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In Mid Flight: A continuing glance at the Flyers season

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Red October is now behind us. Those of us in the Delaware Valley are stung. There is a sense of a collective pained exhale, the kind that only losing to New York or Boston could inflict. You know, the red-faced, almost nauseous, punch in the stomach (or groin) exhale. Anyway, I digress… Flyers Right Winger Claude Giroux

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is time to set your eyes and ears and DVRs to the Flyers. Hockey in November, you ask? You betcha. Amidst the pheverish playoff run of the Fightins and the on-again-off-again train wreck that is the Eagles, the long road of the NHL season has provided a steady backdrop. (Well, not exactly, but more on that later.)

In this edition of In Mid Flight, I will examine the Flyers season thus far:

The Flyers are 9-4-1 after 14 games. In most other areas of sports or the world, this would be construed as 9-5, as in 9 wins and 5 losses. But not in the NHL. Nope. The overtime loss has confused and misconstrued NHL win/loss records for years. But at least it is a step up from a few years ago when the pre-strike W-L-T-OL (win-loss-tie-overtime loss) format that had end of season records looking like a lotto ticket.

Okay, so never mind that a team in today’s NHL could conceivably go winless and make the playoffs. Instead, let’s celebrate that last Saturday night’s win over the Blues saw the Flyers garner a rare victory in the dreaded shootout. In goalie Ray Emery  and graceful forward Claude Giroux, it looks as if the Flyers finally have two key pieces to help them consistently win shootouts and gain those extra points in the standings that could come in handy down the road. That was an absolutely ridiculous shoulder fake that Giroux put on Blues goalie Chris Mason the other night. Ludicrous!

Thus far in this young NHL season, a few things seem fairly clear:

1) The Flyers still have trouble beating the teams with elite talent-

Losses to the Penguins and Capitals have proved that this team still has some trouble shutting down the Crosbys, Malkins, and Ovechkins of the world. The Flyers are not alone in this fashion; however, there is no doubt that the road to the Stanley Cup will go through Pittsburgh and/or Washington. The Flyers need to overcome this- and soon.

2) Simon Gagne has seen his finest days pass-

Face it, between his concussion issues and his conglomeration of other nagging injuries, Gagne needs to ride his Lamborghini into the sunset. Truth be told, the fan in me would love to rip on Simon Says for his apparent lack of toughness and French Canadian suave, but given his history of head injuries it would not be fair. Still though, it seems as if the player he was is just that.

3) James van Riemsdyk can really play-

Despite breaking his finger in Saturday night’s win over St. Louis, JVR has shown flashes of utter brilliance in recent games. The kind of brilliance that gets you drafted with the second overall pick. His off-the-boards backhand goal two weekends ago against Carolina was eye-opening. In fact, it was quite Malkin-like. We can only hope.

4) The Flyers are truly playing like a team-

Role players such as Ian Laperriere and Arron Asham have been versatile and productive in playing their part. Daniel Carcillo has been surprisingly more disciplined and more effective. Ole-Kristian Tollefson has repeatedly come to the aide of top players such as Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.

Notably, when Danny Briere got hurt and they announced the call-up of David Laliberte, I was skeptical and almost confused by the move. But a goal and an assist later I was not so perplexed. These are the signs of a good team. When a star player gets sidelined, someone fills in and produces in his absence. Let’s hope this is a trend and not a fluke.

Outside the Zone….

Who comes up with the NHL schedule? Why does it seem as if the NHL does just about everything in its power to alienate consistency of viewership and/or interest? To have the Flyers play 1 game in a span of 13 days is just unthinkable at any point in such a grueling, often painfully long season. But to do so in just the third week of the season? That’s just downright nonsensical.

Nothing like building on the momentum of the early season, huh? More strong work from Commissioner Gary Bettman. I suppose Gary had the vision to predict the Phillies long playoff run. He must have known that such a break in action would go largely unnoticed in Philadelphia’s overbooked October sports docket.

I understand the NHL attempts to corner the bare cupboard of a post-Super Bowl sports market by force-feeding its fans with weekend games in March and April. But no team should be idle for almost two weeks. Never.

So, how about starting the season a little later, Gary? Or how about ending the regular season a tad bit earlier so I don’t feel the urge to have to watch the Stanley Cup Finals in order to keep my house cool?

This seems far too simple to actually work.

My gripe is over. That’s all I have for now. Until next time….stay cool…..