It hasn't been a good week for the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Flyers looked awful against Montreal, losing 5-1 in a game that wasn't as close as the score indicated. They followed up that effort with a heartbreaking thriller against the Winnipeg Jets, eventually losing 9-8 after overcoming deficits of 5-1 and 6-2 in the second period.
Despite dropping three of their last four games, it is not yet time to panic in Philadelphia. Here are five reasons that the Orange and Black will be fine in 2011-12. Enjoy!
As always, comment are welcome and appreciated.
After a phenomenal start, Ilya Bryzgalov has struggled to stop even the most routine of shots. Over the past three-and-a-half games, he's allowed 18 goals. His record during that span: 0-4.
But those stats don't tell the whole story.
Of the 18 goals he's allowed during that stretch, there were only five or six that he had a legitimate chance to stop. At least seven were deflected past him, three by his own defensemen. Two more were the result of near-impossible-to-stop two-on-ones down low. Another three were the result of defensive breakdowns and partial blocks that found their way onto the sticks of opposing forwards in prime scoring real estate.
Has Bryzgalov allowed some "soft" goals? Absolutely. The most glaring was the eighth goal scored by the Jets during Thursday's loss, a shot by an awful defenseman that made it through Bryzgalov's five-hole.
The good news for Flyers fans? Despite his recent performance, Bryzgalov is still an elite netminder. He, like Tim Thomas, Ryan Miller, Henrik Lundqvist and Roberto Luongo before him, will rebound. If this recent stretch was a result of poor technical play, bad fundamentals or a lack of ability, I'd be concerned. But it isn't.
Through 10 games, Jaromir Jagr is proving all of the skeptics wrong.
He's producing at a near point-per-game pace, he looks strong on the puck, he's found instant chemistry with linemates Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell, he's only getting better as the season progresses and his familiarity with the team and the system increases.
Beyond that, Jagr has started taking younger members of the team under his wing, working with them after practice, offering himself as a resource and providing some colorful veteran leadership in the locker room.
While it is little consolation now, having Jagr consistently happy and productive will pay dividends down the road.
It seems that Danny Briere has finally found a new on-ice friend: James van Riemsdyk.
During the Flyers' 9-8 loss to the Jets, the duo combined for seven points (4 G 3 A) in two periods. While they were lighting up the scoreboard, they looked completely comfortable with one another; the passes were crisp, the cycling game was working to perfection and the pressure was constant and near unstoppable.
The Flyers are a team built to win through depth; they roll three or four lines, gradually wearing down opponents over the course of a 60-minute game. For that strategy to work to its full potential, they need all of their lines to generate pressure. Now that JVR and Briere have found some chemistry, the team should be more effective in the offensive going forward, which translates to more puck possession time, more scoring chances for and fewer scoring chances against.
All good things.
And before anyone mentions it: Yes, Briere blew a defensive zone coverage late in the third period. But he also was a major reason why the team was in the game to begin with. The important thing to take away from the Winnipeg game is that Briere is finally on track offensively. That's a huge win for the Flyers.
The Flyers are a deep offensive team. They managed to score eight goals without Brayden Schenn or Chris Pronger in the lineup and with no points from top-nine forwards Wayne Simmonds or Sean Couturier and only one point each from Jagr, Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.
That's impressive depth, to be sure. For a team to put up that sort of offensive production without significant contributions from three of their key offensive players is significant.
On the defensive end, the Flyers seem to have found a strong young blueliner to replace the struggling Matt Walker in Erik Gustafsson. That's in addition to Matt Carle (who had a very, very bad game against the Jets), Braydon Coburn, Kimmo Timonen and Andrej Meszaros.
Plain and simple, this team is too talented to struggle for long periods of time. The defense is too good to continue to have atrocious games of this sort. The offense is too good to be kept down for long stretches of time. The goaltenders are too good to continue to allow this many goals. Peter Laviolette and his staff are too smart and resourceful to allow the aforementioned trends to continue.
Things will get better. The Flyers are simply too talented for them to continue to struggle.
The Flyers' play of late has been absolutely, positively, unequivocally dreadful. Yes.
Their (on paper) all-world blue line looks like it belongs in the QMJHL, not the NHL. Probably.
The goaltender to whom the team paid $51 million this past offseason has been unable to stop anything, by his own admission. Yes.
But before we all panic, let's take a moment to breathe.
Prior to this season, everyone expected the Flyers to have a rough start to the season. After all, this is a team that turned over half its roster during the past offseason. It's a team with a lot of youth and a ton of potential. It's a team that is going to take some time to gel together and find its stride.
That process was made more difficult by a freak injury to captain Chris Pronger and more than a few bad bounces. It's a process that will continue for the foreseeable future. But it's a process that will, in time, make this a very, very difficult team to play against come April.
The roller coaster isn't fun from a fan's perspective. But it's much better to ride it in October than it is to ride it in April. Of that, I'm certain.