New-look Flyers found form
Voorhees, N.J. — The last image a player sees while exiting the dressing room at the Philadelphia Flyers' practice facility are these words painted on the wall above a doorway:
“We Supply Everything But Guts”
Everything is different this season for these Flyers, who experienced a gut-check moment early by losing captain and top defenseman Chris Pronger (concussion).
In addition to the two-way play on the back end that will one day earn Pronger a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame, the Flyers were counting on leadership from him because they began the season with seven new forwards, including three rookies.
Also, there was another new goalie, a crop of acquired wingers and the departures of top centers Mike Richards and Jeff Cafter.
Subtract 340 man-games lost to injury, 100 more than last season, and deadline-period deals for two defensemen, and a month spent with HBO cameras for the “24/7 Winter Classic” series, and …
“There's a lot of little things that came together,” center Danny Briere said Monday after he rejoined the Flyers at practice for the first time since his back was injured by a hit from Penguins center Joe Vitale on April 1.
“It's not something that happened overnight.”
Trade-acquisition winger Wayne Simmonds recalled a home loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Oct. 27 as just one example of a learning moment for the Flyers, who dropped a 9-8 decision that evening.
That loss to the Jets marked the fourth of 10 games to open the season in which the Flyers surrendered at least four goals in regulation. They allowed at least four goals in only five of 20 games to close the season, one of those a meaningless finale against the Penguins at Consol Energy Center last Saturday.
Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, viewed as flaky for his unusual comments on “24/7,” played a pivotal role in his club's strong finish. He was the NHL's player of the month in March after losing only two games in 13 starts.
With him seemingly settled, the Flyers begin the playoffs without their battle-tested captain, but with first-year players that do not look like rookies (Sean Coutuier, Matt Read and Zac Rinaldo) and former castoffs (Jakub Voracek and Max Talbot),
Perhaps most important, Talbot said, these Flyers can count on a dominant No. 1 line – as they did often during the season.
Wingers Jaromir Jagr and Scott Hartnell combined for 56 goals as they flanked center Claude Giroux, who finished third in the NHL with 93 points.
Giroux said yesterday he would feel like a “go-to guy” for the first time this postseason
“At the beginning of the year (Jagr) called him ‘Little Mario Lemieux,'” Talbot said.
Giroux is now tasked with leading his revamped Flyers past the team Lemieux owns.
Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-380-5635.