Nine Games Left – Concerns?

After a disappointing week in which the Flyers lost shootouts to conference rivals, we can give some thought to whether the Flyers can hold the conference lead and to concerns going into the playoffs.

The Flyers had an excellent opportunity to put some breathing room between themselves and the Pens and Caps but instead allowed both rivals to inch closer to the conference lead. The Penguins, despite the absence of Crosby and Malkin, are only two points behind as are the Capitals. Although the Flyers have games in hand on both, what could have been a fairly comfortable lead is now just a tenuous one.

In Tuesday’s game against Washington, the Flyers were asleep for the first half of the game and spotted the Caps a 3-0 lead on two bad goals allowed by Sergei Bobrovsky. They suddenly woke up half way through the game and scored four straight goals but Brian Boucher (who replaced Bob) allowed a bad tying goal with a few minutes left. The shootout, as usual, did not go the Flyers’ way.

On Thursday, the Flyers struggled to get any offense against tight Pittsburgh checking and the Pens were content to try to force the shootout by repeatedly and annoyingly icing the puck throughout the third period and overtime. The strategy worked as the Flyers dropped the showdown after overtime.

Now both opponents are closing in and the Flyers continue to struggle to find consistency. It’s looking more and more like they will fail to hold the conference lead and perhaps drop as low as fourth or even fifth in the conference by the season’s end. This brings up concerns about the team as we head toward the playoffs. Defenseman Kimmo Timonen said he has “serious concerns” about the state of the team. That’s not good. Meanwhile, coach Laviolette seems to be trying a more positive approach – the anger that often accompanies his post-game losses press conferences has been replaced by an attitude of “it’s a long season and a team is bound to have some poor games” and by giving the team numerous days off the ice instead of practicing them hard. Has he been brainwashed by this team’s lackadaisical mind-set? Or is this calculated strategy and psychology? Whichever, there are a few major concerns about this team as they head into the playoffs:

(1) Goaltending: As usual, we’re wondering if the goaltending will be up to par in the playoffs. Both Boucher and Bobrovsky have good numbers but both have a propensity to allow at least one bad goal a game. This does not bode well for the post-season. Cue visions of Michael Leighton allowing the Cup winning goal in game six last June. It’s looking more and more like Bob will be the starting playoff goalie and the Washington game should make us all frightened. He did bounce back with an excellent game against Pittsburgh, so that’s encouraging, but you still have to be concerned about a rookie and about a tandem that allows bad goals regularly.

(2) Power Play: The Peco Power Play is suffering from a blackout. It’s gotten worse as the season has progressed and is now at about 16%. They’re 0 for their last 14. The Flyers pass too much on the man advantage and work it up high too much. This will absolutely have to improve for the playoffs, because the power play is often the difference in the playoffs. Maybe the Flyers should drop the corporate sponsorship – PECO gives off bad vibes as we all cheer for higher utility bills.

(3) Age/Injuries: Overall they’re a young team, but you have to worry some over key players like Chris Pronger, who’s rehabbing a broken hand, and Sean O’Donnell (39 years of age), who has been struggling the last six weeks. The Flyers have been pretty healthy all year so you worry that key players will go down as the law of averages catches up.

(4) Fragile Confidence: This team has always seemed to have fragile confidence, as one loss begets more losses and one goal allowed with the lead results in scrambled play and sometimes a blown lead. This makes it even more important for them to be on a high note going into the post-season. If they are playing poorly as the season winds down, it could be a quick exit.

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One Response to “Nine Games Left – Concerns?”

  1. Brian Kimble Says:

    Got a new video for you to post if you want Mike. It should get us fired up for the Playoffs!

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