The Flyers can---and will---score goals. The question is, can they keep the puck out of their own net? The answer to that question may go a long way in determining whether or not Philly returns to the playoffs in the spring of 2014 after finishing six points out of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot a year ago.
Philly’s 133 goals scored last season was a respectable seventh best in the East and ninth best in the entire NHL. However the Flyers had the eighth-worst goals against in the league, and they ended up surrendering eight more goals than they scored. It’s no wonder then that Ilya Bryzgalov was jettisoned out of Philadelphia, a summer compliance buyout in his back pocket.
But this has been a long-running question in Philly. Who will stop the puck? This year that job falls on the twosome of Ray Emery---coming off a phenomenal season in Chicago---and Steve Mason---a late season acquisition from Columbus last March. A rotation of sorts can be expected, unless one or the other seizes control of the No. 1 job.
The Flyers signed defenseman Mark Streit, in part, to aid whoever tends net this season and shore up the team’s defense. But Streit’s biggest asset is that he is a slick playmaker and a solid power play quarterback. He and Kimmo Timonen provide the Flyers a nice pair of QBs on the power play, but will Philly have enough support in their own zone to cut down on that ugly goals against of a year ago? Injured All Star Chris Pronger is not riding in on the white horse to save this group, so Luke Schenn, Nicklas Grossman, Braydon Coburn and Bruno Gervais have to raise their level of play significantly.
Claude Giroux, a point per game player last season, is in the prime of his career at age 25, and Jakub Voracek---among the league leaders with 22 goals last season---has come into his own after arriving from Columbus. Add to the mix the multi-faceted game of Wayne Simmonds, the maturing of third-year pro Sean Couturier, the return to form and health of Scott Hartnell, and the addition of one of the league’s most skilled players in Vincent Lecavalier, and it is easy to see why the Flyers group of forwards is one to respect and, at times, fear.