If the Flyers are ever going to get their offense back on
track – and their season for that matter – this weekend would be a great time
to start laying the groundwork.
After two days off, the Bullies are in our nation’s capital
on Friday night to face off against the Washington Capitals, who reside at the
bottom of the Eastern Conference with three points, and have allowed the fourth-most
goals per game in the NHL at 3.57. Then the Flyers return home on Saturday for
a clash with the Carolina Hurricanes, a club that’s not much better off with
their four points and third-highest 3.60 goals against average.
Both clubs have also played poorly on special teams as well,
particularly their penalty killing units. Washington (73.7%) and Carolina
(73.1%) rank 23rd and 26th respectively in PK percentages.
It truly is no secret what has each of these teams in an
early hole in the standings along with the Flyers, as all three have plenty in
common. Inability to consistently score on and kill power plays has been a
fairly big indicator of success.
The main difference has been in net. Despite the troubles in
front of him, Ilya Bryzgalov has held up very well. At the moment Bryz is tied
for eighth in the NHL with a .924 save percentage, ninth with a 2.19 goals
against average. His 2-4 record in net can largely be blamed on what head coach
Peter Laviolette is calling a lack of “run support.”
So basically Ilya Bryzgalov is Cliff Lee right now.
The good news for Bryz is the Flyers’ offense showed some
life the last time they played a similarly porous defensive squad, hanging
seven on the Florida Panthers last Saturday, including a pair of power play tallies.
Statistically Florida is second-worst in the league, surrendering 4.00 goals per
The Panthers were also crippled by injuries for that tilt,
so it remains to be seen how much we can take from that effort. It certainly
hasn’t been reflected in any way since, as the Flyers have failed to light the
lamp more than once in either or their last two games. Philadelphia is 26th on
the season with 2.00 goals scored per game.
It was announced yesterday they’ll try yet another shakeup
on the top line though, with Danny Briere joining captain Claude Giroux and
Wayne Simmonds. Of course, that could take some of the offensive punch away
from their other pairings, however little of it there was to begin with.
Still, this is a good opportunity for the Flyers to separate
themselves from the bottom of the pack. Then again, perhaps it’s also an
opportunity to cement themselves in the cellar alongside this weekend’s
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