Just about two months ago, the Philadelphia Flyers’ season was looking bleak, with a pitiful 1-7-0 record, the worst start in team history. Now the Flyers are just two points out of a playoff position and just two wins shy of breaking a .500 record. Just over a quarter of the way through the season and the Flyers and the fans have gone through waves of emotions.
Starting the season 0-3-0 for the second season in a row did not bode well for anyone, especially for head coach Peter Laviollette and assistant coach Kevin McCarthy as both were fired the day after their third loss of the season. Their departure ushered in the era of Craig Berube who won his first game as head coach and then lost the next four.
Probably the turning point, and one of the more controversial things that happened this season, was the Flyers – Capitals line brawl. Down 7-0, emotions and frustration started to flow over. As Wayne Simmonds engaged in a fight, Flyers goalie Ray Emery skated the length of the ice to engage Washington Capitals’ goalie Brayden Holtby in a fight. Holtby however had no interest in fighting. Emery was quoted after the game as saying, from CSNPhilly.com, “He didn’t want to fight, and I basically said “Protect yourself.” as he proceeded to beat the tar out of Holtby.
You could also argue the Flyers 4-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers. While the score is nothing to write home about, it was the person who scored one of those goals that who’s important. Claude Giroux, Flyers captain and two seasons removed from a 93 point season ended his 21 game goalless drought. While not leading the league in any stat, Claude has is leading the team with 18 points.
Whatever the reason for the turn around, the month of November was good to the Flyers as they managed to stabilize their record, gaining valuable points in the standings, as well as growing into Berube’s strategies. As we start the December, the Flyer are embarking upon a six game road trip. They’ll need more hard fought efforts like they displayed in Nashville in their 3-2 shootout win than their one minutes collapse in the third period in their game against the Minnesota Wild in a 2-0 loss the other night if they hope to truly turn the season around before returning to Philadelphia.
What are the reasons for their success or at least the reason they’ve had a chance at winning games? Well the most obvious reason is the goaltending they’ve been receiving. After the saga that way Ilya Bryzgalov in Philadelphia, Steve Mason, former Calder Memorial Trophy winner or simply put rookie of the year, and Ray Emery have are set up to be one of the best tandems in hockey.
The Flyers are currently sitting fifth in the NHL for goalie save percentage at .923. The best part about that number? The Flyers’ goalie tandem is the lowest paid in the league, sitting at low $3.15 million.
In addition to Ray Emery, the Flyers also signed forward Vincent Lecavalier who has been a very solid addition, currently leading the team with nine goals. Also signed was defenseman Mark Streit, who could be putting up better offensive number, his addition added some good veteran leadership to the Flyers defense which has struggled since Chris Pronger’s injury two seasons ago.
Worth mentioning is the trade the Flyers made with the Colorado Avalanche that sent Max Talbot westward for former Flyer Steve Downie. Since recovering from his injury that he received in the game against the Capitols, Downie has been a very good player for the Flyers, adding stability to a line with himself, Matt Read and Sean Couturier while getting into the dirty areas along the boards and making good defensive plays.
As we head into the winter break the Flyers’ season continues to march on. While nothing particularly stand out in the schedule in December, they’ll need to ride to momentum the built up in November. We’re just about to enter the middle portion of the season, now is the time for the Flyers to either make themselves a playoff team or be prepared to resign themselves to an early off season.