While not everyone was around to watch the television show Dragnet,
most everyone has likely heard of Sergeant Joe Friday (played by Jack Webb) and his signature line, "Just the facts, ma'am."
Since the beginning of the 2008, the Boys in Orange and Black have been hotter than a wad of gum on a street corner on a hot summer's day. Hotter than the look that blond, six foot tall glass of water gives you just before her boyfriend, the gorilla, comes back. Hotter than the slug that just misses your ear while your feet are propped up on your desk waiting for the phone to ring...err um..sorry about that...always liked Philip Marlowe.
Just the facts:
Well...here are the facts Flyers style
* The Flyers have played near perfect hockey over their last 10 games, going 8-1-1
. This is tied for the best in the league with the Penguins and the Ducks.
* The supposed "goalie controversy" has worked out rather well, with only two losses in the month of January. If they continue to play this well as a tandem, I will take a goalie controversy right through the playoffs.
* Over their last 12 contests: Marty Biron has won 4 games
and Antero Niittymaki has won 6
. Opposing goalies have won two - one of which was Marty Brodeur (more on him later).
* The Flyers have scored 38 goals in January and given up just 23 - a differential of +15. This speaks to the increased attention paid, by every player, to team defense. (Yes, it is a hockey cliche, but by keeping the spacing between defense and forwards smaller, there is less chance for players to be caught out of position and give up the odd-man rush.)
* The Flyers' powerplay is the top ranked unit is all of hockey
, operating at a 25% efficiency level. This is absolutely huge in the "new" NHL.
More penalties are being called for more minor infractions, consisting mostly of obstruction and stick fouls. This is also key because the Flyers are in the box quite a bit and need to make the most of their chances.
* In their last 12 games the Orange and Black have scored 17 powerplay goals, while giving up 8 goals on the PK, a +9 differential. Those 8 goals came on 56 shorthanded situations, for a kill efficiency of nearly 86%. Special teams, special teams, special teams!!!
* The PK is ranked 13th in the league, killing man-down situations at an 82.5% pace. As shown by the recent success in killing penalties, this should improve as the Flyers are now as healthy as they have been all year.
* The Flyers are averaging 3.33 goals per game (3rd best in the NHL) and are giving up an average of 2.72 goals per game (good for 16th).
* As mentioned, the Boys are not shying away from the rough stuff and lead the Eastern Conference with 866 penalty minutes (second only to the Ducks). The next closest in the Conference are the Rangers, who are 172 PIM back.
* The Flyers have the most fighting majors in the league with 42 and lead the NHL with an average of 18.8 PIM per game. They can dish it out and take it.
* In the last 7 games, the line of Mike Richards, Scott Hartnell and Steve Downie has combined for 14 goals, 16 assists and a plus-20. I like to call them the STP line - A Stud (Richards), a Thug (Downie) and a Pug (Hartnell)
No line has given opponents more headaches than these three. They can score, they can hit and they can annoy the hell out of you and force you to do something stupid - so our #1 ranked powerplay can come in and put the biscuit in the basket.
*Does anyone not LOVE
how Steve Downie is playing??? There are ,any people across the league who are spitting teeth every time Steve Downie scores a goal or makes a great play. This young man is a player - that has never
been in doubt. The question was always with the mental part of his game, not whether he had the physical tools to play the game. I sure would not want to play against the STP line right now.
OK...what does it all mean?
It means the Flyers are playing with enough confidence to withstand an early barrage, know that the goaltending is solid and that they have the weapons to get back into any game. What it also shows, is that they are slowly
gaining the killer instinct needed to put games away - this is crucial, as every point is sacred. It means that the team does not necessarily care who is in net, although Niitty has been outstanding. They are a gritty bunch, playing with swagger, who believe that the puck will find its way into the back of the net as long as they give the proper effort and stick up for one another - thank you Mr. Cote!! As mentioned, this team is now as healthy as they have been in a long time and will, hopefully, get Joffrey Lupul back soon. It seems like John Stevens might have a little problem once Lupul returns to the point of thinking, "where am I going to put these guys when they all get healthy?" A nice problem to have.
The Preds North:
The Preds lost a bunch of good players this past off-season, including Mr. Pred, Paul Kariya. The Flyers had already had a taste of what Pred Nation was used to when we acquired Scottie Upshall at the end of the '06-07 season. That trade sent Peter Forsberg to the Preds in return for Upshall, defensive prospect Ryan Parent and two draft picks. Sorry Nashville, you got hosed. During the off-season, Paul Holmgren shocked the world as he got Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell from the Preds for the same first round pick they sent to Philadelphia in the Forsberg deal. While the Pred Nation was not happy with this, they realized that they could not keep those two once they hit the open market. Homer never let that happen.
Fast Forward to the present:
has 8 goals and 7 assists for 15 points in 31 games. Scottie missed 15 games due to injuries (10 for a broken wrist and 5 for an ankle sprain) but has come back with 2 goals, 3 assists and a +5 in his last 7 games. He was the game's second star in the Flyers' last game, a 6-1 win over the Senators, as he tied a career high in goals, with two, and points, with three.
has been named an Eastern Conference All-Star. He leads the team in defensive scoring with 7 goals and 20 assists for 27 points. He leads the team in average-time-on-ice with nearly 24 minutes a game and leads the team in powerplay assists with 17. The Flyers have not had a point man this good since Rico.
has been a man possessed lately. He has 16 goals and 12 assists for 28 points, leads the team with game winning goals (5) and penalty minutes with 109. Hartnell was named third star of the week, two weeks in a row and scored the game winning goal in the last three contests. He is playing hard-nosed, old fashioned hockey and is beloved in the city because of it. I don't hear too many people talking about how overpaid Mr. Hartnell is now, do I? Didn't think so...(crickets)
Be proud Pred Nation, your boys are playing well in Philadelphia!
I am off to the Flyers/Pens tilt with Pred Backer, Blueline, in order to see some of his boys here in the City of Brotherly Love. Hope they can spread some love our way.
Thanks for reading....