Despite a rash of injuries and general bad news throughout the month of December, the Philadelphia Flyers have managed to do quite well.
They've silenced the critics, proving that this club is still a Stanley Cup contender, even with all the changes they made in the offseason.
As I write this article, the Flyers currently sit at fourth place in the Eastern Conference with 46 points. Not too shabby, considering the New York Rangers are currently in first place with 48 points.
Now that the holidays are just about wrapping up, Philadelphia will focus their attention on a game I'm sure any Flyers or Rangers fan has circled on their calendar—the 2012 Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park.
While it may be an important win for the Flyers, who already lost their last Winter Classic in Boston, what's most important is keeping everyone healthy and motivated for the playoffs.
In this slideshow, I'll list five players who I believe are the keys to the Flyers' playoff success. I hope you enjoy, and as always, feedback is appreciated.
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Claude Giroux is probably the most obvious choice of them all, so I figured I'd list him first.
It's no secret that Giroux has been the glue holding this team together. Even when Giroux was out for a few games with concussion symptoms, he was still able to hold onto his league lead in points.
Once he returned from injury, he posted a four-point night, distancing himself from Phil Kessel, who had tied him for the lead.
Giroux has 17 goals and 26 assists on the season so far, and he sure isn't showing any signs of slowing down anytime soon.
He's, by far, the most valuable player on the team this year, and he's used any extra ice time he's received to the full extent of his potential.
Philadelphia fans knew it was only a matter of time before this kid broke out and really showcased his talents, and now with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter gone, Giroux's got all the ice time in the world to show us what we've been missing.
If Giroux can keep up his fantastic play throughout the season, the Flyers will make a nice, deep playoff run.
Jaromir Jagr was brought to Philadelphia to help ease the pain of losing a ton of offensive talent in the offseason.
With the loss of Richards, Carter, Kris Versteeg, Ville Leino and Darroll Powe, it was no secret that the Flyers would certainly be looking for someone to put the puck in the back of the net.
Jagr signed a one-year, $3.3 million deal with Philadelphia on July 1—the first day of free agency.
It caused a bit of public outcry from Pittsburgh and Detroit fans, who were expecting Jagr to suit up for their clubs, but in the end, Jagr swallowed his pride and put on the orange and black sweater.
Giroux and Jagr have been a one-two punch for the Flyers just about all season. It didn't take them very long to click, and adding Scotty Hartnell to their line has improved his play even more.
Jagr will be a crucial part to the Flyers success this season; they cannot afford to lose him for any length of time.
While Philly has enough depth, losing Jagr might be the nail in the coffin for their playoff success.
Danny Briere has quietly put together a good season so far, posting 10 goals and 15 assists in the process.
While Briere seems to be almost invisible sometimes, there's no question he's a huge part of Philadelphia's success.
Briere is a sneaky player, and he's got the ability to make a play almost anywhere on the ice, even though he seems to prefer being behind the net quite often.
While Briere is valuable throughout the regular season, he earns most of his $6.5 million paycheck in the playoffs.
Some players seem to turn it up a notch once the playoffs roll around, but Briere takes it to a whole different level.
Briere turns into an absolute monster in the playoffs; sometimes it looks like he's possessed out on the ice.
He might not be the league leader in points, or even a top line guy with the Flyers, but Briere's value to the team is undeniable.
It's the exact reason Flyers GM Paul Holmgren has traded away tons of offensive talent in recent years, but hasn't even thought about moving Briere.
Come playoff time, Briere will play a huge role in their success.
James van Riemsdyk has been having a quiet season; Philadelphia fans probably expected a little bit more than nine goals and 10 assists from him so far this season.
That said, Reemer just hasn't seemed like himself lately, and he certainly doesn't look anything like he did in last season's playoffs when he was absolutely dominant against the Bruins and Sabres.
The Flyers probably expected a little more out of van Riemsdyk by now as well, signing him to a six-year extension in the offseason.
However, I believe that things will work themselves out. Reemer is still very young, and he's still got plenty of time to develop into the dominant forward the Flyers expect him to be.
It may not necessarily be his game that's off right now, but something else may be bothering him. He had an abdominal injury earlier in the season, and I have a feeling it's still bothering him a bit.
Van Riemsdyk just doesn't look like himself out on the ice; he almost seems like he's in pain. Whatever the case, I don't expect it to be something that hinders him for a long period of time.
Once he feels better from whatever is bothering him, I fully expect van Riemsdyk to go right back to being the dominant, hard-nosed forward he was in last season's playoffs.
Reemer's play will be extremely important come playoff time, and Philly's going to need everyone firing on all cylinders. If van Riemsdyk can get healthy before April, the Flyers will be just fine.
After what seemed like a never-ending goalie carousel in Philadelphia, the Flyers finally silenced their critics and acquired a No. 1 goalie, signing Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year, $51 million contract.
Depending on who you talk to in Philly, Bryzgalov is the best goaltender to play between the pipes since Ron Hextall or Bernie Parent.
I can't really say I disagree because I don't recall the Flyers having anybody that had as much success between the pipes as Bryzgalov in at least a decade.
With Chris Pronger lost for the entire regular season and most likely the playoffs, it will be extremely important for Bryzgalov to hold his own in front of the net and be a reliable last line of defense for his teammates.
Soft goals cannot and will not be tolerated, and coach Peter Laviolette has shown that many times in the past.
While many people still have their doubts about Bryzgalov, I have full confidence in him.
There's no question the guy has talent, and if you think he's worse than Brian Boucher or Michael Leighton, you probably haven't watched too many Flyers games.
Bryzgalov will, without a doubt, be the most important piece to the Philadelphia Flyers playoff hopes and success this season.
So far, he hasn't done a bad job.