistry between himself and his defense on the ice.
Bryzgalov: Had a hot start with a win over Boston and a shutout over NJ. Since then... B-
Bobrovsky: Should be getting a lot more playing time than most expected coming into this season with the way he's played. A
Peter Laviolette's team hit the ground running, winning their first four games. And then he decides to call up Brayden Schenn and shuffle the lines. Interesting.
After a few rough games, the lines seem to be back in order and the Flyers are back to winning hockey games. I love how he's not afraid to use a timeout early on in a game to send a message to a lackluster hockey club.
When Jaromir Jagr signed this offseason, there was one place everyone knew he would make an immediate impact in. The power play, which was dreadful last year, is all of a sudden one of the tops in the league at 27.5 percent.
Jagr is not the only one who has helped that. Guys like Wayne Simmonds crash the net and draw screens for the goalie. Matt Read came from nowhere to be the team's sniper.
Flyers PP: 27.5 percent is fourth in the NHL. A
When Blair Betts and Darrol Powe left this offseason, I know I was worried about the penalty kill. Those two have been so good for the past few seasons.
It looks like the new crew though is just as good, if not better. Sean Couturier, Max Talbot and Andres Nodl are a dangerous bunch. Sure, their main job is to kill penalties and ignite the offense, but what's special about this group is that they do have offensive skills. They have the ability to put the puck in the back of the net as a fourth-line unit.
PK: 82.9 percent is right on target with last seasons. However, will they get the short-handed opportunities? B