The Philadelphia Flyers have been one of the best teams in the NHL this season, and thanks to their current five-game winning streak over the past week we're moving them to the top spot. The fascinating thing about their early season success is that the recipe for winning seems to be identical to what it's been in recent seasons, even after general manager Paul Holmgren's roster overhaul this summer seemed to change the entire look and style of the team.
Three of their top-five scorers were traded or lost to free agency, a number of rookies and unproven young players came in to replace them, and after simply getting by with a revolving door of mediocrity in net, the franchise made a huge investment in goaltending by making Ilya Bryzgalov one of the highest paid players in the NHL.
And yet, it's business as usual on Broad Street.
Even without Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Ville Leino occupying the top lines, the Flyers are still the highest scoring team in the NHL (by a wide margin), which comes after they finished fifth, eighth and third over the previous three seasons.
The defense still depends largely on the presence of Chris Pronger, performing at a noticeably lower level when he is out of the lineup (as he's been for much of the season) versus when he's in it.
And the goaltending? The position with the huge financial investment and commitment? Well, even with the addition of Bryzgalov, the level of play hasn't changed much. Entering Monday the Flyers are 19th in the NHL in team save percentage. By comparison, they were 12th, 19th and 6th over the past three years.
Most of the credit has to go to emerging superstar Claude Giroux, who has taken over as the team's top offensive weapon, as well as the addition of ageless wonder Jaromir Jagr, who has shown that his three-year absence from the NHL hasn't slowed him down much at all. And let's not overlook the contributions of rookies Matt Read and Sean Couturier.
The names have changed, but the results, so far, remain the same. A lot of goals for, a lot of goals against and a team that's near the top of the Eastern Conference standings.