Its all there for the Flyers.
Sure, its just the quarter mark of the season. Yet heres no denying the Flyers are in position to win the Atlantic Division and maybe even the Eastern Conferences top seed.
Whatever doubts there were over the summer about how this team was going to gel with so many new faces seem to be a distant memory.
Remember how we fretted who would make up for the 78 goals lost among Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and Ville Leino?
Well, with 77 goals already, the Flyers lead the NHL in scoring as we reached the officials quarter pole (21 games) with Wednesdays 4-3 overtime victory at the Islanders.
Chris Pronger and his aching back and surgically repaired wrist? Neither has been an issue, though a right eye injury coupled with a virus has seen Captain Warmth miss eight games.
Recall how people wondered if Jaromir Jagr, about to push 40 years old, had anything left? Or whether his centerman, Claude Giroux, could elevate his play to generate chemistry with Jagr?
Their success speaks for itself as Giroux is second in the NHL in overall scoring with 27 points while Jagr has been wonderful to watch on the ice until recently when he missed two games with a groin pull and then reinjured himself against the Islanders.
Given the Flyers alarming history of groin pulls, this bears considerable watching in the weeks ahead because Jagr rushed his comeback and the next time could see a complete tear. Even he admits he didnt err on the side of caution.
His value to Giroux at this point is incalculable.
Are there too many rookies and not enough veterans?
Coach Peter Laviolette has used 10 first-year players. His top one, versatile forward Matt Read, is third in rookie scoring with 14 points while first round pick Sean Couturier, acquired in the Carter trade, has been a steady and effective contributor on the penalty kill.
Once again, goaltending remains a puzzle. Ilya Bryzgalov has been up and down and had a recent five-game stretch that seemed to suggest he had gotten his game back. Yet over the last two games, hes looked pedestrian.
Backup Sergei Bobrovsky has bailed him out a few times and saved two points for the Flyers at the Island with late heroics.
Overall, the Flyers goaltending numbers are very poor, but taken in smaller recent amounts, its far better than it was. Still, it remains an area that has to get better as the season moves on.
Right now, both Bryzgalov and Bobrovsky have save percentages under .900, which wont cut it for a team with Stanley Cup ambitions.
About the only thing to truly dislike about this team is its overall discipline, something that has nagged the Flyers for several years.
Its probably a character flaw in the kind of aggressive players the Flyers stockpile, but they once again lead the league in penalties, averaging 17.1 minutes a game while their 115 minors are, by far, tops in the NHL, which is inexcusable.
And the trickle-down effect of all these penalties is an overworked penalty kill unit that has sank in recent days. Penalties have plagued the Flyers the entire quarter even though it hasnt doomed them. Yet.
Theres been a lot of good things weve done the first quarter, Laviolette said. I think weve started to really understand the identity by which we need to play. Weve won a lot of hockey games.
I think the offense has been good. Defensively, we get ourselves in a little bit of trouble through penalties and were working on that. Thats one thing Id like to see a little bit better.
Despite all the good things he does with the puck, Danny Briere is one of the players who needs to better control his stick.
When the Flyers looked about cooked in Long Island on Wednesday, he rescued the offense with two late goals. Goals, not stick fouls, is what Briere needs to provide more of in the months ahead.
We have a team that plays with an edge, Briere said. Right now, it is learning how to do a better job tip-toeing that line of when to be aggressive and when to take that extra shot and when to back off.
Thats certainly a thing now to be more successful in the second quarter to improve. Weve talked about it. Weve all been responsible for doing it at times.
Most the Flyers infractions are stick-related and lazy penalties hooking, tripping, interference.
Sometimes we dont move our feet, Giroux said. We take too many stick penalties. We have a lot of players who can skate. When you skate, you should be in position and you should not be taking penalties. Weve lost games this year because of penalties.
Still the Flyers (12-6-3) have won more than they have lost because, well, theres a lot of talent on this roster.
Eleven players are in double-digit scoring. Giroux could become the first Flyer to win the Art Ross Trophy (scoring title).
Theres a lot of hockey to be played, Giroux said. Thats not really on my mind right now. I try not to think about that stuff. When everybody knows what they are doing on the ice and are together, thats when we play our best.
It becomes easy for everyone to do their job. Were in good position in the standings. We can better and have things to improve upon in the second quarter.
Jagr, who had a tendency to be very moody in his younger days, seems content as age 40 approaches.
I love it so far, Jagr said. A lot of young guys and a lot of fun ... Its a lot of fun and I want to be part of the team. You can see the guys have so much potential. You can help them. Tell them things they dont know because I didnt know them when I was younger.
Jagr speaks every day to Giroux, Read and Jakub Voracek, on and off the ice. He instructs.
He teaches. Hes the perfect playercoach on the ice.
Im very lucky to have him, Giroux said. As a young player, I wasnt sure what to expect from him. Hes dominated the league for a lot of years. For him to come and help our young players and help us get better, it was something that we needed, pretty much.
The leadership group has been much better under Pronger and this year welcomed Giroux to its ranks. The one thing the Flyers seem to have an abundance of is resiliency. They often overcome their own shortcomings most nights.
Even when they dont win, its usually a fairly close game.
Their attack style with and without the puck is consistent. Their defensive coverage, as a five-man unit often wanes, but the d-pairs have changed in recent weeks because of injuries and their salary cap restraints with defensive replacements from the minors.
Among the players who have been a pleasant surprise is James van Riemsdyk. He has eight goals, which is right more than he had last season at this point.
Its a little bit different this year, JVR said. Im playing with some different guys, so it takes time to get used to. When you look at like that, things look pretty good so far.
I know I have a lot more to give. Its just about getting better day by day and I think a lot of that comes from the chemistry you get with your linemates.
What stops JVR from taking that so-called next step is every night consistency. He can be a dominating power forward if he harnesses the mental aspect of playing a certain way every shift.
When he plays with that edge, hes a talented guy and becomes very difficult to play against, Laviolette said. You saw it in the playoffs where he elevated his game.
Though its been beaten to death, there is no denying there is an internal bond in the dressing room a camaraderie, if you will that has been missing for several years.
Even more noticeable, no player in the room wants to talk about the past. Its gone and forgotten about.
The group of guys we do have, it's a good mix, Braydon Coburn said. It's a good mix of everything, we have four lines who can play.
We have to all get on the same page and play Lavi's system, which I think the coaching staff has done a good job of implementing that and letting us know what's expected of us.''
Added van Riemsdyk, Weve got a tight-knit room that should help us get through tough times.
E-mail Tim Panaccio at email@example.com