Flyers Faithful asked Stephen Whyno from Philly Sports Daily, Dustin Leed from The Fourth Period and The Hockey Guys, 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:
WIll the Flyers finish the 2011 regular season atop the NHL standings?
Dustin Leed: They’re definitely in a good spot to do it – but I don’t think they will. It’s going to come close, but ultimately I think a team from the West gets the top spot. But don’t get me wrong, if it happens, it’s definitely not a surprise.
Stephen Whyno: The Flyers will finish atop the Eastern Conference standings but fall short of the President’s Trophy, which will go to the Vancouver Canucks. They will then be grateful, as the President’s Trophy winner so rarely wins the Stanley Cup.
David Strehle: When all is said and done at the end of the 2010-11 regular season, the Flyers very well could be at the top of the NHL heap. Their balanced scoring should help in eradicating any prolonged team goal-scoring slumps; the team’s defense has played very well, even with two separate absences by Pronger; and their goaltending has been excellent. Add in the fact that Laviolette has proven to be a master tactician, and Philadelphia should definitely be considered one of the favorites to win the Presidents’ Trophy.
Not since the mid-80′s has the Flyers’ lineup been this loaded from top to bottom, and it’s no coincidence that the team is having their best regular season campaign since 1986-87. There are many similarities between the two teams, especially the fact that this year’s version fully expects a win every time it takes to the ice. The ’87 team lost to the Edmonton Oilers in a gruelling seven-game Stanley Cup Final on a return trip following a recent loss (’85). Laviolette, who got them close last year after losing a six-game series to Chicago, is capable of coaching his troops to the point of bringing the Stanley Cup back to Philadelphia for the first time since 1975.
Nick D: I think they could, but it depends more on how everyone else does than how the Flyers do. The Flyers, under Laviolette, have not gone on really long losing streaks. They have been consistent in either winning games or at least getting their points. Even when they string a few losses together, they usually get a point or two by way of getting to overtime or the shootout. There’s really no reason they couldn’t, but it’s more a question about whether or not they A) want to or B) does another team want that title more than they do?
The top of the Eastern Conference standings is really crowded right now with the Washington Capitals, the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Pittsburgh Penguins, The New York Rangers, and the Atlanta Thrashers are even in that mix. All of these teams have over 50 points and any of them are capable of taking number one honors by season’s end honestly. It could come down to matchups and who Laviolette thinks they match up best against. He’s a coach that hates to lose, but at the same time, since Pronger and Laviolette got here you hear a lot more “you play to win in June” talk, so that’s something he and the team may look at. The problem is that again, the Flyers match up pretty well against just about every team in the Eastern Conference and teams like the Lightning and the Rangers might not do as well in the playoffs, while a team like Pittsburgh is very capable of winning a seven game series against the Flyers. Offense doesn’t win in the playoffs, defense does, so with the mix that this team has, it’s hard to see that they couldn’t beat any team in the league. They have three scoring lines and two shut down pairs, with probably the steadiest third pairing in the NHL as Andrej Meszaros has been the MVP through the first half of the season.
As a fan, you have got to be excited about this team and the second half of this season. It’s been a much smoother ride this year than last year, that’s for sure.