Flyers standing pat to the end
There was no panic, no shaking up the roster, way back at a point when panic and roster shaking would’ve seemed perfectly acceptable.
So if Paul Holmgren didn’t do it when the Flyers were 1-7, had just fired their coach and seemed like a dead team skating, he wasn’t about to do it now with the NHL trade deadline looming.
Other than bringing in a young Andrew McDonald and shipping out an older, more banged up Andrej Meszaros, the lineup the Flyers will go with down the home stretch is exactly the same one they’ve had all season. So young guns Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier and Matt Read can finally breathe easier.
They’re not going anywhere — at least for now — as Holmgren resisted the lure of going for the big power hitter, like Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler, Winnipeg’s Dustin Byflugien or Buffalo’s Tyler Myers — and chose to stick with his foot soldiers.
A few months from now we’ll see how it all plays out. But it’s hard to argue Homer’s making a mistake essentially standing pat— especially since the Flyers are now 32-17-6 since that 1-7 start.
“As I’ve said all along I like our team,’’ said Holmgren, after the deadline passed Wednesday afternoon. “I think we address our defense and improved our defense with Andrew [MacDonald]. We’re ready to go now.’’
After completing a home-and-home sweep of the Capitals with a wild 6-4 win Wednesday the Flyers have moved into second place in the Metropolitan with 72 points — and potential first round home ice advantage. Despite winning seven of their last eight, though, going back to before the Olympic break, they’re hardly secure.
The Rangers are just two points behind, followed by Columbus (69), the Caps (68) and the Devils (67). Remember, the top three in each division automatically qualify, with the final two wild card spots determined among the rest regardless of division.
They’re hoping keeping the lineup intact keeps the continuity going.
“It’s nice to have the same group of guys,’’ said rookie right wing Michael Raffl, who’s playing with more confidence than ever after playing well for Austria in Sochi. “We’ve been playing together for months now. We know each other really well and think we really can achieve something here.”
In their case they feel familiarity won’t breed contempt.
“We’ve got some good young players here,’’ said Brayden Schenn’s older brother, Luke, who was paired with newcomer McDonald Wednesday. “Everyone gets along great on our team and sticks up for each other. I think everyone is happy we kept the core together.’’
Blending MacDonald in with that core is the next order of business and with just two games in the next nine days before the schedule picks up Berube should get that opportunity. The word on the 27-year-old acquired from the Islanders for a couple of high draft choices and Phantoms’ forward Matt Mangene is that he’s a premier shot blocker, who can handle the puck.
Berube wasted little time throwing him into battle and was pleased with the early results. So was the new guy.
“I think the most important thing is just to keep it simple and rely on what got you here,’’ said McDonald, who’ll be a free agent this summer, although the likelihood is the Flyers will try to re-sign him with Meszaros gone and soon-to-be- 39-year-old Kimmo Timonen likely to retire. . “Use the skills that you have and try to apply them. But you have to get used to playing with different guys on defense no matter what team you’re on.’’
So the last piece is in place for the stretch drive, as the Flyers try to justify the faith of a general manager who didn’t panic when things were going bad and has decided to stay the course. As much as he has to like the results so far. Paul Holmgren knows he truly won’t be judged until it’s all over.
He’s done his part and left them alone. Now it’s up to them to prove him right.