Something special is brewing

This article can be found published on Chicks Who Give a Puck.
The Flyers are the first expansion team to reach 1,000 home wins. (Shawn Carson)

The Flyers are the first expansion team to reach 1,000 home wins. (Shawn Carson)

The Philadelphia Flyers are in the midst of what can become a very special season in franchise history. After a historic run to the Stanley Cup Finals last postseason, it was hard to believe anything could compare.

The 2010-11 season, however, has been leaving fans speechless at times.

The beginning of the season was rocky, with the team going 3-4-1 in the first eight games. After an awful and lackluster showing against the Columbus Blue Jackets Oct. 25 in which they lost, 2-1, head coach Peter Laviolette was steaming. His quote from the game said it all: “We played mindless hockey without any energy, without any passion.”

It turned out to be the turning point of the season thus far.

The Flyers have never looked back since that time. They enter the All-Star break with a 33-12-5 record for a league-best 71 points. They’ve been stringing together win after win and have found a way to correct any bumps in the road. They have not lost more than three games in a row, and at one time, put together a high of six straight wins and ten consecutive games with at least one point.

They achieved a tremendous milestone Tuesday night with their 5-2 win over the Montreal Canadians when they became the first expansion team to reach 1,000 home wins. They now have an all-time home record of 1000-464-193(T)-39(OT) for an astounding .648 win percentage. The Flyers are the seventh NHL franchise to reach the 1,000 home wins mark.

The Flyers have had their moments in games where they became sloppy or lose focus, but more often than not, there are able to recover and just find ways to win. When leading after the first period, they are an amazing 18-1-0 – best in the league.

On the road, there is no one better with their 17-5-3 record. They also dominate inter-divisional play, losing only three times out of 15 games.

The team is in the midst of what can become a very special season for fans in Philadelphia. The franchise record for most wins in a season is 53 and most points is 118. The team is currently on pace to come very close to breaking those numbers. As it stands now, they are en route to a 54-win, 116-point season.

OFFENSE
The Flyers have arguably the most depth in offense. They can come at you with three high-scoring lines and a fourth line that will brutally wear opponents down. There is no first or second line – there are three first lines on this team. Even when a player is out, the team barely skips a beat.

They lead the league in goals for per game (3.46) and goals (173), yet they do not have a single player in the top ten in points. Instead of having one superstar to rally around, the team is full of stars that contribute equally.

Mike Richards, Claude Giroux, Danny Briere and Jeff Carter all have 40 or more points on the season – the most on any team. The Flyers also have eight players (Briere, Carter, Giroux, Richards, Scott Hartnell, Nikolay Zherdev, James van Riemsdyk and Ville Leino) with goals in double-digits, tying them for the lead with four other teams. Unlike those four, however, they have six players with 15 or more goals.

There have been several games this season where the team displays absolute domination over their opponent. Take Tuesday night’s win over the Canadiens for example. The line of Zherdev-Giroux-Carter took it to the Habs for a full minute and 33 seconds:

DEFENSE
It is a wonderful feeling to never have to deal with concern over what defensive pairing is on the ice at any given time. The additions of Andrej Meszaros and Sean O’Donnell have solidified the back-end of the team and relieved some pressure off the top four.

How good is this defense? So good that when Chris Pronger missed 13 games due to a broken foot, the team barely skipped a beat. On any other team, this would be a huge blow. The Flyers instead went 9-4.

Ice time is more evenly distributed this season between all three pairings. Pronger remains the top defenseman on the team, but his ice time has been reduced with the new fifth and sixth pair. He has gone from averaging close to 26 minutes a game last season to a more comfortable 22:14 this year. Five of the six defensemen range in time between 20:21 and 22:23. O’Donnell averages 16:34.

Last season, Ryan Parent, Oskars Bartulis, Ole-Kristian Tollefsen, Lukas Krajicek and Danny Syvret – who all saw time on the last pairing – all combined for only 20 points on the whole season. This season, Meszaros and O’Donnell have a combined 29 points in 50 games and Meszaros leads all NHL players with a plus-28 rating.

The teams had been standing tall in front of their goaltenders, blocking 827 shots – good for second in the league.

GOALTENDING
Everyone expected Michael Leighton to lead the charge for the Flyers in net, but his back surgery opened the door for the Bobrovsky-Boucher show – as in veteran goaltender Brian Boucher and rookie Sergei Bobrovsky.

Bobrovsky, the undrafted 22-year-old sensation, became the youngest goalie in franchise history to win a season opener. The month of October saw opposing coaches scrambling to try and find anything on this kid, but to little avail. In November, Bobrovsky received 10 consecutive starts in which he went 9-0-1 and posted a 1.70 goals-against average and .946 save percentage.

Bobrovsky returned down to earth in December, but where “Bob” slipped, Boucher stepped in. In his 10 starts through November and December, Boucher went 6-2-1 with a 2.40 goals-against average and .923 save percentage. Bob has since recovered and has gone on to win back the No. 1 position once again. He may come close to breaking Ron Hextall‘s record for most wins for a rookie in franchise history.

Bobrovsky leads all rookies with 21 wins (overall record of 21-6-3) and is second with a 2.42 goals-against average and first with his .920 save percentage. Boucher has a 11-6-2 record and just beats Bob with his 2.41 goals-against average and has a .916 save percentage.

The tandem has been everything and more in net. Sure, there have been some bad games, some bad goals, but for the most part, these two have been standing on their heads for the team and both have been very capable of bouncing back after a rough game.

The Flyers are fighting their way for the President’s Trophy, something never before won by the franchise since its introduction in the 1985-86 season, but it will mean nothing if they are unable to bring home the more important Stanley Cup.

This team is poised to make another run to the Cup Finals, and although there still is a question in goal, both Bobrovsky and Boucher have shown no signs of slowing down. The only thing the team truly needs to work on is their power play, but if Tuesday’s game was any indication (3-for-5), then the team has solved that problem.

Buckle up Philadelphia and make sure to enjoy the ride as this season is turning into one for the record books.

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Categories: Ice Hockey, NHL, Sports

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