Flyers Faithful asked Travis Hughes from SB Nation and Broad Street Hockey, Matt P. From The 700 Level, Mark Trible from The Checking Line and our very own Pavialax five questions about the playoffs. 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:
Travis Hughes: I think it’s a legitimate concern, but again, this is the time of year where the depth on defense really shines. Just look at the last few games with Pronger out of the lineup, for example (note: not sure when this is running on the site, so hopefully this point isn’t totally moot by then). Coburn and Meszaros have stepped up and have really forced their way into a role that would be the No. 1 role on a lot of teams. I’m a little concerned about Kimmo, but he knows how to play through pain better than anybody, and Pronger always steps up in the playoffs. I think the two injuries this year are a blessing in disguise in that regard for him — most rest = more juice in the playoffs.
Matt P: The silver lining in the latest injury to Pronger is that he should be pretty well rested come playoff time, likely even getting back on the ice for the last couple of regular season games to get his legs back. His injury isn’t age-related or due to wear and tear, and Pronger has shown no signs of his age this season. No worries here at all. Last postseason, he and Kimmo Timonen saw a ton of minutes, as did Matt Carle and Braydon Coburn to a lesser degree, but that was due to not having a solid enough third pairing.
This season, Andrej Meszaros has been very good, and he’s currently chewing up a ton of minutes while Pronger is out. Those five guys will all see a lot of work, lessening the burden on Pronger and Kimmo and hopefully keeping them fresher for a deep run. O’Donnell won’t see as much time, but he’s still better than last season’s sixth defensemen.
Mark Trible: I’m not so sure that Sean O’Donnell hasn’t already run out of gas. And, if he has indeed run out of gas, it’s a significant problem. The point of emphasis for the Flyers in the off-season was securing a third defensive pairing that wouldn’t hurt them in the playoffs. With his recent play, O’Donnell may hurt them in the playoffs. I don’t know if that’s reflective of his age or possibly rushing back from injury earlier this season. Either way, his play has to be a concern for the Flyers as they head into the playoffs.
I expect the other two elder statesmen of the defense to be fine in the playoffs. Kimmo Timonen has been arguably the most consistent Flyer since joining the team for the 07/08 season. In Chris Pronger’s case, his recent injury and subsequent surgery may work in his advantage. Some rest could have his legs fresh for the playoffs. Also, Pronger’s track record of being a different animal in the playoffs is well earned. I expect that he’d be the same old Pronger come mid-April.
Pavialax: I think it will be a non-factor for Pronger. In fact, I think he will be ready to go by the time the first round starts and since injuries have limited his number of games played through the season, he should have plenty of reserve left in the tank. Ideally, he can get in a game or 2 before the first round. I think Timonen’s minutes have been well managed through the season and he will also be okay. Many fans would like to see O’Donnell get a bit of rest, but I think his minutes will decrease slightly once the playoffs start and don’t see it as a huge factor. I’m excited to see the defense clicking on all cylinders.