As was the case over the course of the regular season, the Philadelphia Flyers have continued to exhibit perhaps the most balanced offensive arsenal in the entire NHL thus far during the postseason.
Through their first seven playoff contests, Philadelphia leads all teams in goals scored with 34.
Just one of three clubs (the others being the Nashville Predators and Detroit Red Wings) to employ 11 players to reach double-digit totals in goals scored during the season, the Flyers already have eight players who have tallied at least more than one goal through the first game of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
While boasting the League-leader in postseason points in Claude Giroux -- who finished third-overall behind Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and leads all playoff scorers with 15 points and is tied with teammate Danny Briere for the lead with seven goals -- Giroux and Briere certainly are not the only ones in a groove at crunch time.
Giroux (15), Briere (10), Jakub Voracek (9), and Jaromir Jagr (7) are all averaging at least a point per game in the seven outings, and each of the five victories have seen a different Flyer register the game-winning goal -- Voracek and Briere each with an overtime tally, and Jagr, Scott Hartnell, and Read with the others.
There are numerous reasons for the onslaught, and here are a few.
The Power PlayMuch of the Flyers' offensive firepower has come via the club's blistering-hot power play. Through Game 1 round two, Philadelphia has scored on 13-29 opportunities with the man advantage during the playoffs for an amazing 44.8% rate of success.
Included in that total was a scorching 12-23 (52.1%) in six games against the Penguins, who just so happened to own the third-best penalty-killing numbers in the NHL during the regular season.
They did not fare nearly as well in the first round against Philly.
The Flyers have recorded at least one power play marker in each of their seven postseason contests, led by Giroux's three (which ties him for the League lead with Stephen Weiss of the Florida Panthers and Antoine Vermette of the Phoenix Coyotes).
But the proof of a balanced output is also evident in this eye-opening power play statistic -- the 13 power play goals scored by the team have come from the sticks of 10 different Philadelphia skaters.
Some of the players were asked to describe why this was the case following their Game 6 dispatch of Pittsburgh.
“It’s five guys out there", said defenseman Kimmo Timonen. "We watch a lot of tape and we make sure we know what everybody’s doing out there, and obviously Wayne (Simmonds) and Hartsy (Hartnell) in front of the net. They’re two big guys screening the goalie, and me and G (Giroux) and Jake (Voracek), whoever has the lane, we put the puck at the net and that’s how you’re going to score goals. It’s not always pretty, like Hartsy’s goal tonight. He jumped in there and it’s one of those dirty goals, but that’s a playoff goal right there."
"We took a lot of shots from different angles," explained Briere. "I think we had two units that were going hard at it. I think the second unit has been getting better down the stretch the last few games of the regular season and again in the series. When you have two dangerous units, it's tough for teams to match up and to defend against that. When you only have 5 guys that are going and seeing the full 2 minutes that's a little easier to defend."
Of the teams that remain in the postseason dance, the New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues, and New Jersey Devils all have the most power play goals after the Flyers -- they're tied with six each.
Offense From The DefenseAfter scoring 25 goals and posting 170 points during the regular season (2.0 points per game), Philly defenders have chipped in with three goals and 18 points during the playoffs, or better than 2.5 points per game so far.
Matt Carle leads the way with a goal and five points, while Braydon Coburn has added four assists. Both Carle and Timonen have scored on the power play.
Rookie Erik Gustafsson has a goal and two points despite seeing action in just three playoff games.Every blue liner has posted at least one point, with the exception of Andreas Lilja and rookie Marc-Andre Bourdon (who was lost to the team after Game 1 against the Pens with a concussion).
The Rookies Get Offensive
Following a campaign that saw big contributions from a number of rookies, including Read's high of 24 goals for any first-year NHL player, the production of the freshmen has continued well into the postseason.
After accounting for nearly a quarter of Philadelphia's regular season goal total, rookies have notched eight goals and 16 points. Once again, they have made up almost a quarter of the 34 goals the Flyers have recorded, while providing their stellar two-way play.
Brayden Schenn has notched two goals and six points to lead all Philly rookies, while Read has two goals and four points.
Sean Couturier scored all three of his playoff goals in Game 2 of the Pittsburgh series. His hat trick was a bonus as it was netted while shutting down all-world scorer Malkin.
Gustafsson, the lone first-year defenseman left in the lineup after Bourdon's injury in the postseason's initial contest, got into the lineup when Nicklas Grossmann was lost to the team due to a concussion. The 23-year-old has played so well that even though Grossmann returned in the first game of the conference semis Sunday against the Devils, Gustafsson remained in the lineup, and veteran Pavel Kubina was sent to the press box instead.
All of the Philadelphia rookies have played well beyond their years, providing the club with a much-needed extra amount of energy that just was not present in last year's disappointing second round sweep at the hands of the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.
More Help On The Way?While the offensive exploits of the Flyers in the first seven playoff games has been impressive, there seem to be even more positives coming for the club.
Winger James van Riemsdyk, who showed dominant flashes last spring when he notched seven goals against the Buffalo Sabres and Bruins, recently returned from a broken foot. He played limited minutes in each of his first two outings -- around 14 combined minutes in Games 5 and 6 of the opening round -- but made a tremendous impact on Sunday's series-opener against New Jersey. He scored a goal and was driving the net with reckless abandon much the same way he did in last year's postseason. He was also constantly around the net, irritating Devils' goaltender Martin Brodeur to the point of the netminder giving him a few shots when van Riemsdyk was knocked down by a defenseman at the edge of the crease. But van Riemsdyk got the last laugh when he was practically sitting in Brodeur's lap to screen the goalie on Briere's overtime-winning point blast.
The addition of a healthy van Riemsdyk to an already lethal Flyer attack has to be a concern for any opponent.
Defenseman Andrej Meszaros, one of the team's more productive offensive defenders and one who possesses the biggest one-time blast of any Philadelphia blue liners, is back skating again. The rear guard has been shelved since undergoing back surgery in late-March, and we are now in the 6-8 week time frame that was originally thought to be the span he would eventually miss while recovering before his return.
The good news is that while Philly continues winning, there is no need to rush Meszaros back any time soon. This luxury means he should be much closer to 100% when he eventually does comes back.
ConclusionIt's been an amazing season of transition for the Flyers, with a huge turnover of roster spots orchestrated by GM Paul Holmgren over the summer following the quick demise in last year's East semis.
Young players that were previously untapped in their potentials -- like Simmonds and Voracek, along with a rookie like Schenn -- as well as new faces in free agents Jagr and Max Talbot, have all been given larger roles by Peter Laviolette, meshed well, and undoubtedly have brought the right chemistry to South Philly.While Giroux and Briere continue to lead the offensive charge in the postseason, there is plenty of help coming from all areas of the Flyers' roster.
And this depth can only bode well for an extended run at Lord Stanley.
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