Here you go, Flyers fans … some love for your team

December, 16, 2008
12/16/08
11:08
AM ET
Who says I don't read your comments? You all want some Flyers chatter? I'll give you some Flyers chatter!

You Flyers fans who want some love are bang on about your boys. The Flyers have really gotten their act together. Here are the numbers: After an 0-3-3 start, the Flyers are 16-4-3. In their past 16 games (heading into Tuesday's tilt with the visiting Avalanche), Philly is 12-1-3. That's very nice.

Why the turnaround?

Well, they've tightened up their defense enough to allow their very potent offense to win games. In the first month or so of the season, they were too sloppy, making too many defensive mistakes, and their goaltenders (Martin Biron and Antero Niittymaki) weren't cleaning up the mess. In response to that, coach John Stevens reshuffled his defensive pairs, and, as necessary, the goalies have been more consistent.

The in-season additions of defensemen Matt Carle and Andrew Alberts added depth to the blue line. Carle, who was overexposed and thus dreadful during his brief stay in Tampa, has been helpful when healthy in Philly. During an impressive 6-3 win over the Penguins on Saturday, Carle worked alongside Braydon Coburn. The other defensive pairs were Finns Kimmo Timonen and Ossi Vaananen, and Alberts with 18-year-old rookie Luca Sbisa.

At some point, the Flyers are going to get injured defensemen Randy Jones and Ryan Parent back in uniform, too. According to CSNPhilly.com's Tim Panaccio, Jones might re-join the lineup Tuesday against Colorado. Because the club's payroll is hard against the upper limit of the salary cap, they'll have to move injured forward Daniel Briere to the long-term injury list to create the salary-cap space to activate Jones. Eventually, GM Paul Holmgren likely will have to make some kind of roster move to accommodate the cap.

Up front, the Flyers are getting a lot of production out of top forwards Simon Gagne, Mike Richard, Jeff Carter, Mike Knuble and Scott Hartnell. Gagne and Richards have been particularly dangerous, each piling up a team-leading 34 points. Carter, who was almost traded last season, stands second in the league with 21 goals.

The Flyers' offense is producing 3.41 goals per game. That's fifth in the league. When they score first, they've been nearly impossible to beat with a 13-1-4 mark under those circumstances.

The club's special teams have also been strong. Philly's power play, which is clicking at a 26.4 success rate, ranks second in the league behind Detroit. Timonen has done a nice job quarterbacking the unit, dishing out 11 power-play assists.

The penalty-killing unit hasn't been quite as good, ranking a very respectable seventh (84.5 percent), but has scored 11 short-handed goals. The speedy Gagne and the savvy Richards have netted four short-handed goals apiece.

So there it is, Flyers fans. Some love for your boys. They've earned it … and we apologize for the oversight!

E.J. Hradek

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
E.J. Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.

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