PHILADELPHIA, PA – For those of you who didn’t pay attention to last season’s playoffs, the Philadelphia Flyers turned their goaltending situation into a debacle, even more so than normal. The team changed goaltenders during their playoff run so much so that it finally prompted action by upper management (See Ed Snider and Paul Holmgren for details) to go out and get a so-called “starting goaltender.”
Only 10 games into this season and the panic has already starting to set around the city affectionately known as Negadelphia. The Flyers are now 5-4-1 and have lost their past two games 5-1 and 9-8, both to teams that have allowed more goals than they have scored. The talk will center around two major issues: the loss of defenseman Chris Pronger for at least 2 weeks; and their goaltending, which has been less than stellar so far.
Sergei Bobrovsky and the team’s major off-season signing, Ilya Bryzgalov, both have goals-against averages over 3.00 and save percentages under 90 percent. That’s not good 10 games into an 82 game season. While no one will panic down at the team’s offices in Voorhees, NJ, no one is feeling good about their current situation either.
The good news for the Flyers is Claude Giroux is taking over for the departed Mike Richards as the team’s leader on the ice (when Chris Pronger is not on the ice, that is). Giroux already has six goals and five assists. His six goals are tied for fourth among league leaders and his 11 points is tied for eighth. Danny Briere and James van Riemsdyk have four goals apiece.
The Flyers overall have had balanced scoring throughout the lineup. That has resulted in having the league’s second best offense (3.60 per game). On the flip side the team’s defense is 28th overall. For a team that might have to go through the Pittsburgh Penguins or the Washington Capitals in order to just reach the Stanley Cup finals, that is not a good sign at all.
The power play has bounced back nicely after a poor outing last season currently ranking fourth and is 19th on the penalty kill. Needless to say there are good signs for the Flyers but team defense will have to improve dramatically if that’s going to happen. A really novel idea would be to stay out of the penalty box. Once again the Flyers just don’t get it when it comes to this department. The Flyers have the fourth highest penalty minutes per game. The Flyers have six players with over 10 PIM’s with most of the usual suspects at the top of the list, such as Danny Briere, Scott Hartnell, and Braydon Coburn. Matt Walker has only played in three games and he is already has 16, good for third highest on the team.
Head coach Peter Laviolette has to send a message to his players, regardless of how talented you are, if you spend time in the penalty time, you will also spend time on the bench or in the press box. Things won’t change any time soon unless someone pays the price in ways other than in their pocket books.
The season is only 10 games old, but if this don’t change soon, it would make for a very long season where not only the head coach, but the general manager might both lose their jobs.