Better With Popcorn

Flyers Look Like Contenders


Don’t look now, but the Philadelphia Flyers are a contender.

It didn’t seem possible when the team blew itself up in the offseason to take on young players. It really didn’t seem possible when Chris Pronger went down for the season. It didn’t seem possible when Ilya Bryzgalov kept hemorrhaging goals.

Things have changed.

Through the course of the season the plan that seemed like madness now seems like perfect sanity.

With young players stepping up and filling roles, the Flyers have been balanced and outstanding offensively.

In fact, the top concern for followers of the franchise offensively is Daniel Briere, one of the best playoff performers in the NHL.

Bryzgalov is so hot it seems like the crease ought to melt around him. Monday, he was named the NHL first star for the second consecutive week.

The defense without Pronger? Well, it’s still a defense without Pronger. However, the additions of Nicklas Grossmann and Pavel Kubina have helped strengthen the blue line. With Andrej Meszaros out due to a back injury, the additions are even more important.

Let’s not forget the addition of Bryzgalov to the defense. It has certainly changed things around.

It didn’t seem like too long ago that many were certain no one would beat Boston come playoff time. Now, the Bruins needed a shootout to beat Philadelphia in Boston Saturday and sit five points behind them in the standings.

Also, just a second ago it seemed like the Rangers were going to skate away and hide from the rest of the Atlantic Division. They were hot and getting hotter.

Now, they sit five points ahead of the Flyers and just three points ahead of Pittsburgh.

Don’t forget about Pittsburgh. The Penguins welcomed Sidney Crosby back to a lineup that already contains Hart Trophy shoe-in Evgeni Malkin. The Penguins are talented, experienced, and tough. They’ve hoisted the cup before and have had the Flyers number in the playoffs recently.

But the Flyers beat them Sunday in overtime with Crosby and ended their 11-game win streak.

It’s not to be taken lightly; the three powers in the Eastern Conference are good on both sides of the puck and in the net.

The recent performances Philadelphia have turned in make it look like they stand more than a puncher’s chance against Boston, New York, and Pittsburgh.

For the first time, the Flyers look like they have some goaltending to go along with the defensive depth and high-scoring totals.

Flyers fans can take a shallow exhale and realize that their team can compete when the puck drops in the playoffs. They can compete in the first round, and they can compete for more than a couple of weeks.

If that had been the predicted future at season’s start, few would have believed it. With ten games remaining in the season, it looks like the new-look Flyers are contenders in the East.

With a young roster, bizarre goalie, and a hall of fame defenseman out for the year, that’s not too bad.

Look at them now.




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