Flyers' offense has nothing left

ASSOCIATED PRESS Sergei Bobrovsky's stellar season has kept the Columbus Blue Jackets in the playoff hunt.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Sergei Bobrovsky's stellar season has kept the Columbus Blue Jackets in the playoff hunt.
Posted: April 16, 2013

MONTREAL - Remember that flushing sound you heard last week, watching the Flyers' season swirl around the bowl and down the drain? The group responsible for pulling that toilet's handle was the Flyers' offense.

It's one thing to watch bad hockey, it's another thing to watch bad hockey from a team that scores less than Tim Tebow.

The Flyers have scored three goals in their last four games. Ask coach Peter Laviolette, captain Claude Giroux or leading scorer Jake Voracek and they will shrug, and with a blank look on their faces, offer the standard cliches.

"We need to get more pucks to the net," is one.

"We aren't hungry enough around the net," is the other.

Getting pucks to the net certainly isn't the issue. During their four-game winning streak, which started to percolate a town starving for any kind of playoff attention, the Flyers averaged 30.3 shots on goal per game. Their four straight losses that follow? That number is 28.

A difference of two shots per game isn't going to settle a discrepancy of 3.75 goals per contest.

The dream ran out when the Flyers' power play started slumping. The power play was 4-for-13 (30.7 percent) during the five-game point streak. It's gone a mind-boggling 0-for-10 in the last four games, without even a hint of a threat.

Who stays?

One of the more pertinent questions filling the inbox these days: Which of the current Flyers unrestricted free agents has the best shot to return next season? My money is on Adam Hall.

Hall, 32, has done nothing but impress the Flyers' coaching staff since arriving as a waiver claim on April 4. He has yet to register a point, but is a valuable role player - physical, provides energy, takes faceoffs and kills penalties - at a bargain price.

Hall earns $650,000 this season. If Peter Laviolette could squeeze a bit more offense out of him, Hall could replace fellow UFA Ruslan Fedotenko for $1.1 million fewer dollars. That goes a long way under a shrinking salary cap - which drops to $64.3 million next season.

It's not out of the realm of possibility that Simon Gagne, 33 and also a free agent-to-be, remains in Philadelphia - albeit at a reduced salary. Would somewhere in the $2 million per year range work for both sides?

Zac Rinaldo and Erik Gustafsson are due raises as restricted free agents.

Jay Rosehill, Kent Huskins, Kurtis Foster and Fedotenko likely will need to find new homes this summer, while veteran good guys Mike Knuble and Jody Shelley will likely file retirement papers.

'Bob' for Vezina?

The only Columbus Blue Jackets player ever to win a major award in the franchise's unremarkable history was Steve Mason, the new Flyers goaltender, who won the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year in 2009. Now former Flyers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky is surfacing as a Vezina Trophy candidate.

Bobrovsky, 24, is second in the league in save percentage (.932), fifth in goals against-average (2.01) and fourth in shutouts (4). Bobrovsky's teammates say he is the reason why Columbus (Columbus!) entered Sunday's action in a three-way tie for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.

"It would be foolish for me to act like we'd be anywhere close to the playoffs if it weren't for Sergei Bobrovsky," forward Brandon Dubinsky told the Columbus Dispatch. "Foolish. We all know in this room that he's the only reason we're in this thing. We're busting our [butts] in front of him and doing everything we can, but we're not a three-goal team. It's on him. It's been on him. And he's carried the load."

Given the Flyers' resurfacing circus in goal, watching Bobrovsky flourish in a tougher conference has to make Paul Holmgren shake his head. Last summer, it seemed like a solid trade - moving a goaltender with a career save percentage (.909) below the league average (.913) for three draft picks (a second and two fourths) - but hearing Dubinsky's quote has to hurt.

Interestingly, Anthony Stolarz (that second-round pick) is looking like a can't-miss goaltending prospect. He's 8-1-0 with a .946 save percentage for London (OHL) in the postseason, pushing the Knights to the Western Conference final.

If Holmgren knew then the guarantee of a compliance "amnesty" buyout and the ability to write off Ilya Bryzgalov's backbreaking deal as a bad debt, would he trade Bobrovsky again?

Hindsight is always 20/20. The picks were a solid return, the Flyers had confidence in Bryzgalov rebounding, and there was no need to harness a legitimate competitor behind a starter with a 9-year deal.

Especially with whatever goes on in Bryzgalov's head.


Email: seravaf@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @DNFlyers

Blog: ph.ly/FrequentFlyers

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