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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 / 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 MTL 63 41 17 5 171 139 87
2 NYR 62 39 17 6 196 153 84
3 NYI 64 41 21 2 205 179 84
4 TBL 64 38 20 6 210 171 82
5 DET 61 35 15 11 180 159 81
6 PIT 62 36 17 9 181 155 81
7 WSH 64 34 20 10 188 159 78
8 BOS 62 31 22 9 165 161 71
9 FLA 63 28 22 13 154 178 69
10 PHI 63 27 25 11 168 183 65
11 OTT 60 27 23 10 171 163 64
12 NJD 63 26 27 10 141 164 62
13 CBJ 62 26 32 4 160 196 56
14 CAR 62 24 31 7 144 167 55
15 TOR 63 25 33 5 170 193 55
16 BUF 63 19 39 5 123 212 43

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Voracek 63 19 46 5 65
C. Giroux 62 18 41 2 59
W. Simmonds 63 25 18 -1 43
M. Streit 63 8 32 -4 40
B. Schenn 63 12 23 -5 35
S. Couturier 63 12 16 1 28
M. Del Zotto 51 8 17 -5 25
M. Read 63 6 18 -9 24
M. Raffl 48 14 4 6 18
V. Lecavalier 45 7 10 -8 17
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
S. Mason 12 13 7 .926 2.25
R. Emery 10 10 4 .893 3.15
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