Sunday, December 21, 2014

10 things Flyers can be thankful for

As we celebrate one of the great American holidays today, the first place Flyers have a lot to be thankful for on Thanksgiving – even though many of the Canadians on the roster already gave thanks on Oct. 11 with the rest of Canada.

10 things Flyers can be thankful for

Peter Laviolette (center) and Claude Giroux (bottom right) have been key to the Flyers´ success. (Yong Kim/Staff file photo)
Peter Laviolette (center) and Claude Giroux (bottom right) have been key to the Flyers' success. (Yong Kim/Staff file photo)

As we celebrate one of the great American holidays today, the first place Flyers have a lot to be thankful for on Thanksgiving – even though many of the Canadians on the roster already gave thanks on Oct. 11 with the rest of Canada.

As Jody Shelley, a Canadian who celebrates Thanksgiving with his Ohio-born wife, said on Tuesday: “Us Canadians have it backwards, October is too early to get into the holiday season.”

Here are 10 things the Flyers can be thankful for this Thanksgiving:

1. CLAUDE GIROUX: Giroux’s emergence as the team’s pre-eminent playmaker has made the Flyers one of the most dynamic offenses in the NHL. Giroux is in the Top 10 in the NHL in goals scored, despite being left off the All-Star ballot. Giroux has played consistently with the brilliance he showed in each of the last playoff runs.

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2. SERGEI BOBROVSKY: While Brian Boucher has been solid in net, it’s hard to tell where the Flyers would be right now without Sergei Bobrovsky’s stunning rise to the top of the depth chart in the first 23 games without Michael Leighton. According to Flyers goalie coach Jeff Reese, Bobrovsky is a different goaltender than when he first arrived in Philadelphia – from Russia with glove – in July.

3. PETER LAVIOLETTE: The impact of the Flyers’ head coach on his team’s persona is undeniable. He has molded the team into a consistent group that has played with intensity and fire more often than not – something that has been missing over the past few seasons. He knows when to push buttons, as evidenced with James van Riemsdyk and Nik Zherdev’s benching, and knows when and when not to say something to his players.

4. PAUL HOLMGREN: The Flyers’ general manager has put the team in a position to win for years to come. He inked Giroux and Jeff Carter to contract extensions early in the season for agreeable cap hits, putting aside any of the drama that comes with expiring contracts near the trade deadline. The depth that Holmgren acquired in the offseason has not only cut down on taxing ice time for some of the Flyers’ best players but also allows the team to attack in waves.

5. NEW JERSEY DEVILS: Having a significantly weaker New Jersey Devils in the Atlantic division, just one year after they won it for the sixth time this decade, changes the outlook for the Flyers – who were 5-1 against NJ last season. Now, the Islanders aren’t the only team in the division that the Flyers should stomp on for a majority of the points in the season series. It’s also one less team to compete against in the standings – with the Penguins and Rangers still vying for the title. The Flyers haven’t won the Atlantic since 2003-04.

6. VILLE LEINO: Leino has made the Flyers’ second line with Scott Hartnell and Danny Briere click. He is not only willing to dig out pucks for his linemates, but he also seems to know where they are on the ice at all times. With almost a point-per-game this season, Leino has proven that his 21 points in 19 playoff games last year were no fluke.

7. BRIAN BOUCHER: While some fans may not agree, Boucher has been the glue that has kept the Flyers’ goaltending unit together. Having gone more than 3 months last season without a start, Boucher is able to come off the bench on a moment’s notice and play solid hockey. He is a valued member in the Flyers’ locker room and has been very supportive of Bobrovsky’s meteoric rise through the ranks. He knows what it takes – mentally and physically – to compete at the game’s top level on a consistent basis.

8. KIMMO TIMONEN: Very quietly, as usual, Kimmo Timonen has strung together some of his best games over the last few weeks. With Chris Pronger maybe a step slower this year still recovering from offseason knee surgery, Timonen has picked up the slack for the Flyers’ blue line corps. He also added 11 points in a span of 10 games after starting without a single point in his first 8 games.

9. ANDREAS NODL: Nodl, still just 23, has been one of the Flyers’ biggest pleasant surprises this season behind Bobrovsky. After picking up just 5 points in his first 48 career games, Nodl has 5 goals and 3 assists in his first 14 games this season. He has also missed a few games as a healthy scratch, a separated shoulder and a bruised big toe. Nothing has been able to slow him down.

10. DARROLL POWE: Powe’s speed and hockey sense have made him one of the Flyers’ most underrated players. With the Flyers missing one of their top penalty killers in Ian Laperriere, Powe has seamlessly stepped onto the top unit with Blair Betts. Not known as a scorer, Powe also has 3 goals and 5 assists – just one goal short of Ilya Kovalchuk’s total for the Devils.

HONORABLE MENTION: Health. After Pronger, Timonen, Matt Carle and Braydon Coburn missed just a combined 4 man games due to injuries last year, the Flyers overall have remained pretty healthy. Dan Carcillo and Andreas Nodl has sustained minor bumps, Michael Leighton's herniated disc didn't upset the apple cart and Matt Walker may not have cracked the opening-night lineup anyways.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all. Thank you for making this one of the most well-read Flyers blogs on the internet.

For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter at http://twitter.com/DNFlyers.

About this blog
Frequent Flyers is your home for news and analysis of all things orange and black. Reach Frank at seravaf@phillynews.com.

Frank Seravalli Daily News Staff Writer
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