Are the Flyers Still the Beast of the East?

After blowing 3-0 and 4-2 leads in Saturday’s 5-4 overtime loss to the Atlanta Thrashers, the Philadelphia Flyers righted the ship if only briefly for one night at least against the Florida Panthers Tuesday night in their 3-2 victory.

A two-goal second period propelled Philly to victory but one has to wonder if this is the start of something good or a one shot deal.

The Flyers have a slim one point lead over the Washington Capitals for the best record in the Eastern Conference and a three point lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins for first in the Atlantic Division. With the news that Chris Pronger will be gone most likely until the start of the playoffs, hanging on to the top seed in the Conference by the time Pronger comes back might be a tall order. Now we finally get to see if GM Paul Holmgren’s off-season moves finally pay off.

Heading into Tuesday’s action the Flyers had a couple of major issues heading into the game. The major one is that the Flyers have had a habit of allowing their opponents to come back on them in the third period. As of Tuesday’s stats the Flyers scoring by period was 60-81-73, outscoring their opponents in the first and second periods (47-53) but has been outscored in the third (75).

The power play has dropped slightly since February going from 17th to 18th, as has the penalty kill unit going from 10th to 11th. Things have gotten better in the face-offs department moving up from 22nd (49.6) to 17th (50.2).

The Flyers now have nine players with 10 or more goals, the most of any team in the NHL. Thanks to Danny Briere’s recent slump Jeff Carter now has the team lead in goals with 32, with Briere in second with 29. Claude Giroux (22) and Scott Hartnell (20) are the only two other players with 20 or more goals but Mike Richards (19) and Ville Leino (17) are closing in fast.

Andrej Meszaros still leads the team in plus/minus (plus-23) but Carter (plus-22) and Matt Carle (plus-20) have joined Meszaros in the 20 and over crowd.

The Flyers are now 4-4-2 in their last 10 games and they still have games in hand so they might not lose out on first overall in the conference, and could still capture the President’s Trophy as the leagues best team, but the Vancouver Canucks still have an eight point lead over Philly for top spot but the Flyers have two games in hand on the Canucks as well so things are not as dire as they seem.

The Flyers will have payback on their minds Thursday night when they face Atlanta on the road and hit Dallas on Saturday. Next week will be the Flyers true test without Pronger with the Caps and Pens coming to Philly during the week before facing a resurgent New York Islander team and a Boston Bruins team that will never forget what happened to them in the playoffs at the hands of the orange and black.

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