By: Andy Wheeler
It’s a dreary Monday morning here in Philadelphia and sadly, dreary is how I currently view the Flyers chances for the upcoming Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Let’s review for a moment. It’s been a great season thus far. They are incredibly deep and extremely talented. When they are going good, they are better then every Eastern Conference team and better than all but a handful of Western Conference teams.
But they have a few flaws that could be considered fatal when the playoffs start. Let’s go down the list.
No Pronger, No Cup:
This one is pretty simple actually. As demonstrated by their recent loss to an awful Ottawa team, if Chris Pronger is hurt…the Flyers are done. The Flyers defense has been great all season long, and I’ve really been surprised by some of their additions this season. But Pronger is the straw that stirs the drink.
The Power Play, Penalty Kill…he is so important to the team’s success that if he gets hurt or has a lingering injury that carries into the playoffs and limits his minutes they won’t last long in the postseason. Count me into the camp of severely limiting Pronger’s minutes for the rest of the season. There is no upside to letting him play 20+ minutes a game with a 5 point lead in the conference. Is remaining the 1st seed important, yes it is. But if you have to burn out your best defenseman who’s 36 years old and physical to do it, that’s just not worth it to me.
Quit Shuffling The Deck:
Count me in for the group of people that thinks that we aren’t nearly as good if Peter Laviolette isn’t our coach. The guy is great. The players play for him, the system works, and he has an incredible feel for the team. He knows what to say, how to say it and when to put foot to rear end. He also, at least in my dealings with him, can be a really funny guy.
But he makes me mad when he shuffles things up. I realize that it’s good to see who can play with whom, and what works and what doesn’t in terms of line combinations. And it is necessary to find out who can play with who in case somebody gets hurt…so there is at least some familiarity. But I’d rather know what our line combinations are before the playoffs begin. Give the set lines time to work together down the stretch so that when the playoffs start everybody knows what everybody should do and where they are going to be.
The Goalies Stupid:
Whether you know it or not…our goaltending will determine whether or not we get a parade out of the Flyers this year. I know some of you are shocked by this (he said sarcastically). But every year since Hextall left the first time it’s been the one thing we always talk about this time of year. And honestly this blame squarely falls on who I think should be the Executive of The Year, Paul Holmgren.
In the offseason, the Flyers signed a goalie with a checkered past to a 2 year deal, even though he got pulled twice in the Stanley Cup Finals. I speak of course of Michael Leighton. Of course this move alone makes me angry. How is the answer to your goaltending problems a guy you had to pull 2 times in the finals? I didn’t see the logic then, I don’t see it now and I never will.
Then of course, Leighton is injured to start the season and out of literally no where Bob appeared. So for the most part this season the man between the pipes has been a rookie who speaks barely enough English to communicate with other players, and Brian Boucher.
Now so far, this combination has been fantastic. 2.33 Goals against for Boucher and 2.46 for Bob are excellent. It’s better than they possibly could have hoped for, so much so that Leighton is in goal for the Phantoms now. But do you have confidence in Bob and Boucher in the playoffs? I don’t, not one little bit.
The playoffs are a different animal than the regular season. 1 goalie needs to get hot and a team needs to ride that goalie until they are sipping from the cup. That’s the way it works.
Is that goalie Brian Boucher? I don’t think he is. Nothing he has shown me over his career or this season gives me confidence in his ability to be a goalie that gets so hot that the Flyers win the Cup.
Is Bob that goalie? Maybe, but not this year, but that’s just my opinion. He’s a rookie, who’s never played this many games before. Some times he looks tentative, some times he looks unbeatable. So that means he’s inconsistent. Also I’ve noticed a trend with him that the Flyers could be up 3-0, and then in the 3rd period he ALWAYS gives up goals and makes the game interesting.
This will not work in the Playoffs, it just won’t. Flyers fans like me can hope that it will but that’s unrealistic. I think the Flyers have enough talent to win the cup, but I think it’s more likely that we’ll end up like the Capitals last season. A ton of regular season points but a quick exit from the playoffs. But they still have 26 games to prove me wrong. I hope they do.