The first month of play for the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2009-2010 season ended exactly how it began: with a win over the Carolina Hurricanes. On Friday, October 2nd, the Flyers came in to the RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina and blanked the home-standing Hurricanes, 2-0 behind Ray Emery’s first shutout as a Flyer. Yesterday, the Flyers rode a fight filled Halloween-day contest to a 6-1 decision over those same Hurricanes, with Ray Emery making 30+ saves in the victory. However, in a month that began and ended with a win, the games that fell in between cast a cloud over the Flyers’ overall performance during the season’s first 30 days of play.
Just to refresh: after 11 games in 2009, the Flyers are a sub-par 6-4-1, good for 13 points. The Flyers are currently 4th place in the Atlantic Division, with only the New York Islanders behind the Orange and Black. Overall in the Eastern Conference, the Flyers are holding on to the 8th and final playoff spot, something that at this point means a first round playoff date with the defending Champion Pittsburgh Penguins. So, what went wrong this month, and what went right? Who shined? Who struggled? What should we look forward to in November? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.
What went right in October?
The truth? Not much. The scoring has been balanced, but it hasn’t been as high as last season. Captain Mike Richards leads the way for the Orange and Black, tallying 12 points (6 G, 6 A) in 11 games. Obviously it’s not horrible, and the Flyers do have four players (Richards, Carter, Carle, JVR) who are in the double digit point total already. However, the fact is that the Flyers offensive power was supposed to be a lot stronger. As far as the team as a whole is concerned, the main word to characterize the Flyers is “Inconsistent”. The Orange and Black have flip-flopped wins and losses far too often in the early stages of the season and need to improve upon that coming into November. Perhaps not taking every other game for granted would be a nice start.
What went wrong in October?
Too much. Most notably: injuries and defensive play. The Flyers, as has become the all too uncomfortable scenario in early season play, have been hit by the injury bug plenty of time so far this season. Currently, Simon Gagne has not one, but two hernias and his return is up in the air. Danny Briere left practice friday with a slight groin pull and missed yesterday’s contest against Carolina. Those two are the big highlights to what has been an unhealthy month for the Orange and Black. Defensively, the entire group has been a disappointment. The Flyers are -2 collectively as a unit, with Chris Pronger and Matt Carle being the only players on the positive side. With the talent that the Flyers blue-line has, it’s not acceptable to post such number as a unit.
Who shined in October?
Pretty easy answer here. Matt Carle had a tremendous October, posting 2 goals and 10 assists in 11 games, and he is currently tied with Mike Richards for the title of leading scorer on the Flyers. He’s reaped the benefits of playing alongside a future Hall of Famer in Pronger and has shined at both ends of the rink. The Flyers helped his cause tremendously when they opted to send Randy Jones down to the Phantoms (who has since been claimed off waivers by Los Angeles), because it solidified a permanent spot in the Flyers’ line-up. Carle hasn’t looked back since. Hopefully the young gun from the University of Denver can keep it going for the rest of the season. If he has a repeat of October next month, it would be wise to assume a potential All-Star selection may be in his future.
Who struggled in October?
I take personal offense to Claude Giroux’s performance in the first month of the season. I selected him as the Flyers breakout offensive player in my season preview, and thus far #28 has been anything but. In 11 games, Giroux – who was counted on to find the back of the net a plethora of times this season – has only scored once. He only has three assists. In watching him play, it’s very easy to notice that Giroux is taking himself for granted. He knows he’s talented, but he’s not playing with anything to prove like he did in the stretch run last season. If and when Giroux starts to notice that it takes work to be successful at the NHL level and not just one good playoff series, he will find his stride. Let’s just hope it’s sooner rather than later.
What should we look forward to in November?
Well, the good thing moving forward is that the Flyers have no where to go but up. After starting the season 2-0, the Flyers became very average the rest of the way. There’s a chance now for the Flyers to make the move up the standings as it is still very early in the 2009 season. If the injuries can settle down and the defense can get a grip on themselves, I think we will see the Flyers team we’ve been waiting for since Emery and Pronger came aboard this summer. Let’s hope this team can right the ship and continue upon their month-ending victory with some more success in the near future.