Some thoughts through game three

The Flyers quickly dispelled concerns about stumbling out of the gate and needing time to jell. Through three games, they’ve amassed six points and a league-best +5 goal differential. So what trends are starting to form?

  • Claude Giroux is proving me wrong for saying that his offensive output might drop from last season. He has three goals in as many games, which leads the league, and he also leads all forwards with five points (Kris Letang has six points through four games).
  • Defensive stalwarts, Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timonen lead the team in ice time, averaging 23:44 and 23:30, respectively. I hope this related to the caliber of opponents faced to start the season and not a common theme. Granted, they are the team’s best defenders but there’s no reason to overuse them with such a deep defense, especially considering the Pronger is coming off of an injury-riddled season.
  • After giving up only one goal through the first two games, Ilya Bryzgalov gave up four goals against the Vancouver Canucks. Although he played well and can’t really be blamed for the goals against, I look forward to seeing how he responds in his next game.
  • Jaromir Jagr has yet to notch his first goal as a Flyer, though he has two points and came close on a few occasions. I’m sure he wants to get that first goal out of the way soon to prevent this from becoming a source of frustration.
  • Danny Briere, who was second on the team in scoring last season with 68 points, does not seem to be meshing well with his line. He may need time to form chemistry with Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek. If that doesn’t work, perhaps he will be paired up with Scott Hartnell again. Worst case scenario, he gets some time alongside Giroux to kickstart the process.
  • The power play is still a work in progress but it hasn’t looked too bad. The PP really made some positive strides tonight. With Pronger firing on all cylinders and Simmonds planted in front of the net, it’s hard to imagine that it won’t be better than last season.
  • As others have pointed out, the young team will have nights like the game against Vancouver, where the Flyers take too many penalties, make too many mistakes, or give up too many chances for the opposing team to get back in the game. It happens and all you can ask is that the players take the lessons learned and prevent the same mistakes from happening again.
  • Playing a full NHL season won’t be as drastic of a difference for Sean Couturier as it was for James van Riemsdyk or Sergei Bobrovsky in their rookie campaigns but if the Flyers continue to take too many penalties each game, he could wear down quickly. Peter Laviolette has shown a ton of faith in the 18-year old and it is paying dividends so far. Let’s just hope he doesn’t have to rely on him too much on the penalty kill, though.
  • The Flyers are dead last in the league in the faceoff department, winning a mere 43.1% of their draws. For those who thought the absence of Blair Betts would not have an impact, here is where it makes a difference. Surprisingly, Briere has been the team’s best faceoff man at 53.5%. The team will get better with time — Claude Giroux, specifically, needs to start improving here — but this is one area where Max Talbot cannot fill the shoes of Betts.
  • I agree 100% with Sarah Baicker. The Flyers finally found someone in Wayne Simmonds who can play the role that’s gone unfilled since Mike Knuble left.
  • As expected, Simmonds time on the penalty kill is increased from last season (0:05) but only marginally (0:13). He’s too valuable in other areas to overuse on the PK and, as the team’s early leader in penalty minutes, it follows suit that he won’t even be able to kill a lot of penalties.
  • Playing both 2011 Stanley Cup finalists and a division rival in the first three games of the season is a tough test for this green group but they’ve really stepped up to the challenge and performed well. Saturday’s battle against the LA Kings — dubbed Flyers West — will be an emotional one. I would not be surprised to see Mike Richards lay a hard hit or two on Claude Giroux and tussle with Wayne Simmonds.
  • Here is my bold prediction: Andrej Meszaros scores a career-high 12 goals this season.