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PHT’s Pressing Questions: Can the Flyers keep the puck out of their net?

Jan 11, 2013, 12:00 PM EDT

Ilya Bryzgalov Getty Images

Every day until the season starts we’ll explore an intriguing storyline for the upcoming year.

Yesterday, we wrote about the New York Rangers’ inability to score in the playoffs and how the addition of Rick Nash could help in that area.

Today, let’s talk about the Flyers, a team that had the opposite problem to the Rangers’ in the postseason. Philadelphia had no problem scoring, but it surrendered 44 goals in its 11 playoff games, an average of four per game.

Two major factors have been cited in the Flyers’ inability to keep the puck out of their net.

First is goaltending.

Ilya Bryzgalov was signed last summer to be the savior. However, he ended up more sieve than savior. The eccentric 32-year-old was wildly inconsistent during the regular season and finished the playoffs with a .887 save percentage.

General manager Paul Holmgren has denied rumors that he’s interested in Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo, but there are those who believe Holmgren should be interested. As it stands, the Flyers’ net-minding tandem includes Bryzgalov and Michael Leighton, the latter of which spent last season in the AHL.

The second factor is injuries to defensemen Chris Pronger and Andrej Meszaros.

Said Flyers owner Ed Snider after his team was eliminated: “I honestly think if Pronger and Meszaros had been healthy in the playoffs, we would have won the whole thing. I don’t like to cry about injuries, but you just can’t lose a Pronger and replace him.”

Snider’s right about that last part. Unfortunately, it appears unlikely Pronger will be able to resume his career due to post-concussion syndrome.

The Flyers did their best to try and fill their Pronger-sized hole, signing Nashville defensive Shea Weber to a massive — some would call it predatory (no pun intended) – offer sheet. However, the Predators ultimately decided to match.

The only real notable addition general manager Paul Holmgren made to his blue line comes in the form of Luke Schenn, acquired from Toronto after a nightmare season with the Leafs. There’s hope the 23-year-old can rediscover his confidence with a change of scenery, but for now it’s only hope.

The fact Kimmo Timonen will turn 38 in March is another reason for concern. Last season, his average ice time fell to 21:14 from 22:28  in 2010-11. And after undergoing back surgery in May, he’s been wondering how his body will hold up during a 48-game sprint to the playoffs.

Holmgren, at least publicly, isn’t worried about what’s being said about his defense.

“Kimmo’s a good player,” Holmgren said on Monday. “[Braydon] Coburn’s a good player. [Nicklas] Grossmann’s a good player. I think Luke Schenn is a good player. I think he’s going to be a real good fit on our team.

“I don’t particularly get into reading what other people say, but I like our defense.”

  1. mudkip23 - Jan 11, 2013 at 12:05 PM

    The Flyers play less defense than the Detroit Lions.

    • phillyphanatic77 - Jan 11, 2013 at 12:35 PM

      It’s hard to be solid defensively when you lose a potential HOF captain in Pronger that set the tone for the entire team. Do you think the Bruins would struggle to shut down opposing offenses if Chara was lost to a career ending injury? I’d say it’s a good possibility. Also, Matt Carle turned the puck over so much in the Flyers zone that it’s likely he provided more points for the opposition than he did for the Flyers. So although we will miss his offensive prowess, Carle’s exit will actually upgrade our D just by eliminating costly turnovers. The biggest issue, by far, was Goaltending. I watched every minute last season and there were too many times to count where the Flyers defenders were in solid position and Bryz allowed the softest goals. However, after acquiring Grossman, a physical presence in front, Bryz went on his hot streak. So I have some hope that Schenn can provide a similar boost. Not to mention Laviolette has said he will preach more defensive responsibility for the entire team. Overall, there are a lot questions and concerns but Timonen, Coburn, Grossman, Schenn, and Mezsaros (if healthy) make up a relatively productive top-5.

      • ibieiniid - Jan 11, 2013 at 2:26 PM

        i think Grossman is highly underrated on the Flyers.

      • ibieiniid - Jan 11, 2013 at 2:40 PM

        sorry, grossmann*

      • jpelle82 - Jan 11, 2013 at 4:51 PM

        tired of the what-ifs with pronger…he is gone, fans need to get over it and stop using the excuse. flyers will be fine on the blue line, goaltending should be the concern, as usual.

      • phillyphanatic77 - Jan 11, 2013 at 5:26 PM

        Prongers absence is a legitimate topic for conversation. It’s almost impossible to replace that kind of presence, that’s why they went all out to get Shea Weber. Because he has that ability to influence an entire team.. It’s no excuse or complaint its reality. Pronger will never fulfill his contract and that has left a major hole on the blue line. I do have faith in the rest of our D-men (when healthy) but the Flyers are missing that elite defender.

    • lionsflyersandredbirds - Jan 11, 2013 at 12:43 PM

      Ha, that’s actually quite funny since I somehow am a fan of the Flyers and the Lions…

    • lionsflyersandredbirds - Jan 11, 2013 at 12:44 PM

      But in all seriousness, the Lions definitely play WAY less defense than the Flyers…

  2. bigbadbruins77 - Jan 11, 2013 at 12:07 PM

    Bryz is going nto get lit up again.

  3. johnstone17 - Jan 11, 2013 at 12:09 PM

    Not with that nitwit in net!!!!!

  4. stakex - Jan 11, 2013 at 12:36 PM

    You can’t go all the way these days without solid defense and goaltending… and there is little reason to expect the Flyers to be better in those areas this year. I mean who knows, Bryz might suddenly find his stride…. but if I was a Flyers fan, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

  5. nach0mancandysandwich - Jan 11, 2013 at 12:39 PM

    Wow it’s been 38 minutes since this post went up and we haven’t had a flyer fan tell us how the team doesn’t need D or goaltending because the have Giroux! I’m impressed!!!

    • xflyersx - Jan 11, 2013 at 2:04 PM

      Guess what, we have Giroux!

  6. flyersallday84 - Jan 11, 2013 at 12:47 PM

    We have Giroux beotttccchhheeesss

    • nach0mancandysandwich - Jan 11, 2013 at 12:48 PM

      Haha thank you. Very funny.

  7. h0ckeycoach - Jan 11, 2013 at 12:48 PM

    These days….. It’s has been a well known fact for decades and decades that defense wins championship. Flyers don’t have a chance with Bryz between the pipes.

  8. broadstbully33 - Jan 11, 2013 at 12:51 PM

    Out D is solid our fire wagon offense is a problem when only 2 of out 4 lines play d and back check. Bryz kills me with the 2 guaranteed soft goals a game. Our top4 d is pretty impressive on paper it’s just the O that new to play a a more defensive style

  9. boondocksaint7 - Jan 11, 2013 at 12:54 PM

    Let’s go Pens!

  10. joeyashwi - Jan 11, 2013 at 1:02 PM

    Hot goalies win playoff games and cold goalies lose them. Bryz lost those games for the Flyers. They could have had six Prongers but the way he played it wouldn’t have mattered. I don’t think he’s a bad goalie, he just slumped at the worst possible time. I’m shocked nobody has tried to pry Backstrom from my Wild. Last year of his contract and a major upgrade for 90% of teams out there plus the Wild have a solid stable of young, talented goaltenders that are very close to being NHL ready. Trade deadline acquisition?

  11. flyerguy73 - Jan 11, 2013 at 1:07 PM

    I am a huge flyers fan, and I almost cried when they signed Bryz. He is defenitely NOT the answer. With Mez,and Prongs out, it is going to be very tough to win a Stanley cup. Playoffs, yes and Stanley cup NO. Luongo would be great for this team, but will never happen. Either way, I am happy that there will be hockey.

    • timsabourin - Jan 11, 2013 at 3:47 PM

      did you also cry when you got the milk bag? (I’m talking about Schenn, if that extremely accurate description didn’t instantly bring that, well, milk bag to mind)

      • timsabourin - Jan 11, 2013 at 3:47 PM

        **Luke Schenn

  12. killerpgh - Jan 11, 2013 at 1:14 PM

    I will be interested to see how Schenn does. People complain about Carle turnover the puck, but Schenn had move giveaways in less games than Carle last hear and Schenn lacks the offensive upside. People say Schenn is a defensive defenseman. But last year he was 5th in average short handed ice time per game on a below average Leafs defense. Schenn average 16:02 minutes per game last year. Carle averaged 23:01 per game. Now Schenn doesn’t have to replace Carle but if Schenn is expected to fill a top 4 role he will be averaging about 4 more minutes a game on the ice. I would say the defense unit took a step back this year for last.

    • ml3939 - Jan 11, 2013 at 11:33 PM

      Carle was such a detriment to this team. Watching him play on regular basis was beyond frustrating. Starting with his defense- not that good. Whenever he made a play it was usually him recovering from being made to look silly. Normally it did not take much to beat him. He is a good skater, just not particularly fast. Forwards who could skate used him as a turnstile. His lack of speed and sub par passing ability made him an ineffective puck carrier. His shot could not break a pane of glass when it hit the net, and that was not too often. When he played with Pronger this was all hidden and minimalized as Pronger, beyond speed, was excellent in all facets of the game.

      His statistics are not a real indication of his ability either. Somehow he managed to garnish time on the power play and did rack up the minutes you are citing but the Flyers are one of the top offensive teams in the league. When he is on the ice with guys like Giroux, Briere, etc, it is only expected he will be open quite often due to their skill and be able to rack up some assists. On the power play he had enough room to build a house with an in-law suite.

      If the Flyers gave Brayden Coburn Carle’s role, he would have topped Carle’s offensive stats easily. Fortunately or unfortunately depending how you look at it, Coburn is a better defender and therefore isn’t given the offensive role.

      So basically, good riddance to Matt Carle. Appears to have been a good guy off the ice but a guy I would much rather see on the other team.

  13. bostonboy82 - Jan 11, 2013 at 1:16 PM

    Top Story?

  14. jimw81 - Jan 11, 2013 at 1:18 PM

    i wouldnt be surprised after cba is ratified they go out and trade for defenseman.

  15. gscheelar - Jan 11, 2013 at 1:23 PM

    When you look at the age of the key defenders, the injury history of those key defenders and the instability (that’s putting it nicely) of the goaltending situation in Philly, they will be battling with Carolina, Buffalo and Tampa for the last 2 playoff spots. This is the kind of season that will expose the weak links and without Mezaros, Timonen and Pronger, you’ve got Carle, Coburn and a bunch of mediocre leftovers. Schenn is over-rated and will not do well in Philly.

    It would not surprise me to see them miss the playoffs entirely because of these gaping holes. I think they will make the playoffs, but will be a borderline team. Now, if they make some deals (ie Luongo) that may change.

    • gscheelar - Jan 11, 2013 at 1:30 PM

      Ooops forgot Carle is in Tampa. That makes it even worse for the Flyers. They have to make a trade to get a D man. The problem is that they don’t have much room under the cap unless they deal some salary (read: quality player) in return.

      Yup, they are in trouble.

      • jimw81 - Jan 11, 2013 at 2:10 PM

        Carle was a turnover machine.

  16. loinstache - Jan 11, 2013 at 1:48 PM

    Luo + Ballard for a return Flyer fans probably won’t like

  17. broadstbully33 - Jan 11, 2013 at 2:33 PM

    If any dman is coming from Vancouver it will be bieska

    • loinstache - Jan 11, 2013 at 2:37 PM

      Maybe in ’08/09 but Hamjuice is here to stay

  18. wisdomnfl - Jan 11, 2013 at 5:02 PM

    This team is going nowhere with the goalie situation. Pathetic.

  19. hawkeyplayer - Jan 11, 2013 at 5:19 PM

    quick answer:

    HE!_!_ NO!

  20. chrisvegas - Jan 11, 2013 at 5:29 PM

    When you add Pronger on this unit it is elite, but Pronger’s career is over. Still if this unit is healthy, and that is a big IF, then it is still decent. The question is can this Def group stay healthy. I do think Like Schenn will succeed here. Teams often give up on defense-man to early kind of like Atlanta did with Coburn. Also I think Schenn’s role in Philly won’t be as big as it was in Tor early on, so he will have a chance to learn and the pressure won’t be as high. Defenseman take longer to develop, so he still has a chance to become a really good defenseman, and if he can contribute this year the Flyers will def be better for it. I think Flyers are a playoff team, and for those who think they won’t make the playoffs, you are probably the same idiots who said that last year. The Flyers will make the playoffs even if Holmgren has to go out there are trade for another defenseman. As for the Stanley cup, I don’t think Flyers are good enough, unless Bryz turns into the goalie he was supposed to be and the defense can do a decent job. Flyers don’t need a GREAT defense to win, just a good defense with great goaltending. This season is on Bryz.I don’t have much faith in Bryz though, so I think at best they will get to the second round of the playoffs depending on who they play.

  21. hawkeyplayer - Jan 11, 2013 at 5:40 PM

    they need an ELITE goalie!

    Bryzaster is not the antidote!

  22. wisdomnfl - Jan 11, 2013 at 5:43 PM

    Pronger done time to rebuild.

  23. csilojohnson - Jan 11, 2013 at 6:07 PM

    No

  24. kilejo - Jan 12, 2013 at 12:19 PM

    They are not going to go after Luongo. They will inquire into the availability for Backstrom if Minn is willing to take something (anything) or get nothing when he leaves as UFA and the Flyers sign him and buy-out Bryzmonot. They have had their eye on Backstrom for a while.

  25. matthewmacisaac - Jan 13, 2013 at 4:44 PM

    I agree the defense was upgraded just by losing Matt Carle (The lockout was the only way to stop his turnovers and it wasn’t just the amount it was the scoring chances they lead to-Thank You TB). Carle was not just a turnover machine but a horrible defender as well. There isn’t a forward in the league that doesn’t look at going in 1 on 1 on Carle as a 1 on 0. His blocked shots were the result of being out of position and getting hit with the shot. Luongo isn’t an upgrade over Bryz so let that die. Backstrom is a whole different story. The Flyers do have to get the forwards more involved in defense or there will be more of the same.

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