From the Bench: I Survived Three Weeks Without the Flyers

[Note from Vince: This is the first article from Flyers addict Chris Imbrogno, who will be gracing us with his hockey thoughts from time to time. As a contributor, Chris gets the privilege of doing the first installment of our contributor piece From the Bench! Give him a round of applause (in the comments…because he can’t hear you)]

 

With the end of the Olympic break and the last 23 games of the Flyers schedule looming (as well as nothing to do at lunch since I finished Game of Thrones), I wanted to write a bit about my take on how the Flyers have looked so far this season.

masonNeedless to say, the start to the season was as bleak as could be. For fans, it caused a mix of anger, disappointment, and confusion. Confusion as to how a team that manhandled one of the best teams in the league, the Pittsburgh Penqueens, in the playoffs just a short time ago could be doing so poorly.

However, the way the Flyers have turned the season around is nothing short of miraculous. I could only imagine in the first 8 games, it’s what it feels like to be a Florida Panthers fan (do they exist?). What Berube and the other coaches have done to turn this struggling team around is extremely impressive. They still have a lot of work to do, and the defense is clearly still lacking, but they’re moving in a very good direction.

Some credit for the turnaround has to go to Steve Mason. Let’s be real, Mason has stolen games for the Flyers that they’ve had no right winning. The man has surely earned the nickname Stonewall Mason.

When we first acquired Mason, watching him play excited me. It excited me to see someone who would come out of the net and play the puck. It excited me to see someone who was not only big, but extremely athletic and, at this point, he has my exceeded expectations by far.

If the offense can keep putting up the points they were generating consistently going into the break, then, paired with Mason’s play, the Flyers have a very good chance to get into the playoffs.That’s where the captain comes into play.

I don’t care what anyone says about Claude Giroux, he’s the captain of this team through and through. The Flyers feed off of his energy when he’s up and down the ice throwing his body around and putting shots on net. More importantly, in games where he’s playing well, you see the whole team working together, having fun, and, winning hockey games.

Another guy who has become a key player is Wayne Simmonds. In the rare occurrence where Kimmo Timmonen missed a game (seriously, the dude is like a bear that won’t stay down after he’s shot 10 times), Wayne Simmonds was sporting the “A” on his jersey, and I think we can expect to see that become a permanent addition next season.

Simmonds is a stud, there’s no other way to put it. He is up and down the ice every shift. He gets in the dirty areas and wins puck battles. His hard work sets up scoring chances. Though not only does he have a heavy forecheck, but he’s the first forward back on defense. As a result, Simmonds is a nightmare for opposing defensemen.

Zac RinaldoAlong the lines of nightmare (I don’t want to be in his way, that’s for sure) is Zac Rinaldo. I didn’t think that he was particularly valuable at first, but he’s impressed me.

The Flyers record sagged when Rinaldo was injured. I’m not saying it’s purely because he wasn’t on the ice, but when he returned, it became clear to me that he’s somewhat of a leader himself. Is he a point scorer? No, (his career high in points is 9) but in his physical role is a valuable asset to a team whose energy seems to sag throughout the game.

On the blue line, two players have surprised me this season: Erik Gustafsson and Andrej Meszaros (a.k.a. Andrej the Giant).

I’ve never been a fan of Gustafsson. I thought his offensive play was mediocre at best, and his defensive play was poor. This season he has definitely turned his play around.

Offensively, he’s looked a lot better. He’s creating opportunities and not being irresponsible defensively in the process. Defensively, he’s keeping the puck to the outside and not giving the other teams much room to move the puck through the center of the ice. I also have to mention that his outlet passes might be the best I see on the team.

Meszaros has also been very impressive. Since he’s stayed healthy, he’s looked great offensively. He’s making forays deep into the offensive zone, getting good shots on net and even capitalizing on a few. The biggest question with Meszaros is do you resign him after this season with the defensive depth growing? Sam Morin, the Flyers first round selection this year, will likely be up on the Flyers blue line next season and with Gustafsson’s offensive prowess growing  the only thing keeping Meszaros on the Flyers, in my opinion, is the retirement of Kimmo Timmonen. It’ll be interesting to see where Mez ends up next season.

Speaking of defense, how about Adam Hall? I love watching Adam Hall play. His excellent defensive play is a big reason why the Flyers are ranked 7 on the PK, even though they have the most penalty kills in the league. He keeps his play simple, and that’s why he’s an excellent defensive center. He’ll step up on a play when he sees an opportunity, but is always back to help out his goaltender. With Rinaldo providing speed and a heavy forecheck, and Raffl (even though Raffl should be up with Giroux and Voracek) providing skill with the puck, it’s an excellent fourth line.

Overall, I’m pleased with the way this season has gone considering the way it started. We may not have a cup-contending team this season, but we have the building blocks to produce a cup-contending team. If we pick up a big name defenseman (all I want for Christmas in July is Shea Weber), we’re looking at a dangerous team. I’m optimistic that we’ll make the playoffs, and even have a chance to move up a round or two. I think an exciting finish to the season is in store for the entire division.

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Posted on February 27, 2014, in Contributors and Guest Articles, Flyers, Posts and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I like your thoughts. Don’t let Vince corrupt you with his jargon.

    Strong start with the PenQueens. Stonewall Mason is “I don’t know” and I am being nice.

    I grew up old school, but I was 5 years old when we won the cup last. I like to see Raffl with Read and Downie as a line, to see if we can be offensive rather than bullies.

  2. I don’t quite agree with your thoughts Chris, mainly because they suck. You suck too.

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