Cautious Optimism, A Philadelphia Flyers Tale >
 
 

by Nick Arnold


Monday, October 28th, 2013 --



The Flyers are 3-7-0 in their first ten games of the 2013-14 campaign. At 6 points they are tied for second-to-last in the league. The only team with fewer goals scored thus far is the New York Rangers. And not surprisingly, the reason behind all of this has been our squad's inability to string together three straight periods of consistent hockey. One huge example is the game against the hated Pittsburgh Penguins in which the Flyers were outshot 17 to 5 in the 2nd stanza.


The offense has been all over the place, from flashes of brilliance to moments that made some of us consider thrusting sharp objects into our temporal lobes. Let's face it: there's only so many times I can shout "shoot the God damn puck you caveman-looking piss brick!" at my TV while watching Voracek turn the puck over in the offensive zone. The amount of cute plays our boys have tried instead of putting the puck on net has been frustrating.


While still having its flaws, the defense has surprised me thus far. One player who has stood out most to me is Erik Gustafsson. The kid just gets better every game. He looks more comfortable handling the puck in his own zone and setting up the breakout up the ice, and his cycling in the offensive zone has improved. In 5 games Gus has 1 goal and 2 assists.


Sure, there are still tiny mistakes being made, such as Coburn turning the puck over right in front of our net with some scrub named Sidney Crosby waiting to tap it home in a 2-1 game. And not to single Coburn out, but on top of that assist he DOES also have a goal against Mason too technically.


My main issue with Coburn, honestly, is that when he's good, he's good. It's not really super noticeable because he's not the breakout superstar defenseman that quarterbacks an offensive play. But he quietly does his job as a defensive defenseman and people underestimate him at times. It's also worth mentioning that he has 2 game-winning goals so far this season.


The problem is, he's most noticeable when he's NOT good: making errant passes that end in chances against us, failing to keep the puck in the offensive zone, etc. it's fair to say it isn't all on him with the rest of his team being inconsistent around him at times, but at 4.5 million per year through 2016, these are plays our longest tenured Flyer cannot be making.


I know, I know. None of this is really news, and it's all very negative. But let's take those same 10 games and slip on our optimism hats, because things could finally be looking up 1/8th of the way through the year.



The Flyers have won their last two games, both against division rivals. Say what you want about the Rangers having a rough season too, but you know as well as I do that any given night any team can begin to right the ship with an explosive game, and this goes double when facing a hated rival. We also know that as Philly sports fans, it usually happens more often than not against our teams: "So-and-so hasn't scored a goal in 104 games, but has a hat trick tonight against the Flyers!"


Now, the Rangers didn't have King Henrik in goal, but that doesn't mean the Flyers should have had an easy night offensively. Cam Talbot - starting in his 1st NHL game - came up big at times, robbing shots that could very well have lit the lamp. It wasn't a pretty game, and parts of it dragged a bit, but the team started looking more like a unit for a change rather than individuals who happen to be wearing the same color sweater. Vinny was put on the 1st line after coming back from an injury that sidelined him for a few games, and I have to say he looked pretty good with Giroux and Raffl. While they failed to score more than 2 goals once again, they got the win and we all sighed with relief as the final seconds ticked down.


The Islanders (4-3-3 before Saturday's game) looked to be a much tougher opponent. Their offense has put up twice the goals that the Rangers' has, but we have a not-so-secret weapon, and his name is Stone Cold Steve Mason. 


Mason made 26 saves on 28 shots to solidify the Flyers win over another division rival, putting him at a .930 SV% and 2.15 GAA for the season with a 3-5-0 record. In my opinion, Mason has been the only consistently excellent player on the team. Going back to the Penguins game, the 2nd period could have easily ended 6-1 rather than 2-1. We finally have a goalie who can steal games for us.


But wait. Mason gave up TWO goals against the Islanders. How could we have won?




That's right, baby. The Flyers scored four goals on Poulin, with Matt Read adding an empty netter for the 5-2 win. And wouldn't you know it, the first line clicked. Vinny scored three goals to complete his first hat trick since 2008. Giroux assisted on two of those goals, and Raffl assisted on the other for his first NHL point. Voracek lit his first lamp of the season in a brilliant flash, and eleven different Flyers made the score sheet.


Does this mean we are finally where we want to be? It's smooth sailing from here? Far from it. But as fans we can finally be (cautiously) optimistic about our offensive production. If the Flyers stick to their guns and continue on the path that led them to Saturday's victory, they could turn their season around. Tuesday night is Teemu Selanne's last game in Philadelphia as the Ducks (9-3) fly in to the Well hoping to continue their winning ways. What better way to test the resolve and fortitude of our boys in Orange and Black? Tuesday's tilt is going to be huge. Here's to cautious optimism.



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