It was just one hockey game, but the Philadelphia Flyers survived the loss of their best defenseman, Chris Pronger, with a 4-1 win over the surging New York Rangers Saturday afternoon.
Long term, the loss of Pronger will surely be felt. He is slated to miss 4-6 weeks and losing to the Florida Panthers on home ice right before the holiday break will allow the Flyers time to reorganize the blueline.
After Monday’s 5-0 loss to the Panthers, most of the players said it was the worst loss of the year. Still, it was one game, and neither game will be a measuring stick of what life will be like without Pronger.
Before the season the Flyers signed Sean O’Donnell, who was Pronger’s teammate in Anaheim. Adding Andrej Meszaros in a trade from Tampa Bay, despite his high salary, was another needed addition to the team, especially when you consider he is only 25 and the Flyers don’t have any blue chip blueline prospects waiting in the wings. Both O’Donnell and Meszaros lead all Flyers defensemen in plus/minus, which should tell you just how well they have fit in.
The Flyers lead the league in goals for (3.31) after 35 games played and are fourth in goals against (2.40). Oddly enough it is not the power play that has helped the Flyers’ cause. They are currently tied for 18th with the man advantage and only 11th on the penalty kill. Playing 5-on-5 is the team’s bread and butter where they lead the league in scoring.
As they did the past few seasons, the Flyers are not winning face-offs. Currently they are tied for 16th in the league (49.6). Oddly enough, Jeff Carter is doing very well at a slamming 60.3 percent success rate, while Darroll Powe is a respectable 53.1. Mike Richards is still struggling at 48.5.
Kimmo Timonen will garner most of the minutes given up by Pronger while Oskars Bartulis will fill in as the sixth defenseman but will not be asked to be on the ice during key situations. During the Florida game, only Braydon Coburn, Matt Carle and Timonen had over 20 minutes of ice time from the defensive core.
What isn’t helping is that Sergei Bobrovsky is starting to slump, but with the return of Micheal Leighton on the horizon and Brian Boucher playing some of his best hockey of late, Bobrovsky could find himself getting some ice time in Adirondack just to keep playing and stay sharp during the time off. Still, the Flyers don’t want to burn him out either so the break might do everyone some good.
The Flyers are at the top of the league standings so one bad game will not break the team by any stretch of the imagination. The holiday break is always welcome in a long season so look for the team to come out of it looking sharp and refreshed. Heck, we’re not even halfway into the season so despite this being Philadelphia, and the natives tend to call the suicide hotline after one bad game, don’t expect a flood of calls this time around. Eventually Pronger will come back and all with be right with the Orange and Black.
In the meantime, think about all of the good the Flyers have done until now. And if that doesn’t ease your mind, just think about the Eagles’ game against the Giants this past Sunday.
That should do the trick until the Flyers play again.