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Putting it all together

PhiladelphiaFlyers.com columnist Jay Greenberg gives his take on first 8 games

Friday, 10.18.2013 / 11:20 AM ET / News
By Jay Greenberg  - philadelphiaflyers.com
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Putting it all together
Putting it all together: PhiladelphiaFlyers.com columnist Jay Greenberg gives his take on the first eight games

Plenty of time, Claude Giroux decided, after sneaking a look up at the clock to consider his best options. There were four seconds remaining in the second period, 20 minutes and four seconds left in the contest, plus another 74 games in the season.

A 2-6 start closed the walls in quickly on the Flyers during a 48-game schedule in 2012 and they missed the playoffs, But in this season, a full season, even at 1-7 the Flyers have plenty of steps remaining to reach full stride, as over 82 contests, teams, both good and bad, inevitably do.

Do the Flyers have time? Not the question. Whether they have enough team is more to the point.

Giroux threw the puck at Wayne Simmonds, who deflected it past Marc-Andre Fleury with two seconds remaining, sending the Flyers to the locker room Thursday night back in the game, with reason to feel fortunate to be down only 2-1.

Suddenly reenergized, they began to do all the things they didn’t while being badly outplayed in period two, like competing along the wall, dumping the puck, going to the net, and actually hitting the net, which has been one of their biggest issues.

Save Braydon Coburn, who was stripped on Sidney Crosby’s putaway goal, the Flyers looked composed, determined, and -- 10 productive days into Craig Berube’s new program -- ready to start climbing in the standings. But they also continued to struggle to bury their chances, which, in light of their getting to the net more often, continues to reflect their inability to put the puck in it.

Giroux, who picked up his third point in three games, is starting to come alive, and the Flyers still are not scoring enough to even get the games to overtime, not that they are likely to win some of them.

“It’s just a matter of time,” said Giroux. “We just have to believe it before we start playing that we are a good team and when we do we will start being dangerous.”

Of course the Flyers, who have an almost unbelievable 11 goals in eight games, will score better than this. No question Vinnie Lecavalier, who may return when the Flyers next play six days hence, will help, particularly on the power play, and probably when less is required of Giroux he will begin to produce more.

Their best player missing too much of camp, injuries to two key players (and now perhaps a third in Kimmo Timonen) plus a coaching change borne of an underconfident team have created a perfect storm to blow the Flyers to the worst eight-game start in their history.

Still, as they picked it up considerably in the third period Thursday night, that wasn’t just Fleury, bad luck and jittery hands that kept the tying goal out of the net through repeated point-blank opportunities.

Where have you gone Danny Briere? And we don’t mean the 2013 version either. The Flyers desperately need a guy who can bank one in off the goalie, not bank one off him over the glass. They lack a bona fide, pull-the-puck-back-out-of-a-jam-and-put-it-wherever-he-wants-it-go finisher.

That guy is not Wayne Simmonds, who will get his share of effort goals like Thursday night’s, nor is it Jake Voracek, who wouldn’t be playing the point on the power play if he was as good a shooter as he is a passer. In his rookie year, Matt Read showed a touch in tight, currently looks only up-tight, so there is more there, and we’ll see what develops in Brayden Schenn, who, keep in mind never topped 32 goals in a season in junior.

But other than Giroux; 33-year-old Lecavalier, who hasn’t topped 30 goals in his last five seasons; and Scott Hartnell, who was looking more than one year removed from a 37-goal season before he got hurt, where are the proven goal scorers? And if Timonen, who has struggled in the early going, will be out for any length of time, Mark Streit becomes the Flyers only offensive defenseman standing.

Of course, for lack of firepower off the wing, the Flyers can join a large club that includes their conquerors Thursday night. Chris Kunitz, who has never broken 30 goals, is the best the Penguins have to offer Sidney Crosby.

So it is in today’s NHL. The long-lead pass to the breaking winger who has a step on the defenseman and the wherewithal to beat a goal from 30 feet out has disappeared from a game where the object necessarily has become to throw the puck at the net and hope something good happens.

That still occurs more for some guys than others, of course. Even at full strength, the Flyers will need one more.

Meanwhile, Steve Mason continues to be the team’s best player by far, not to say that’s a bad thing two decades into the Flyers’ goaltending odyssey. While it is a little early to declare Mason The Answer At Last probably it is not too soon to ponder the possibility of a sad irony: What if the Flyers finally have a goalie and have turned into a team that can’t score?

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 248 187 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 237 199 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 245 224 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 217 204 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 227 248 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 212 223 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 176 209 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 183 219 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Voracek 82 22 59 1 81
C. Giroux 81 25 48 -3 73
M. Streit 81 9 43 -8 52
W. Simmonds 75 28 22 -5 50
B. Schenn 82 18 29 -5 47
S. Couturier 82 15 22 4 37
M. Del Zotto 64 10 22 -5 32
M. Read 80 8 22 -4 30
M. Raffl 67 21 7 6 28
V. Lecavalier 57 8 12 -7 20
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
S. Mason 18 18 11 .928 2.25
R. Emery 10 11 7 .894 3.06
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