Philadelphia Flyers: 10 Reasons Why They Will Win the Stanley Cup
So far everything has gone the Philadelphia Flyers' way in the 2010-2011 NHL season. For a good portion of the year, they've been atop the Eastern Conference and even the NHL, where they presently sit heading into the All-Star break.
The Flyers have the deepest team in the NHL and have managed to stay relatively healthy all season. Their depth runs through forwards, defense and even goaltending.
The Flyers currently are the only team in the NHL to have four players at 40-plus points on the season. Chris Pronger gets most of the recognition on defense, and rightfully so, but this entire unit has played great. Meanwhile, in goal, it's been the "Bob Show" with a little bit of Brian Boucher reaching into the proverbial "fountain of youth" himself.
Daniel Briere has led a renaissance of his own this year, carrying over from last year's playoffs. During that time, Briere has been the best player in the NHL not named Sidney Crosby or Steven Stamkos.
Even with their success this season, expect the Flyers to be "buyers" come trade deadline time. Why not? The time to win in Philadelphia is now. If we play our cards right, we may be celebrating two championships within a six-month span. Yes, I did just say that.
Here are 10 reasons why the Flyers will win the Stanley Cup.
The Peter Laviolette Factor
Behind the bench, Peter Laviolette is one of the best coaches in the NHL today. His system is perfect for the Philadelphia Flyers right now and may lead to another long playoff run this spring.
Who can ever forget the timeout that Laviolette called in Game 7 of the playoffs against Boston? I mean, anyone can tell you that the "obvious" thing to do in that situation is to call a timeout, right? But it wasn't the fact that Laviolette called a timeout, but rather his message in that short lapse in time.
For as well as I can read lips, I got, "Just score one goal." That's exactly what they did. The rest, as they say, is history, literally.
Laviolette cares about his players and knows them very well. He was ousted in Carolina for all the wrong reasons. The Hurricane players gave up on him a few years after their Cup win and haven't recovered since. As for Lavs, he's recovered and then some.
The Ville Leino-Daniel Briere-Scott Hartnell Line
This might be the best line in hockey right now. Collectively, they have scored 115 points this season and still have more hockey to play—a lot more.
Ville Leino is the finesse and is a main cog on this team. He's really overachieved in Philly, and Detroit must really hate that.
Daniel Briere has been on fire dating back to last April. He's picked up this season right where he left off in last year's playoffs. Like I stated earlier, Briere has been the best player in the league not named Crosby or Stamkos during that time.
Scott Hartnell is the "big bully" that likes to crash the net and get those tough goals. That's what he's paid to do, after all. Harts is an ideal complement to the other two finesse stars and makes this an even more formidable line.
"BOB! BOB!! BOB!!! BOB!!!!" Need I say more? Well, there's actually loads to say about this young Russian netminder.
Sergei Bobrovsky has developed far more rapidly than the Flyers had anticipated. In doing so, he may have answered that "franchise goalie" question mark that has hampered the Flyers for quite some time.
Only time will tell just how good "Bob" will be, but for now, his rookie year is a hell of an audition. Bobrovsky is a rare breed of NHL goaltender; I firmly believe this. There are things that he does in the net, ways that he moves, that certain goalies take years to develop. He moves better post-to-post than just about any goalie in the NHL.
Questions have surrounded Bobrovsky's ability to deliver in the playoffs. Like 'Bob," I say "NYET"—which is, of course, Russian for "NO!" The playoffs could turn "Bob" into an even bigger hero than he's already become in Philadelphia.
Some say that any goalie can play in front of this type of defense. While that may be true to an extent, the goalie is your last line of defense and is by far the most important position out there. It's probably the toughest in sports. You're out there, virtually on an island, facing rapid-fire shots for 60 minutes straight. Yeah, that's tough.
The Power Play
The Flyers' power play might have turned the corner against Montreal last night. They had come into that game struggling mightily on the power play, as they had all season, but then suddenly erupted. The Flyers took advantage of a terrible P.K. Subban penalty early on and went 3-for-5 on the night in that department.
There's simply too much talent on this offense for them to be ranked 15th in the league on the power play. The Flyers have so many high-caliber power play performers on their team, yet this is the one category that they haven't performed well in this season.
If last night's game is a foreshadowing, expect the second half to look different for the Flyers when they're a man up. When Peter Laviolette isn't pleased with things, he immediately shuffles lines around and gets the right combo on the ice. In doing so, the Flyers responded feverishly last night. This is undoubtedly the type of production they will need going forward.
There are so many unique combos that the Flyers can throw out there on the power play. The possibilities are endless, to be quite honest.
Mike Richards Is a Natural Leader
Mike Richards is one of the best captains in the NHL. He's been formed from the mold of one Bobby Clarke and has responded perfectly. The Flyers are playing better than anyone in the league right now, and a lot of that is because of Richards.
I know it's a cliché, but Richards leads by example. Night in and night out, Richards does so many things that go unnoticed and never show up on the scoresheet. All in all though, the Flyers' winning ways relate to their captain.
The Flyers knew exactly what they were doing when they anointed Richards the captain of the next generation of Flyers. He's a captain that will stick around for a very long time and enjoy much success.
This is certainly one asset that the Flyers have above the rest of their competition. They have a captain in Mike Richards that will do absolutely anything to win on a nightly basis.
Perfect Mix of Young and Old
The Flyers have just that—the perfect mixture of young and old players. They complement young guys like Andreas Nodl with hungry veterans like Daniel Briere.
On defense, Andrej Meszaros is having a career year and still leads the NHL in plus-minus. To complement him are veterans like Sean O'Donnell, Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timonen.
Even in goal, they mesh Brian Boucher with Sergei Bobrovsky and hold Bobrovsky under his tutelage. These two goalies have supplied the Flyers with fantastic play all season and kept them comfortably atop the East and NHL for a duration of the season.
The Flyers built this team with the intention of winning now. They were so close last season that they could literally taste it. Now, they've come "back with a vengeance," as their old promo entailed. Now, they are "hungry for more."
The Bullies Are Back
Historically, the Flyers are at their very best when they're brawling. This much is evidenced by their "Glory Days" of the '70s, when they were commonly referred to worldwide as the "Broad Street Bullies."
With Jody Shelley and Dan Carcillo in the lineup, the Flyers can relive that intensity and make it new again. Can they turn that intensity and intimidation into a Cup though? Only time will tell.
I know that fighting isn't what the game "calls for" anymore, but it still has its place for hardcore fans. Teams don't forget when they get hit around a little harder from an opponent or drop the gloves more frequently.
The Flyers break out better than any team in the game. It's amazing how they've adjusted to the new game and built around their speed/skill players. Without speed in today's game, you will find yourself down at the bottom, as the Flyers learned in that painful 2006-07 season.
Their core guys Mike Richards, Claude Giroux, Jeff Carter, etc. all are fast. Not to mention that this team outworks teams on many shifts just because of their speed. We saw that last night on that one shift in particular from Giroux and co.—you know which one I'm referring to if you watched.
Paul Holmgren has done a fabulous job of building this team into a contender, and they are all still in their primes for the most part. That's pretty scary to think that they have many of their top players locked up for years to come.
Big Trade Deadline Acquisition in the Works?
The big question surrounding the Flyers is what they will do by the February 28th trade deadline. While they may not have to address anything at all, they likely will. It's absurd to think that the Flyers will be anything but buyers in this market.
Could they potentially be in the market for Jarome Iginla? He's a prime example of a Flyer, although he's never worn "Flyer" orange and black. Iginla is a leader that plays hard each shift and can also score, fight and lay it all on the line.
Like many of the Flyers, he's never won a Cup but has been close. Coincidence? I think not. Expect the Flyers to pursue Iginla over the next few weeks.
If the Flyers choose to go the low-key route, they could still add some depth in their lower lines. That never hurts any team that's challenging for a Stanley Cup. As the Flyers have learned, you can never have enough depth.
Enough Depth to Go Around
As is, the Flyers have plenty of depth. They possess far more depth than your standard NHL team and probably the most in the league. They have eight players with double-digit goals (and one with nine). That's three scoring lines without a doubt.
There's even more depth than that on this team, though. Their defense is the best in the league and has lived up to their high expectations, as has this team.
The depth just doesn't stop with this team, and that's an awesome thing for them moving forward.