The Philadelphia Flyers finally put away the ghosts of Detroit Red Wings past with a well deserved 3-2 win at Joe Louis Arena Sunday to help propel the team into first place in the Eastern Conference standings. The Flyers played one of their best games of the season against arguably the team in the NHL, but on this night the Flyers made it clear they won’t be left out of the conversation, especially when you consider they were without their best defenseman in Chris Pronger.
With the win the Flyers are now tied with three other teams, Pittsburgh, Vancouver, and Detroit, for the most points in the NHL with 53 and have won seven of their last ten. The Flyers will finish off their road trip in New Jersey on Thursday night and will play the Devils again on home ice on Saturday afternoon.
It is not a coincidence that all of the above mentioned teams is in the top of the standings. All four are in the top five in goals per game, but only Pittsburgh is in the top five in goals against. The Flyers round out the top 10 lead the league in goals in goals against at 2.59 and are third in scoring at 3.33. The power play has slightly improved over the past month going from 18th to 16th but the penalty kill has slipped from 11th to 16th.
While Philly is struggling on special teams, playing 5-on-5 is the teams’ bread and butter. They still lead the league in scoring with 1.42 goals a game. The Flyers are still struggling on face-offs slipping slightly from 16th (49.6) to 21st (49.0). Jeff Carter is doing well but he has fell from a 60.3 percent success rate to 56.1. Darroll Powe has stayed the same at a respectable 53.1 percent.
Andrej Meszaros leads the team in the plus/minus category with his +25 rating, while Sean O’Donnell is tied for fourth on the team with a +15. In fact, the Flyers have only two players that are a negative — Oskars Bartulis (-3) and Dan Carcillo (-6).
Looking back at the offense the Flyers have six players with ten or more goals and three others with nine. Clearly the Flyers have more balanced scoring than any team in the league which will make them a tough out come playoff time.
Sergei Bobrovsky has continued to slump, and Michael Leighton was put on waivers today, which leaves former first round pick Brian Boucher as the Flyers starting goaltender. Boucher has a 2.33 goals against average and a .917 save percentage while Bobrovsky has a 2.57 goals against average and a .915 save percentage. Boucher is playing some of the best hockey of his career and unless he falls into a slump or someone begins to outplay him should be the starter for the rest of the season.
The holiday break is over and the new year is well underway. The Flyers will look to improve their special teams between now and playoff time and establish their starting goaltender in the process. Eventually Pronger will come back and the defense will improve almost overnight.
The game against Detroit was one game but the Flyers can certainly build off the win between now and the all-star break.
So take heart Flyers fans because the Stanley Cup Playoffs are now just a few months away. In the mean time, sit back and enjoy the ride…