After 20 Games, The Flyers Have Been A Pleasant Surprise, Despite Inconsistencies

The Philadelphia Flyers have had their ups and downs in this young NHL season.  After an offseason of major moves, most people didn’t expect them to be where they are at in the NHL standings.

After 20 games played, the Orange and Black are in second place in the Atlantic division, just two points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for first place.

One of the surprises of the year so far has been the play of rookie, Matt Read.  After making the team out of training camp, he has made the most of his time with the big club.  He has nine goals, five assists, 14 total points, and is a plus seven in 17 games played.

Another player who has stepped up this season is Claude Giroux, who is playing on the top line with Jaromir Jagr and Scott Hartnell.  Giroux was one of the reasons GM Paul Holmgren traded centers Jeff Carter and Mike Richards in the offseason.  He’s making Holmgren look like he made the smart move in trading the centers.  Giroux is tied for second in the league with 26 total points.  He has 11 goals, 15 assists and is a plus 2.

The defense has been shaky at times especially against bad teams.  In some games, the defense looks like one of the best in the league, shutting down the best teams.  In other games, they leave the opposing player wide open in front of their own goalie for the open net goal.  In two games versus the Winnipeg Jets, they have given up 15 total goals.  In three games versus the Carolina Hurricanes, they’ve only given up a total of eight goals.

Ilya Bryzgalov, the goaltender who was supposed to solve all of the Orange and Black’s problems in the crease, has been inconsistent in his play this season.  He started off the season looking like the number one goaltender the Flyers have been looking for.  Then, there was a stretch where he just couldn’t stop anything, looking like a backup not a number one goalie.  It looks as though, he’s back on track now, stopping the pucks that should be stopped and making some of the tougher saves since he’s more square to the shooter.

The offseason additions have been playing pretty good so far.  Max Talbot has been valuable on both the penalty kill and in the veteran leadership department.  He also has developed some chemistry with Voracek and Read.  Talbot had been good for the two rookies, Sean Couturier and Read, who have both spent some time killing penalties with him.

Voracek, acquired in the Columbus deal for Jeff Carter, has been playing better than he did in the beginning of the season.  He finally has steady line mates and they have developed some pretty good chemistry.  He has four points in his last five games.  Earlier in the season, it was a struggle for Voracek, but he was playing with so many different players, which makes it tough to get on any kind of roll.

Jagr has been another surprise this season.  After being out of the NHL for three years, most people expected him to not be as good as he’s been.  The chemistry between him and Giroux is something special to watch.  Jagr has six goals, 11 assists and 17 total points and is a plus seven.  It doesn’t look like he’s missed a beat, and is bring his work ethic to some of the younger kids.

Couturier, taken eighth overall in the 2011 draft with the pick acquired from Columbus in the Carter trade, hasn’t been getting much ice time lately.  He’s the fourth line center on the team.  Peter Laviolette still uses him to kill penalties since he is sound defensively and make good decisions with the puck.

Another letdown in this young season has been the offensive production of Wayne Simmonds, acquired in the Mike Richards trade to Los Angeles.  He has just two points in his last five games and is a minus one and has four goals, four assists and eight points on the season, while being a minus two.  He’s the big body that can screen the opposing goaltender while on the power play, but he can’t do his job if the Orange and Black are consistently in the penalty box.

It’s only 20 games into the season, but this team can only get better as the season goes on.  For a team which made major offseason moves, second place in their respective division is pretty good.

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