Through 48 games the Philadelphia Flyers season is going as planned. They currently lead the entire Eastern Conference with 31 wins and 67 points overall. Away from the Wells Fargo Center they have the NHL’s best road record at 16-5-3. The offense has been prevalent each and every night it seems for the orange and black. They have eight players all in double digits with goals which leads the league. They also have four players with 40 or more points.
Why are the Flyers so good? They have three lines that can score on you at any given moment in the game. It is extremely hard for opposing teams to shut down all three lines in a game. Danny Briere is having an All-Star season and is on pace for over 40 goals. Claude Giroux has followed up a memorable 2010 post season and has all ready surpassed his career high in goals in one season. Overall they have scored 165 goals thus far which is the most in the NHL.
Fortunately, the Flyers have been healthy so far this season. Chris Pronger just returned after missing 14 games with a broken bone in his foot. In Pronger’s absence the team posted a 9-4 record. With Pronger or without Pronger the Flyers can get it done.
For the first time in years the team is rich with reliable defensemen. Kimmo Timmonen continues to play solid defense, and if there is one guy on this team that does not get the credit he deserves, it’s Timmonen. The third line defensive pairing of Andrej Meszaros and Sean O’Donnell has made a big difference in preserving the legs of guys like Pronger and Timmonen.
Meszaros is a plus 29 for the season and has recently been putting pucks in the back of the net. In order to win games they need to keep pucks out of their own net, and they finally have enough blue-liners to do just that.
The goaltending has been phenomenal up to this point. Brian Boucher and the rookie Sergei Bobrovsky have combined for 30 wins and just 12 losses. It does not appear that head coach Peter Laviolette and his staff are in any hurry to make a decision on who is their no. 1 goalie. That’s fine; keep them both fresh and playing well, but when it comes playoff time the coaches will have to put their faith in the hands of just one goalie.
With everything going so smoothly, is their room for improvement for this team? Through the first three months of the season the Flyers were averaging 5.6 penalties per game. In the last month the Flyers have been averaging 3.4 penalties per game. They need to stay discipline and not commit “dumb” penalties.
Prior to the 3-1 loss to last place New Jersey Devils, the Flyers had won their previous four games. One factor of that four game winning streak was that they were able to stay out of the penalty box. Last season the Flyers led the NHL in minor penalties.
If they want to continue on their winning ways, they need to keep their penalty numbers down heading into the playoffs.
Another area of their game that needs improvement is their power play. With Pronger back on the blue line that should boost the numbers, but they were struggling even before Pronger was injured. As of now they are converting at 16.8% on the power play. Despite them being the best in the East the power play is ranked 20th in the NHL.
The Flyers are right where they want to be heading into the All-Star break. If they want to stay atop the Eastern Conference standings they will need to improve their discipline and power play percentage.