Orange & Black Breakdown
by Marc Siciliano on 03/20/12 at 08:14 PM ET
Flying high after a come-from-behind victory over the surging rival Penguins that ended their league-high winning streak, the Flyers will be facing a relatively hot Panthers team this evening with hopes of playing the role of streak-busters again. Florida has won four-straight, it’s longest such streak in almost four years of hockey, and is also riding hot goaltending as they cruise towards a Southeast Division title without much competition. Regardless of their play as of late, the Panthers have looked liked like last years edition when facing the Flyers this year. Philly has completely ignored their rise in the standings on the way to three relatively convincing wins this season.
The Flyers are going for the season sweep here, and they’ll be doing it with what sounds like some additional firepower in the lineup. WIth 17 of a possible 20 points so far in March, what will it take to keep the Flyers in the win column?
More after the jump
The Flyers need to bother Theodore - just not that much.
All eyes will likely be on the goaltenders tonight. Bryz was named the NHL’s first star of the week for the second time in a row, and Theodore has allowed only seven goals in his last 5 starts. However, I will be paying particular attention to the back end.
I was raving over Gustafsson’s play yesterday only to see him benched in favor of Lilja tonight. Once again a Laviolette coaching move befuddles me, because I thought for sure Gus had did what he needed to do to hang around in the lineup with the big club. With the long term loss of Meszaros to back surgery - a huge blow to the back end depth - the Flyers could benefit from the type of speed that Gus has when paired with Kubina, at least in my opinion. Instead, the 3rd pair looks to be lacking some speed that could leave them vulnerable to quick end-to-end attacks or fluid cycling in the defensive zone.
In an absolute best case scenario for Lilja, he will give you a 5th-6th defensive pairing effort with minimal mistakes, but performances like that have been few and far between for the rear guard. In Gustafsson’s case, a best case scenario is one with a much higher ceiling, as evident by his 20+ minutes of ice time versus easily the deepest offense in the league in the Penguins. With more consistant playing time in the NHL, it’s obvious that Gus is capable is holding down a spot and then some - so why not opt for the player with the higher ceiling who might have growing pains as opposed to the player with no ceiling and nothing but inevitable pain looming? At the very least, it seems like a fair question for Gus and those who think he should be playing to ask…
As far as the offense goes, they should be looking to score first at almost all costs. Lately this team has not only handled leads well the few times they’ve had them, but it has also managed to muster just enough offense to overcome their lack of time spent with the lead. If they can manage to get on the board first and early, it would do wonders in allowing the offense to worry more about establishing it’s board presence and fore-check instead of trying to find a pretty way to score. Getting dirty early would be a great reminder of what type of play will bring you success in the playoffs, and will also allow the team to build confidence while holding the lead and get used to handling themselves in a more defensive disposition.
When they were finally able to find the back of the net versus Pittsburgh, it all started with shots from the point. The Flyers need to keep those going, and they also need to make those shots fruitful by gathering the rebounds and depositing them into Goal Line National Savings Bank (member FDIC). I’ve said it time and time again, but simplifying their game will force their opponents to adjust if it is successful enough, and once that happens there will be ample space to make the pretty, cross-ice passes the Flyers seem so hell-bent on making every game that always get picked off.
Welcome back, ya big righty.
Luckily for the Flyers, Kubina and Talbot are expected to return to the lineup tonight. It will be interesting to see how much this changes them, particularly with the addition of Talbot. He doesn’t bring much to the table in terms of skill, but his ability to keep his legs moving and consistent work ethic made him sorely missed versus Pittsburgh this weekend. Kubina should also be a very welcome presence on the blue line; his shot blocking and size will be even more heavily relied on with the loss of Meszaros long-term.
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About Orange & Black Breakdown
The Orange & Black Breakdown looks to be the ultimate, around the clock source for news and information on the Philadelphia Flyers organization and it’s ever-present quest for the Stanley Cup. Focusing on what the team can do to achieve success is the ultimate goal.
The OBB is written and maintained by myself - Marc Siciliano. I’m a college graduate and media production professional in the sports industry with credits on projects like Hard Knocks: Bengals and 24/7 Penguins vs. Capitals: Road to the Winter Classic. A man of many hobbies, I always seem to find a way to spend a disproportionate amount of my daily routine with two things: Flyers hockey and social media (much to the dismay of my hockey impartial friends on twitter).
So what does this mean for you? The plan is to combine these
time-wasting habits passions with my love for writing to provide you with complete coverage of the Flyers from both my head and around the web, 24/7.
This is my second writing stint focusing on the Flyers, but for a much larger audience - so do be gentle. Different perspectives and opinions on the organization are welcome and encouraged. Just because I see it one way doesn’t mean I’m beyond seeing it your way as well, so speak up!
I’m always interested in interacting with readers, so find me on twitter (@marcs797) or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let’s talk hockey.
Thanks for reading; Lets go Flyers!