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Meltzer - November In Review (Flyers)


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From Bill Meltzer -

OVERVIEW

Historically, the Flyers have been a strong November team. Many seasons, in fact, November has been the month of the season in which the team has posted its single best record. This year, the Flyers experienced a lot of ups and downs, playing some truly inspired hockey at times and truly horrific hockey at others.

All in all, the team's 7-3-2 record during the month was moderately satisfying when you consider the fact that Chris Pronger was limited to five games by an October eye injury and a later November illness, while the team as a whole was beset with injury-related absences.

Even so, the month also could have been a lot better. On paper, November should have been one of the team's "easiest" months of the season, with a heavy concentration of games against opponents who rank at or near the bottom of the standings. The Flyers lost consecutive games in regulation to the 13th-place (Winnipeg) and 14th-place (Carolina) teams in the Eastern Conference and fell behind the last-place New York Islanders, 3-1, before rallying late to tie the game and win in overtime.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

1) Offensive depth: Despite all the injuries in the lineup, the Flyers averaged 3.25 goals per game (39 in 12 games) in the month of November. Although the Claude Giroux line is the backbone of the attack, Philadelphia got strong support from the third line (Matt Read and Max Talbot) in particular. The team was shut out by the New York Rangers in its final game of the month, but that does not take away from a strong overall performance in the offensive zone.

2) Penalty killing: The Flyers' penalty kill dropped off in the latter part of the month but was a major roll in the early to middle portion. Overall, the PK performed at a success rate of 85.5 percent (47 for 55), raising the club from 18th in the NHL (81.5 percent) at the end of October to 13th overall (83.5 percent) now.

3) Successful southern road trip: The Flyers took 5 of 6 possible points during their three-game road swing through Tampa Bay, Sunrise and Raleigh. The club played some of its best hockey of the young season in those games. However, the single best 60 minutes of all-around hockey the team played this month came in a 2-1 home win over Dave Tippett's Phoenix Coyotes. In that game, the team matched Phoenix's renowned work ethic and also got a stellar game in goal from ex-Coyote Ilya Bryzgalov.

WHAT WENT WRONG

1) Inconsistent team defense and goaltending: Some games, the Flyers were just fine on defense and/or in goal. Other times, they were in utter disarray. The team allowed 32 goals this month (2.67 per game), which included six games in which the Flyers held opponents to one or two goals and six in which they yielded three or more (with a high of 6 goals allowed to Winnipeg). Injuries and inconsistency were both factors. Bryzgalov and Sergei Bobrovsky both had a couple stellar games and a couple forgettable ones.

2) Too many penalties: This has been a problem all year. The Flyers have had to kill more disadvantages (109) than any team in the NHL. Even when the club has been successful on the PK, there is a wear-down effect. For example, at the rate Peter Laviolette has had to assign tough minutes to Kimmo Timonen, the aging defenseman will have nothing left in the gas tank by the stretch run. The team has talked endlessly about cutting down some of the needless stick infractions and lazy restraining penalties but has not done so.

3). Power play woes: Although the Flyers were very successful putting the puck in the net at 5-on-5, the man advantage really struggled without Pronger. Things picked up a bit over a three-game stretch in the latter part of the month but the club scuffled again in the final game. Overall, the Flyers went just 7 for 54 (13.0 percent) for the month, and saw their overall rank drop from 6th in the league (22.2 percent in October) to 13th (17.6 percent) over the course of the last month.

Later today, I will update the month in review with a look at the individual performances of each of the players on the team during November.

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