Flyers poised for cup run?????

What a year this has been for Philly, decimated by injuries, yet somehow still within striking range of winning the division. Credit Hitch***** for doing a good job keeping this team in the runnings for first place in the division.

It is impossible to see this team at 100% this year as we have been plagued by injuries. Unfortunately we won’t be able to see Primeau and Forsberg both in action come playoffs, which I thought would pose a big challenge for any NHL team to stop. Flyers however have enough talent to make a run, yet I have some concerns.

1) Goaltending- Earlier this season many questioned the Flyers goaltending, I said it before the year started and throughout the year, Antero Niittymaki at only 25 is a special talent which I believe the Flyers should ride for years to come. I love Robert Esche who is a good goaltender; however Niittymaki to me is one of those special talents that don’t come around to often. The concern I have is that Hitch***** is going to give Robert Esche the start come playoffs, as we all know he likes his veterans with playoff experience. I personally don’t like the Flyers chances at winning the cup or even the eastern conference with Robert Esche in net. The reason for that is…

2) Defense- The defense is to slow, especially if our most mobile defenseman Kim Johnsson, isn’t able to return for the playoffs. Under the new NHL rules speed is obviously crucial, and I believe this leaves Flyers very vulnerable come playoffs. They are going to need a goaltender that can bail them out and maybe steal a game or two in the playoffs. The great thing about Antero Niittymaki is I believe he has the ability to do just that.

3) The loss of Keith Premeau- I am not sure that everyone understands how important this guy is to this team. Flyers miss him on the penalty kill, face-offs, and his attitude which brings up their physical play. It has been evident to me all year long that the Flyers are missing that attitude. They are NOT playing physical hockey. They are being out hit every game. If you lack speed you need to make up for it by being physical to slow the other team down. In a seven game serious, Flyers are going to need to wear their opponents down. I was hoping they would bring someone in before the trade deadline to replace at least some of what Premeau does on the ice. Had he been healthy Hitch***** would have been able to match him up against other teams’ top lines again like he did two years ago when Premeau dominated in the playoffs. Premeau would have been able to play on key face-offs and penalty kills.

4) Handzus- Luckily Flyers are getting Handzus back tonight, and like Premeau, Handzus does many things well. The problem is Handzus is going to play injured the rest of the year, so we have to wait and see how effective this guy can be.

Mark Recchi would have been a great addition if Flyers were able to get him. Unfortunately Carolina was able to acquire him. Though I have to say I was happy that Clark didn’t trade away any of our young players away like he has done so in the past. I though would have traded Robert Esche assuming I could probably get something good in return. No point in having two good goaltenders on a team when only one can play.

If Esche is the starter in the playoffs I predict the Flyers get knocked out in the second round, if lucky maybe the 3rd round of the playoffs. If Antero Niittymaki starts I feel much better about their chances. This guy has the ability to take them all the way, of course that is easier said then done. To me Flyers right now are a long shot especially the way they have been playing of late. Who knows for sure though… I’ve seen stranger things…

My prediction:

Eastern Conference: Carolina Hurricanes

Western Conference: Dallas Stars

Stanley Cup Champions: Carolina

I think Mark Recchi was a terrific move for this team.