Flyers off to unexpected start
Published: Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 10:02
After reaching the Eastern Conference semi-finals in the prior season, the Philadelphia Flyers hoped for a strong start in this condensed season.
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren traded 2007 second overall pick James Van Riemsdyk to the Toronto Maple Leafs for defenseman Luke Schenn in the offseason. Holmgren hoped to bolster the blue line because of Chris Pronger’s extended absence.
Unfortunately, for Flyers fans, the team started the season flat and now resides in last place of the Atlantic Division.
Philadelphia opened the lockout-shortened season on home ice at the Wells Fargo Center against cross-state rival the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Flyers center Claude Giroux scored the only goal in the game as Pittsburgh picked up the 3-1 victory.
Head Coach Peter Laviolette’s squad dropped the next two contests against Buffalo and New Jersey, but picked up their first win against the New York Rangers.
During that stretch, Philadelphia lost a scoring and physical presence in Scott Hartnell.
The much-maligned forward broke his first metatarsal in his left foot during the second period of the Flyer’s 3-0 loss at New Jersey.
Hartnell registered 37 goals and 30 assists in the 2011-2012 season. He played regularly on a
line with Giroux and Jaromir Jagr.
With Jagr in Dallas, the pressure to maintain that same level of production weighs heavy on the Flyers.
Statistically, Philadelphia scores only 2.33 points per game, which is near the bottom of the National Hockey League.
The Flyers moved on with Hartnell and signed veteran forward Mike Knuble to a contract days later.
Knuble, a 40-year-old right winger, previously played for Philadelphia for four seasons.
He registered one assist in his first game with the team against the Florida Panthers, a game that Philadelphia won 7-1 and extended their winning streak to two games.
Since the victory in Sunrise, Fla., the Flyers have earned a record of 1-3, which the most recent victory coming on Feb. 2 against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Perhaps the biggest factor if the Flyers want to turn their season around is the play of goalie Ilya Bryzgalov.
Bryzgalov signed a nine-year contract in 2011 and so far has not lived up to the $51 million the Flyers pay him.