The Flyers are a little like a Victorian house with a charming wraparound porch and a one-of-a-kind turret that seems to reach halfway to the sky.
It looks great - until you examine it more closely.
Like the old house, whose problematic plaster walls and antiquated plumbing aren't noticeable to the casual observer, the Flyers' overall record is impressive at first glance.
But take a look deep inside and you sense that things aren't what they seem.
The record has been built against NHL lightweights. Heading into the weekend, the Flyers had won just 15 of 38 games against teams that would have been playoff qualifiers. Their record against such teams was 15-14-9.
They have struggled against the top teams for numerous reasons. At the top of the list is their failure on the power play.
In their last 12 games against current playoff qualifiers, the Flyers are 4 for 56 on the power play. That's a sickly 7.1 percent success rate and makes it amazing that they were 5-6-1 in that span.
Goaltending and special teams will play major roles in the playoffs.
Goalie Marty Biron has made a terrific turnaround and seems primed for another strong playoff run. But the Flyers need to refine their special teams if they are going to make a legitimate Stanley Cup challenge.
The penalty-killing has been sporadic recently, and the power play, which showed positive signs Friday, has been plain awful for the last two months.
There are not enough shots. There is not enough crisp puck movement, nor enough time in the opponents' end.
As a result, the power play, which ranked first or second in the NHL for about half the season, had slipped to seventh (with a 21.0 percent success rate) heading into the weekend. The power play had a 27.1 percent success rate in the first 45 games and an 11.3 percent rate in the next 24.
Veteran winger Mike Knuble said it was no secret that the Flyers shot the puck more often earlier in the season, but "sometimes I think when you get power-play guys together, you want to pass it into the net and make a pretty bang-bang play. A lot of time, that really hasn't been our success. We need to get a lot of pucks at the net from the point, and getting rebounds and crashing the net."
When the Flyers go into their video room, the walls are covered with photos of players scoring goals. "You can tell they're power-play goals being scored," Knuble said. "The whole thing that's consistent is that guys are around the net. There's a guy on each post."
On the power play, Knuble or Scott Hartnell has been the guy doing the dirty work in front, with the four other players moving the puck, firing it toward the net, and collapsing for rebounds.
"It's something we've gotten away from lately," Knuble said.
In other words, there have been few juicy rebounds, especially against elite opponents.
"It's the second and third chances where you score on the power play," Knuble said.
The Flyers need to take more shots - yes, it sounds basic, but it's not happening. Shots get the defense moving and create seams for follow-up attempts.
The Flyers have been pedestrian at even strength this season, so success on the power play is mandatory if they are to go far in the playoffs.
During most of the last two seasons, the power play "was such a reason that added up to wins for us, even more so last year," Knuble said, adding that he hoped the Flyers were just going through the inevitable bad cycle with the extra skater.
"The power play carried us through more games than five-on-five play," he said. "This year, it's taken a step back. It's the same personnel, and that's why it's sort of frustrating why it's not working. We know we've done it in the past."
"If you look at last year, when we got into the playoffs, our power play was excellent in the first round and it was OK in the second round, and we lost in the third round," center Danny Briere said. "I'm hoping it's going to be the other way around this year, where we're going up instead of down."
Briere is the power play's unknown element. He has missed most of the season because of groin and abdominal injuries and is just rounding into form.
While sidelined, Briere watched the power play struggle while sitting high above the rink on the press level. Briere said he noticed some "bad decisions."
"When the puck should be going down low to attack the net, we move it up at the top," he said. "And when the puck should be moving up top, we move it down low. And we sometimes take shots on bad angles, and a lot of shots are being blocked.
"The last year and a half, before our little slump, we were really good at that and at not making high-risk plays - taking the easiest play, [the one] that was the most effective, and making sure pucks were getting through. That's what we have to do a better job at. It's not a huge problem to fix."
Like the old Victorian house with faulty pipes, repairs need to be made. If not, the Flyers don't figure to play many playoff rounds.
Spectrum flashback. On Feb. 15, 1990, Flyers goalie Pete Peeters blanked Toronto, 3-0, for his only win in 24 appearances that season.
You could look it up.
Inside the Flyers:
Read Sam Carchidi's Flyers blog,
Broad Street Bull, at http://go.philly.com/sports
Blog response of the week
Subject: Coach John Stevens' switching all four lines, including moving Danny Briere from the fourth line.
Posted by: flyler 12:22 p.m., 03/20/2009.
Briere is a small, quick sniper/playmaker. His grinding has never been his strong suit. Like [Claude] Giroux he needs top-line minutes to be effective. Stevens needs to shake things up and he has. If you think he's done tinkering, you're crazy. He'll switch at least one of the lines back. Stevens isn't a guy who likes to fix what isn't broken. He has no respect for players and lines that aren't working. He's a good coach for this team, and this city.EndText