What is four out of five? Four is the place the Flyers sit at, out of the Top 5 teams in the Eastern Conference. Four out of the last five Flyer injuries were “head” injuries. Finally, four out of five represents the current Flyers five game span, four losses. (Before Pittsburgh Game)
Many fans have some concern and are asking questions. Is our defense missing Pronger and do we need to make a trade for an upgrade? Is Ilya Bryzgalov the goalie we asked for when he signed the 9 year, 50+ million dollar contract? Where is the JVR from last years’ playoffs? All valid questions and a lot of fans who have posted on several message boards are worried and upset. Also for a lot of those forum posters who are quick to post before they think, I’ll walk you through some of the issues and why we shouldn’t be too concerned. Over the next three days we’ll cover these topics. Today we’ll look at the Defense.
I’m always concerned about the Flyers defense with or without Pronger. The Flyers have some serious depth at defense which include; Erik Gustafsson, Marc-Andre Burdon, and Kevin Marshall. All of these players have shown they can carry their own in the NHL. I actually think Burdon and Marshall are better than some of our veteran players.
If you break it down, Kimmo Timmonen has carried much of the load. He’s a warrior, who spends his off days working on his conditioning and prepping for the next game. His defensive-mind is much like Pronger’s and is a huge team leader both on and off the ice. He is our number one without Pronger. Then there is Matt Carle, who’s been Pronger’s partner. He plays really well and seems to be getting more mature on the blue line, game in and game out. The mistakes that he used to make are becoming more of ancient history. The Flyers will need him to continue this type of play to continue their success. Andrej Meszaros has finally come out of his early season funk and is looking like the Defenseman we saw last season. I’d currently rank him 2nd next to Timmonen on the squad. He’s been playing the puck well, creating turnovers and he like to carry the puck and create chances.
The defensemen who scare me are Andreas Lijia and Brayden Coburn. Coburn, shows flashes of greatness from time to time. His skate speed is his biggest asset. He also can clear the porch if the opportunity arises. However he is constantly turning over the puck in his own zone and several times it has led to goals. He’ll also take his eye off his man in the zone and cover someone else’s man, leaving him open in front of the goalie. That all can’t be blamed on him however, it is a lapse in communication. Whether it’s on his part or a teammates’ your communication needs to be established when you’re defending your zone. Bryzgalov threw his D-men under the bus earlier this season, claiming they had a communication problem. (This came after Bryzgalov played the puck to Coburn, but Coburn didn’t take it, thus leading to a goal.) Coburn is a streaky defenseman, who can play very well, but can cost you a goal.
Lijia has been a downgrade from Sean O’Donnell who signed with Chicago during the offseason. Lijia lacks speed and his defensive sense is more on an AHL Level. During his injury, his presence wasn’t missed at all, and since his return, he has struggled as the sixth defenseman. I wouldn’t be surprised one, Gustafsson returns from injury, we’ll see him scratch in favor of Burdon or maybe even Marshall if he is called back up. For now, both Lijia and Coburn need to find their strengths and ride them. The coaching staff also needs to point out their weaknesses and help them develop. The great thing about a professional hockey player is that they never stop developing until they hang their skates up. Every game is a learning opportunity.
With the Flyers depth at Defense and playing well, minus the little spurt they’ve had over the last five games, I don’t see them making a move. Most Flyer fans have been calling for a trade that would bring in Shea Webber. I don’t see that happening for several reasons. Reason one, being he’s out with a concussion. Before his injury I still didn’t see him being moved. For one, he has one season left on his contract. The Flyers would also have to move major salary in order to get him on the roster. I don’t see the Flyers moving a core player for a rental player. With Pronger coming back next year, Weber would not sign in the offseason. I can’t see that helping the team, even short term. I also don’t see them trading for anyone, personally. The Flyers have played very well without Pronger and with the defensive depth I think they’ll be just fine. Each team is going to have their droughts and I’m comfortable with them having it at Christmas, rather than April.
Tomorrow we’ll look at Bryzgalov and is he really to blame for the Flyers’ current sinking streak? Look for tomorrow’s blog.
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