While the Philadelphia Flyers remain a top contender in the East for the playoffs, they have gradually been slipping down the rankings in the past couple of weeks.
The Flyers remain locked in a battle for the No.4 spot in the Eastern Conference of the NHL with rival Pennsylvania team, The Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins remain fourth with 79 points, with the Flyers following close behind in the 5th spot with 77.
Despite being among the top five teams in the East, the Flyers have been slipping further down the rankings with some terrible losses in the month of February. Flyers fans must all be wondering why this must be, and one of the answers is clearly: the defense.
The defensive play behind the blue line has always been an issue for the Flyers in addition to goaltending. The Flyers seem to emulate the mantra “the best defense is a good offense.”
While this saying might have some truth for leading goal scorers on the top line, this motto does not give the whole picture on how to be a successful hockey team.
It is important to lead on goals but in order to secure a win, the puck needs to be blocked and the net needs to be covered at all times. With the loss of the most dominate defensemen, team captain Chris Pronger, the Flyers have seen a decline in defense at this time in the current season.
With the recent increase of regulation and overtime losses that the team has suffered, the issue with the defensive team has not gone unnoticed by the Flyers’ General Manager, Paul Holmgren.
So before the NHL trade deadline for the season (Feb. 27), the Flyers took some action by acquiring Niklas Grossman from The Dallas Stars for 2nd and 3rd round draft picks in the post-season NHL draft.
Grossman led The Stars in blocked shots, so the Flyers were hoping a new defensemen would help them out in this area, which they are currently struggling in.
This was not enough for Holmgren, for not too much longer after Grossman suited up as a Flyer, the hockey club made a similar trade for another defensemen.
In exchange for 2nd and 4th round draft picks in the 2013 draft, the Flyers acquired defensemen Pavel Kubina from the Tampa Bay Lightening. Flyers also had to give up minor league forward Jon Kalinski who has been playing on the AHL affiliate, the Adirondack Phantoms, but has 22 career games with the Flyers.
With the newly acquired defensemen players, the intent was to have better coverage in the Flyers zone.
Considering the current losses, this has not been happening. Of course Kubina and Grossman are still getting their feet wet in Philadelphia, so this could account for a still inherit lack of defense at the moment. Defensively, the Flyers are still slacking and they cannot afford to, especially as the playoff crunch time begins.
A lot of this is coming from undisciplined players who seem more interested in their conflicts with their rivals on the ice instead of protecting the net. The Flyers need to revamp their defensive strategies in order to get out of their current slump if they want to be strong contenders for the playoffs.
If the Flyers manage to maintain their No.5 spot in the Eastern Conference, they will still be among the top 8 seeded teams that go into the quarterfinal rounds.
In order for the team to actually remain a playoff bound team, they need to work out their defensive issues and start to win more hockey games.
The playoffs seem entirely different from the regular season, so the Flyers need to work hard defensively and earn some more wins if they really want to bring the Stanley Cup back to Philadelphia.
Deanna Vasso is a fourth-year student majoring in English with a minor in creative writing. She can be reached at DV670502@wcupa.edu.