Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn must step up his game in the season's second half if the team hopes to climb higher in the playoff standings. Credit: Getty Images
It goes without saying than spurned Olympian Claude Giroux, goaltending salvation Steve Mason and top guns Wayne Simmonds, Jake Voracek and Scott Hartnell will be the keys to the Flyers success — or should they fail to deliver — failure.
And it likely won’t hurt their cause that among the Flyers’ five Olympians only bronze medalist Kimmo Timonen of Finland was fully extended in Sochi. Here are some under-the-radar Flyers to watch down the stretch.
The leader in seniority on the team — yet still only 28-years-old — Coburn’s played erratically on the blue line. However, he has the speed and guile to still be an effective defenseman, who can both clear the crease and move the puck. This has been Coburn’s poorest season in a while, but there’s still time to turn that around.
Hard to imagine lumping a career 395-goal scorer into this category, but it’s been a strange season for the Flyers’ prize free agent acquisition. For years an All-Star center in Tampa Bay, he’s been forced to re-invent himself here, now shifted to left wing. Plagued by injuries it’s been a struggle to this point, Vinny netting only 12 goals and 23 points. Perhaps the time off will finally enable the Lecavalier the Flyers thought they were getting to emerge.
The trade of James van Riemsdyk to Toronto for Brayden Schenn’s older brother is a cautionary tale what can happen when you give up on a player too soon. While Luke Schenn has underperformed on the Flyers backline, frequently committing defensive lapses leading to goals, JVR has blossomed into the scoring threat the Flyers always hoped he’d be North of the Border. Before the break Schenn finally seemed to be playing much better. Now can he sustain it?
Now, two and a half seasons since he made the club straight out of juniors, Couturier continues to excel as a checking center who can shut down the big guns. Valuable as that is, the Flyers thought they’d get more than that from a player who had consecutive 96 point seasons in juniors. But with just 26 career goals and 70 points in 182 games it looks like what you’ve seen so far from Couturier will be what you get.
With 23 games in 46 days, starting goalie Steve Mason can’t play them all. That means the Flyers will need more of the Emery who shut down Calgary in the final game before the break than the one who went two and a half months between wins on home ice. Used sporadically, Emery has often made the tough save but let in the soft goal, which made it hard for Berube to trust him. But with the schedule so jumbled he’ll need his backup netminder to do his part.
How much will his Olympic experience for Austria help this versatile right wing, who’d been making steady progress since coming up from the minors? Craig Berube has shown no hesitation using anywhere from top line to checking line and he even won a shootout with a slick goal. Having held his own with the best players in Sochi the 25-year-old Raffl should be brimming with confidence, too.
Playing for Switzerland, Streit’s solid play on the defense was a large reason the Swiss played three straight 1-0 games. Now he’ll try to build on that. The Flyers committed four years and $21 million to the now 36-year-old who was supposed to bolster the power play, but has been inconsistent much of the season.
Three years removed for a 22-goal scoring season, the acquisition of Downie for penalty killing specialist Max Talbot has backfired so far. Not only has he struggled offensively with just two goals in 39 games, he’s taken dumb penalties at the worst times and has been benched a couple of games as a result. There’s talent here, but so far Downie’s second tour as a Flyers has been a bust.