Goaltending is on trial again in the city of Brotherly Love.
It’s hard to believe that two seasons ago the Flyers backup would be winning the Vezina trophy in 2013. But that is exactly what happened with Sergei Bobrovsky. A team that is constantly on the search for a #1 does not seem to take a break. This season they approached Ray Emery who made a comeback playing in Chicago and even got Steve Mason from Columbus.
Finishing 9th in goals/game last season the Flyers can expect their offense to provide the same kind of production this season. They added cup winner and amnesty buy-out casualty Vincent Lecavalier. At 33 years old he is entering the twilight years of his career but even though he missed games due to a foot injury last season, he still managed to post 32pts in 39 games. Reprising his role of #2 center, he should create scoring chances for power forwards Wayne Simmonds and Scott Hartnell. Both can produce playing with a big center like Lecavalier, and having that 1-2 punch of heavy hitting /scoring will bring back memories of the Broadstreet Bullies. Although off-season news came out that Captain Claude Giroux suffered a hand injury, he is not likely to miss any regular season action. Even if the injury forces a slow start Giroux has the capability to pick up the slack. Having Jakub Voracek on his wing last season was one of the bright spots last season for Flyers fans. Giroux managed to assist the winger in his 22 goal campaign, a career best. At age 24 the Flyers have reason to believe that there are plenty of productive years ahead for the Czech winger.
The Flyers will wear you down with all line combinations. This created a problem last season when they finished as one of the league’s most penalized teams. Regardless the level of talent, if a team constantly plays shorthanded; its chances to win are limited.
While many used Ilya Bryzgalov as a scapegoat to account for the club’s woes last season, the blueline was also decimated by injuries. Over and above the absence of Chris Pronger, they also lost Braydon Coburn and Andrej Meszaros, both of whom, aged 27-28 respectively, were entering their physical primes. Elsewhere, Luke Schenn’s first season as a Flyer had him finish in the league best shot blockers and hitters for defensemen. He also finished as one of the few Flyer defensemen in the “+” column (+3). Bringing in Mark Streit while having Kimmo Timonen may seem a horizontal signing, if one considers proven strength on the powerplay and effective goal scoring. It does however assure the presence of a strong puck mover barring injury. This move may end up being more consequential at trade deadline if the Flyers are financially strapped re the cap ceiling.
Ray Emery joined the Flyers to solidify their goaltending. This was the storyline in 2009, and is the repeated storyline in 2013. Coming off a 17 win season with a 1.94GAA and a .922sv% as the backup to a cup winning Chicago team, he openly stated his desire to become a #1 goalie. Once again that opportunity will be given in Philadelphia. Should this fail, the Flyers have the last season acquisition Steve Mason from the Blue Jackets as a backup? In a few games last season, Mason showed promise with 4 wins and a .944 save%. However, his career numbers fail to provide any high degree of confidence to the Flyer faithful for the longer stretch.