Is it just me, or has a wave of dread washed over Flyerdom? A few concerns I have heard are: Pronger is out for the season and playoffs, Claude Giroux was concussed and is rushing back too soon, Ilya Bryzgalov has not played like the all star he was in Phoenix, and the list goes on and on.
I have one word for the fans: RELAX! If you are a Flyers fan like me, you view everything through a negative lens. For once though, let’s talk about what we do have instead of what we don’t have. There are many positive things to pull out of the 2 ½ months of the season so far.
1. Jaromir Jagr is playing like he is a man possessed. For 39 years old, his approach to the game is like Sun Tzu: wise and calculated. Something has to be said for his impression on his fellow line mates Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell, who are both enjoying dynamite returns on the stat sheet. Jagr also brings an unparalleled love for the game as is evidenced by his “first on, last off” approach. The most important thing Jagr has brought to the Flyers is an obvious desire to have fun. Can you remember the last time the Flyers were so light on the ice; laughing, joking and having a good time? Jagr’s smile and attitude have lifted this team to new levels of play.
2. Claude Giroux is the new face of this team. Whether concussed or cleared to play tonight in Dallas, Giroux has certainly shattered the fear of an imminent black hole of scoring that would be left in the wake of the Carter/Richards trades. The Philadelphia Flyers are the second highest scoring team in the NHL, merely one goal behind the Chicago Blackhawks for the league lead. Columbus and L.A. are 27th and 29th, respectively. Enough said.
3. With the absence of Pronger, the defense has stepped up with the stellar play of Timonen, Carle and Coburn. With the help of some call-ups like Marc-Andre Bourdon and Kevin Marshall, who needs to try to spend his time on the ice and not in the penalty box, we will be able to get through this season if we remain healthy. Don’t forget the variable of Andrej Meszaros, who at times can turn on “Beast Mode”, scoring goals and shutting down everything in his path.
4. Ilya Bryzgalov has gone from a team that he carried to a team that is carrying him. After coming from the desert, both literally and figuratively in hockey terms, Bryz has big expectations in one of the biggest hockey towns in the league. He has been brilliant at times and befuddling at others, but has shown steady improvement and a will to work hard. Again, let’s refocus here: we don’t have a revolving door in net and we aren’t the laughingstock of the NHL this year. With time, Ilya Bryzgalov will make the big saves when they matter and will carry this team come playoff time.
With the Winter Classic approaching, let’s enjoy our team instead of criticizing them. We are known for being tough on our players and we will never apologize for it because we know the game. That being said, we are currently in 2nd place in the Eastern Conference and just came off a 7 game winning streak. Come on, Philly! Let the media write us off, let other teams focus on our injuries, let our adversities make us stronger. The last time those things happened, we made a run for the Stanley Cup. Go Flyers!