Flyers Faithful asked Dustin Leed from The Fourth Period and The Hockey Guys, Stephen Whyno from Philly Sports Daily, David Strehle from NHL Hot Stove, and our very own Nick D five questions about the ’11 Flyers’ season. We are very grateful that they took the time to share their opinions and predictions with us. Each day of this week, we will run the answers to one of those questions. Today’s question is:
How do the Flyers need to approach the stretch run in order to be healthy, rested, and prepared for the playoffs?
Dustin Leed: I think coming down the stretch, depending where the Flyers stand, you can start to limit Kimmo Timonen and Chris Pronger’s even strength minutes. These guys don’t need to be out there playing 25 minutes a game. The Flyers depth on defense is more than capable of taking some of their minutes and I think that is a big step in being rested and prepared for the Playoffs. Also, giving Claude Giroux and Mike Richards a bit of rest on the penalty kill could be beneficial down the line. As far as style of play, coach Peter Laviolette won’t settle for the guys giving up and taking their foot off of the gas pedal. Even if they have spots locked up in the Playoffs, he will still demand the Flyers to come to the rink every night with a seek and destroy style of play in the offensive and defensive zone.
Stephen Whyno: The Flyers need to approach this stretch like they’ve approached every stretch in the past couple months. I don’t know how Laviolette is doing it, but for the Flyers to keep winning he just needs to stick to the plan.
David Strehle: Laviolette has a great luxury in the balanced scoring that he receives from his forward lines. So this should be very helpful in not having to rely on double-shifting certain players as the team jockeys for playoff positioning in the stretch run.
While the team’s defensemen have all been very good this year, one thing that is paramount in their success is keeping Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timonen healthy heading into the postseason. The two are older (both will be 36 by playoff time) and have battled injuries. Pronger’s have been more serious in nature, undergoing offseason right knee surgery and recently returned following surgery on his right foot after suffering a broken bone blocking a shot in December. Timonen has had many nagging injuries, mostly from blocking shots. There have been many instances where he has blocked a shot and been seen struggling to get to the bench. Timonen suffered an injury to his ankle / foot area on the holiday West coast trip, but didn’t miss any time.
The team has Oskars Bartulis at the ready, and Danny Syvret and Erik Gustafsson in Adirondack in case of any injury problems, but if Pronger or Timonen miss any significant playoff time, it could adversely affect any hopes of a long postseason run.
Nick D: I think they really just need to take it one game at a time. They’ve been successful before using that approach and it’s really how they operate best. When they don’t look ahead and don’t look above and below them in the standings, they’re a really tough team to beat. Injuries and being healthy is tough, you can’t really prepare for injuries to key personnel, but I think with the team they’ve assembled and the obvious depth they have at all positions, that as long as they’re comfortable playing with each other and, perhaps more importantly, for each other, they can probably beat any team in the league over a seven game series.