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2010 Stanley Cup Finals, Game 4: Flyers not worried about top line's struggles

Jun 4, 2010, 2:27 PM EST

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Carter2.jpgThe top line of the Philadelphia Flyers have not had a good series
against the Hawks, but the rest of the team isn’t really all that
worried about it.

After all, the Flyers survived until the third round without leading
scorer Jeff Carter. Simon Gagne’s return in the second round helped
spark the Flyers’ historic comeback against the Bruins, yet since
scoring seven goals in seven games against the Bruins and the Canadiens
he has just one point in his last five games. Still, the Flyers keep
winning and the rest of team has found ways to step up and make up for
the lack of production from their best players.

Coach Laviolette is far from worried, and says he was pleased with
what he saw from the trio on Wednesday night.

“You’re talking about really three of our top goal scorers on the
team, there are others as well,” Laviolette said when asked about
potentially breaking up the top line.

“But those three guys are capable of putting the puck in the net.
Their opportunities are there. Their chances are there. And I think
what I look for anyway in a line is: are they getting looks? Are they
getting opportunities? And they are. Some of them are hitting the net.
Some are getting blocked. Some attempts are missing the net. But the
chances are there. So we’ll continue with that line.”

One aspect of the top line’s lack of production has been the
continued struggles of Jeff Carter. Carter returned from his injury in
Game 4 against the Montreal, and scored two big goals against the Habs
in the series-clinching game. Since then, the top line of Gagne,
Richards and Carter is a combined minus-15, with just one goal and
three points between them. Carter has yet to show that he can keep up
with the tremendous pace of the series so far, and has yet to get to use
his true speed and goal scoring ability.

Mike Richards isn’t ready to put the blame on Carter, however, and
says he sees improvement each game in his linemate.

“I think when you’re not on the ice for a long period of time, your
hands, it takes little bit to get back. I think they’re coming back.
He’s starting to get more shots there now. The little areas, the little
passes, in the corner I think he’s obviously doing a lot better job of
finding those seams, and the little plays through people.”

During Wednesday’s game I noted that Mike Richards didn’t exactly
resemble the captain of a Stanley Cup winner, as he struggled all game
long with sustaining pressure on the Blackhawks and made several poor
decisions as he pressed and tried to make plays that just weren’t there.
I wish I could find a note I made on Carter, but there weren’t any –
Carter was nearly invisible.

Whether it’s just the injury that’s
holding him back, or the incredible play by Duncan Keith and company,
there’s no doubting that the best players on this Flyers team are
struggling and Carter is at the center of that. Thankfully, this is a
team that has survived due to its dept and this is a team that is
supremely confident in its role players continuing to make a difference.

We’ve
said it for over a week now, but the Flyers will eventually need Carter
and the top line to make a difference. For now, we’ll continue to cover
their struggles; something that’s not as big a deal after they’ve won a
big overtime game at home.

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