Every day until the season starts we’ll explore an intriguing storyline for the upcoming year.
Yesterday, we wrote about the New York Rangers’ inability to score in the playoffs and how the addition of Rick Nash could help in that area.
Today, let’s talk about the Flyers, a team that had the opposite problem to the Rangers’ in the postseason. Philadelphia had no problem scoring, but it surrendered 44 goals in its 11 playoff games, an average of four per game.
Two major factors have been cited in the Flyers’ inability to keep the puck out of their net.
First is goaltending.
Ilya Bryzgalov was signed last summer to be the savior. However, he ended up more sieve than savior. The eccentric 32-year-old was wildly inconsistent during the regular season and finished the playoffs with a .887 save percentage.
General manager Paul Holmgren has denied rumors that he’s interested in Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo, but there are those who believe Holmgren should be interested. As it stands, the Flyers’ net-minding tandem includes Bryzgalov and Michael Leighton, the latter of which spent last season in the AHL.
The second factor is injuries to defensemen Chris Pronger and Andrej Meszaros.
Said Flyers owner Ed Snider after his team was eliminated: “I honestly think if Pronger and Meszaros had been healthy in the playoffs, we would have won the whole thing. I don’t like to cry about injuries, but you just can’t lose a Pronger and replace him.”
Snider’s right about that last part. Unfortunately, it appears unlikely Pronger will be able to resume his career due to post-concussion syndrome.
The Flyers did their best to try and fill their Pronger-sized hole, signing Nashville defensive Shea Weber to a massive — some would call it predatory (no pun intended) – offer sheet. However, the Predators ultimately decided to match.
The only real notable addition general manager Paul Holmgren made to his blue line comes in the form of Luke Schenn, acquired from Toronto after a nightmare season with the Leafs. There’s hope the 23-year-old can rediscover his confidence with a change of scenery, but for now it’s only hope.
The fact Kimmo Timonen will turn 38 in March is another reason for concern. Last season, his average ice time fell to 21:14 from 22:28 in 2010-11. And after undergoing back surgery in May, he’s been wondering how his body will hold up during a 48-game sprint to the playoffs.
Holmgren, at least publicly, isn’t worried about what’s being said about his defense.
“Kimmo’s a good player,” Holmgren said on Monday. “[Braydon] Coburn’s a good player. [Nicklas] Grossmann’s a good player. I think Luke Schenn is a good player. I think he’s going to be a real good fit on our team.
“I don’t particularly get into reading what other people say, but I like our defense.”