So far, the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season has been less than ideal for the Philadelphia Flyers. Their finally above-average home record has been marred by dismal splits away from the Wells Fargo Center. There has been spotty defense, almost non-existent offense at times, and some key injuries, all contributing to the rough start (which, by the way, has suddenly turned into a third of the season).
But if anything can save the Flyers’ playoff chances, it is without question the increased level of play from their first and second line forwards.
Right winger Jake Voracek started this season at a snail’s pace. He looked out of shape and did not seem to be skating well after his leg injury during the lockout. Since the start of February, Voracek has had just two games in which he has not recorded a point. In the last week, his game has elevated to an unprecedented level. On Feb. 18, he recorded four assists against the Islanders. The game after, he had a hat trick, and two games after that, recorded three more assists. Voracek is behind only Sidney Crosby for the league lead in points in February.
As it turns out, Voracek may have been the right piece to have on a line with Claude Giroux after all. Now that Voracek is healthy and thriving, the Flyers have a first line with two players who are exceptional playmakers, skaters and fairly physical.
Speaking of physicality, the first line got a little bit more intimidating in that department recently. Claude Giroux is displaying 2012 playoff form in the hit category. He has collected 13 hits over the past five games, while recording only three in the seven games before that. A physical captain means a sparked, energetic team, and more scoring chances for his line. The Flyers also got back power forward Scott Hartnell over the weekend, adding another physical presence who thrives in front of the net. No knock on Tye McGinn, who filled in admirably for the injured Hartnell, but the amount of annoyance Hartnell brings to opponents is unmatched and he has already made his presence known with several crushing hits and plays in front of the net.
The Flyers’ second line might have one of the most important pieces to the offensive puzzle. Wayne Simmonds has literally done everything this season. Team down by two goals? He’ll fight. Heavy shot from the point? He is there to deflect it in front of the net. He will even make a dazzling play once in a while, although lately, he has been more frequently. Simmonds has two Gordie Howe hat tricks in the past week (one more than Mr. Hockey himself had in his career). Simmonds is a diverse player and might be the most “Flyer-esque” player on the team.
Lastly, budding star Brayden Schenn has been complementing his intense physical style of play with an outburst in the points column. Schenn has three goals and three assists in the last week, and is closing in on 20 points for the season (six goals, 11 assists). His average of just about one point-per-game is impressive, especially for a 21-year-old sophomore player.
To be honest, it is not just these guys who are keeping the Flyers afloat as they attempt to gain ground in the Atlantic Division. A lot of the players are having exceptional seasons, but it is the machines on the first and second line that will make it possible for the Flyers to make a strong playoff run.
Kenny Ayres is a third-year student majoring in communication studies with a journalism minor. He can be reached at KA739433@wcupa.edu.