Inside the Flyers: Bryzgalov takes a realistic view

David Clarkson (right), a gritty winger and a soon-to-be unrestricted free agent, would fill a need on the Flyers.
David Clarkson (right), a gritty winger and a soon-to-be unrestricted free agent, would fill a need on the Flyers. (BRUCE BENNETT / Getty)
Posted: April 29, 2013

OTTAWA - Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov took some undeserved flak the other night when answering a question about what it would mean if the Flyers won their final four games and finished 23-22-3.

"What's the point? There's no difference," he said. "We are not going to make the playoffs; it doesn't matter whether you're two games below or two games above .500. It's pointless. Of course it's nice to win the games, but at the end of the day it doesn't change anything."

It was refreshing to hear the truth.

The Flyers' late-season surge meant nothing, except it gave some young defensemen a chance to gain some experience.

The Flyers won six of their last seven games, ending with Saturday's win over Ottawa. That did not camouflage the fact that general manager Paul Holmgren has work to do in the offseason.

Holmgren needs to put together a team that is harder on the puck, that wins more board battles. That need is more evident when you look at this stat: The Flyers went into the season-finale 26th in the 30-team NHL in five-on-five situations.

And since teams are at even-strength in the majority of games, the Flyers' excellent special-teams' numbers - third on the power play, fifth on the penalty kill - didn't mean as much.

The Flyers need to add players who are difficult to play against. New Jersey winger David Clarkson, an unrestricted free agent who had 15 goals entering Saturday, is a player in that mold.

Among the other free-agent wingers who are available are Pittsburgh's Pascal Dupuis and Jarome Iginla, Montreal's Michael Ryder, Boston's Nathan Horton, Detroit's Damien Brunner, Vancouver's Mason Raymond and the Islanders' Brad Boyes.

The inability to do little things - like winning board battles or showing discipline and staying out of the penalty box - cost the Flyers in close games.

Heading into Saturday, they were 3-8 in games that were tied entering the third period. And when they fell behind, they showed little resiliency, going 2-14 when trailing after two periods.

"We didn't step up like we did last year," said winger Jake Voracek, the team's unquestioned MVP. "I think it's all part of a learning process. We still have a lot of young guys here. Obviously, we're going to get better at it next year."

In addition to a productive winger, the Flyers need a top defenseman, preferably a puck-mover because this team was too slow on the back end.

If Holmgren can somehow pry Keith Yandle from Phoenix - would Sean Couturier, Braydon Coburn and a draft pick get it done? - the Flyers would have a defensive cornerstone.

"I guess you could always say you need a No. 1 D [man]," winger Scott Hartnell.

Kimmo Timonen was the Flyers' No. 1 defenseman this year, though Luke Schenn was the best in the last month. But Timonen is 38 and slowing down.

"Kimmo is at the tail end of his career, and we have to see if we can replace him somehow," Hartnell said.

The list of unrestricted free-agent defensemen is not impressive.

Keep an eye on the situation in St. Louis, which needs to sign restricted free-agent defensemen Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk. Yes, the Flyers would love to have either one in their lineup.

At the trade deadline, the Blues acquired puck-moving defenseman Jay Bouwmeester - he would have been the perfect player for the Flyers - and their defense is loaded.

Would Holmgren sign an offer sheet for either Pietrangelo or Shattenkirk, like he did in an attempt to bring Shea Weber to Philly last summer?

Stay tuned.

Contact Sam Carchidi at Follow on Twitter @BroadStBull.

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