This blog will be a recap of the Flyers games through October 29 versus Pittsburgh. I have been really busy and have not had time to blog regularly during the first month of the season.
• It has been great to see a couple of forwards pick up with their games that they had in the playoffs. Forwards Briere, Hartnell, Leino, and Giroux have led the Flyers attack. Giroux has started this year as if he plans to be the top offensive player on the team. Right now only Briere is keeping him from that unofficial title.
• Bobrovski has been solid in net. He seems really quick and very competitive. Boosh has been solid (not spectacular) and has been the victim of some bad games by the team in front of him. The defense has been ok – not stellar, not awful, but ok.
• Coburn is trying to do too much. During the playoffs last year, he simplified his game and was great. Timonen and Carle have been very good. O’Donnell and Mezaros are a perfect 3rd pair. Both can move up to play more minutes if needed but what an upgrade over Parent and Kreichic from last year.
• I really enjoyed the tribute video that the Flyers did for Simon Gagne during his return to Philadelphia. After watching Gagne play with Tampa, Holmgren did the right thing to move him for salary cap relief. At this point he has played 6 games and has 0 points and is a -8. I wish him good luck except against Philly, but he is pretty much done as a star player in the NHL. I heard everyone complaining about the omission of Gagne from the 2010 playoff video. Get over it people. He is not on the team and while it was a look back, it is also a sales pitch for this team for which he is not a part.
• Also they should keep Bartulis in the AHL for playing time as much as possible. He is becoming a player and the ice time will help him grow faster than sitting in the NHL. He is waiver exempt and can go back and forth all season as needed.
• Zherdev, JVR, Carcillo, and Pronger have all had rough starts. Pronger is still recovering from his knee surgery, but you can see his strength and mobility coming back more and more in each game. Zherdev needs to play harder and with more passion. That being said he also needs minutes with talented players. I would like to watch him play 8-10 games on the wing with Richards and Carter, or Carter and Giroux.
• JVR is playing hard and being more physical, but he still has to figure out how to turn that energy into production.
• Carcillo to me needs to be focused on a specific role. He does not perform well when bounced around with different line mates. I say put him on an energy line and tell him to agitate other top players. Having him on a scoring line just seems to confuse his game.
• It is easy to see that Briere is the top line center on the team right now. The line with Hartnell and Leino has picked up right where they were in the playoffs. Those two big wingers create all kinds of space for Danny and he is playing great. Also Hartnell and especially Leino have more skill than most people give them credit.
• The second line should be Carter, Giroux and JVR. This combination gives size, skill, and just sheer ability of Carter and Giroux. Who plays center on this line does not matter. Either is fine at center or on the wing.
• The third line should be the shut down line of Richards, Nodl and Zherdev. The defensive presence of Richards and Nodl should be plenty to offset the roaming of Zherdev. This also gives Richards a natural scorer to pass to on the wing.
• The fourth line should be Betts centering Powe and Carcillo. This line should be there to bang, grind, and provide energy. If the opponent has a big fighter, then swap either Powe or Carcillo out for Shelley. But quite frankly I do not see the long term role for Shelley on this team.
• Now for an editorial; the Flyers should sign Guerin and release Jody Shelley. They paid big money for Shelley and I watched him get beat by a kid in Pittsburgh I have never heard of. If someone needs to fight on the Flyers there is plenty of “team toughness”. Pronger, O’Donnell, Mezaros, Hartnell, Carcillo, Richards….we don’t need a heavyweight fighter. If they swapped Shelley for Guerin, they would have much better depth and be able to plug guys in on different lines easier. Oh yeah by the way, Guerin is a pretty tough player too.
As advertised and expected the defense corps has been incredible. Fans complain about the salary of Mezaros and that he is overpaid as a third pair, but watching Pittsbugh attack in the 3rd period last night trailing by 2, the Flyers rolled all 6 defensemen and held the lead. There were several times where Crosby got on the ice against the 3rd pair and produced NOTHING! That never happened last year or before. When he got away from the top pair, he produced. O’Donnell has been everything advertised about him as well. He is sturdy, smart, and quite a leader. The only downside is the play of Walker. He is not an NHL guy at the level Philly needs. Once he returns from surgery, send him to the minors and let him stay there.
I really like Laviolette because he refuses to accept the effort that the teams give nightly. For the last 2+ years the Flyers have been talented but have underachieved except in the playoffs. Peter seems to be pushing for excellence with respect to the effort each and every night. As a fan, I love this attitude.
And now for something completely different…Goalies on the Mend
Leighton is due to start skating today. I wonder what craziness that will bring to the Flyers crease. My bet is that his safe return to the team will spell the end to Boucher’s on the team. He will likely be waived and sent down. As much as I like and respect Brian, Bobrovsky has earned his spot in the NHL and will only improve playing at the NHL level.
I read this morning that Ray Emery (yes that Ray Emery) has made a nice recovery from the surgery on his hip. People with similar condition are usually lucky to walk again. Ray is not normal and is now ready to skate and looking at a potential return to hockey. Since Philly is a class organization, Holmgren said he would consider putting him in the minors to see what he can do. Good luck Ray.
Good Night and Good Hockey!
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