Written By: Mark “The Hard Hitter” Ritter
The Philadelphia Flyers are coming off a couple of tough losses this weekend, not the least of which, a good old fashioned beating at the hands of the mighty San Jose Sharks.
Despite the Flyers' best efforts, the Sharks arguably handed the Flyers their worst loss of the season, a game in which Flyers goaltender Ray Emery looked very average, and the Flyers defense looked disinterested and slow.
If you follow the Flyers at all, you know that, for the most part, Emery has been very solid this season, perhaps playing the best hockey of his career. The Flyers' defense, most notably the first pairing of Chris Pronger and Matt Carle, have arguably been the Leagues best pairing.
So, what went wrong this weekend? Simple, the Flyers had a bad stretch. To be fair, every NHL team is entitled to a bad stretch here and there, not only is it the norm, it is to be expected. The key is to nip it in the butt as soon as possible, something the Flyers will try to do tonight when they face the Colorado Avalanche in Colorado.
The trouble for the Flyers is that, given the fact they are a high profile team and that the Sharks match was such a highly touted game, the fact that the Flyers got so badly outclassed (I won’t say outplayed because that’s not entirely true) has been blown way out of proportion to the point that some are calling for players and coaches heads, which is an act of stupidity.
Let’s make something very clear, the Flyers are a great team, potentially a legitimate Stanley Cup threat and, when they are on their game, are as tough to beat as any team in the League.
Friday night against the Sharks was a blip on an otherwise great season, a season that has seen the Flyers post a record of 12-7-1. The Flyers rank third overall with an average of 3.35 goal scored per game, have the third most potent power play in the League with a 25 percent success rate and, despite a few tough nights, the Flyers are ranked 10th overall in goals against, averaging 2.65 goals against per game.
Clearly, when it comes to their Road play (the Flyers are 4-4 on the Road), the Flyers have plenty of room for improvement. At home, the Flyers are a tidy 8-3-1, which represents one of the best home records in the League. Fact is, only one team has more wins at Home, the Chicago Blackhawks, with 10.
Going forward, one of the areas the Flyers must concentrate on while on the road is their penalty kill. At home, the Flyers have given up just eight power play goals in 12 games; on the road, the Flyers have given up a total of 10 goals in eight games.
Another area of concern for the Flyers on the road is their vaunted Power Play, which, through eight games has clicked just 10 times, far off the Flyers 16 Power Play goals in 12 home dates.
Special teams, a more concerted defensive effort and a more disciplined/team oriented overall game, are the keys to turning things around for the Flyers, simple as that.
Which brings us back to tonight...
The Flyers will face the stumbling Colorado Avalanche, who, despite a red hot start, are a startling 3-6-1 in their past 10 and, by all accounts, look to be playing some uninspired hockey.
Despite some tough games recently (won two of his last eight starts), Avalanche goaltender Craig Anderson has been lights out for most of the season. He leads the NHL in shots against (686) and saves (632), ranks sixth in SV% (.923), fourth in shut outs (two), third in Games played (21) and second in wins (12).
All in all it has been a solid season for Anderson who was signed as a free agent by the Av’s in the of season. Let’s not forget, this is a goalie that started the season with a 10-1-2 record, a huge accomplishment and, the only the reason the Av’s are where they are in the standings.
The only blemish on Anderson is his GAA, which at 2.52, ranks him 18th in the League.
At 82 percent, the Avalanche rank 12th overall on the Penalty Kill. Given the Flyers penchant for scoring power play goals, this may be an area the Flyers can capitalize on tonight. That said, keep in mind, the Av’s have played 15 of their 23 games on the Road thus far, so their PK numbers are a little skewed.
Make no mistake about it, tonight’s match will be no cakewalk. The Avalanche are 6-2-0 at Home thus far and, having won just one of their past six games (1-4-1 over that span) are desperate to regain the momentum they had at the beginning of the season.
Flyers Centre Jeff Carter has not registered a point in four games and defenseman Chris Pronger has just one assist over the same time span. Both players will need to step up their games in order for the Flyers to be successful tonight.
Flyers Centre Blair Betts will be out four to six weeks with a dislocated right shoulder, further emphasizing the need for the Flyers to come to the rink with a total team effort.
Thus far, the Flyers have a record of one win and two losses on their five game road trip. The Boston Bruins, Nashville Predators, Ottawa Senators and the Tampa Bay Lightning could all leap-frog the Flyers in the standings, leaving the Flyers on the outside looking in on a playoff spot, something this Flyers team does not want to see happen.
Bottom line? With the pressure on and the writing on the wall, expect a better effort from the Flyers tonight...
Until next time,