Updated Jan. 17
The conventional wisdom says the Philadelphia Flyers are a team built for the playoffs.
|Jeff Carter and captain Mike Richards (right) have helped make the Flyers the East's highest-scoring team. (Getty Images)|
Then again, that shouldn't be too much of a surprise considering the team went to the Stanley Cup Finals last spring, despite having to sneak into the playoffs on the final day of the schedule. By that time however, the Flyers were a much more cohesive unit after Peter Laviolette took over as coach in midseason and imposed a needed sense of direction. That has carried over into this season.
There were some subtle offseason changes to the back end that have paid off nicely, but the Flyers are dangerous because they can beat teams in so many ways. They have the size and strength to match up with anyone physically and the speed and offense to outgun teams as well. The Flyers offense is the East's best. Daniel Briere and Mike Richards lead an attack that already boasts eight players with double-digit goal totals.
Meanwhile, the Flyers' traditional Achilles' heel in goal has been a non-issue; rookie Sergei Bobrovsky and veteran Brian Boucher have provided solid work. The blue line is deep enough that Philadelphia has been able to withstand the loss of future Hall of Famer Chris Pronger, who underwent foot surgery Dec. 17.
Pronger is expected back after the All-Star break, but in the meantime the Flyers have gone 8-4 in his absence. Included in that is a recent stretch that saw them play nine of 10 games on the road, where they now have the league's best record.
"There's a chance you dig yourself a hole," Laviolette said after the Flyers ended the tough road stretch with a win in New York. "We didn't do that. We gained some territory."
The rankings through Sunday night's games: