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Inside the Flyers: Why this team will/won't go far

The Flyers are like a Lost episode - entertaining but confusing. Lost got away from basics and turned off millions of viewers, the Nielsen ratings show, when it added its difficult-to-follow time-travel madness.

The Flyers are like a Lost episode - entertaining but confusing.

Lost got away from basics and turned off millions of viewers, the Nielsen ratings show, when it added its difficult-to-follow time-travel madness.

Like the once-great show, it's hard to get a handle on the Flyers.

If the Flyers play to their potential, it wouldn't be surprising if they reached the Stanley Cup Finals.

But it wouldn't be shocking if they were eliminated in the first round, either.

As I said, it's difficult to get a handle on this team.

When the playoffs start this week, will they resemble the team that went 13-1-3 earlier this season?

Or will they look like the team that played around .500 for the last six weeks?

Anyway, here are some theories why the Flyers will go deep into the playoffs. Or why they could make an early-round exit:

nolead begins

Seven reasons the Flyers could be playing in June

1. With a year of experience, they are much stronger than last season, when they reached the Eastern Conference finals. This is a team that has a perfect blend of rookies, players entering their prime, and veterans.

2. No Eastern Conference team can match their firepower. The Flyers are one of two NHL teams - Detroit is the other - with four 30-goal scorers: Jeff Carter, Simon Gagne, Mike Richards, and Scott Hartnell.

3. Carter has emerged as a go-to player, one who can carry a team on his shoulders in a series. And as Carter goes, so go the Flyers. Remarkably, they entered yesterday having not lost a regulation game in more than five months when Carter had scored a goal, going 23-0-3 in that span since a Nov. 2 defeat to Edmonton.

4. They have Gagne back to his old form. Gagne, of course, missed last season's playoffs with a concussion. This season, he has written one of the NHL's most remarkable comeback stories.

5. With the return of Danny Briere, who has given the power play a much-needed boost, the Flyers are as healthy as they've been all season. Yes, Ryan Parent and Randy Jones have some nagging injuries, but the team's overall health is very good. And, remember, injuries sidelined Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn, the team's top defensemen, for almost the entire Eastern Conference finals against Pittsburgh last season.

6. Dynamic rookie center Claude Giroux has added a spark and helps give the Flyers a third line that is almost as dangerous as the first two. Fans have started chanting "Roooooooooooooo" when he gets the puck - as in "Gir-Roooooooooo" - and that's a sign the kid has arrived.

7. Goalie Marty Biron, a potential free agent after the season, has shown signs that he will duplicate last season's strong playoff showing. Biron carried the Flyers to upset wins over Washington and Montreal in last season's first two rounds.

nolead begins

Seven reasons the Flyers could make an early exit

1. If you take away a solid five-week stretch, Biron has been frighteningly inconsistent. An inconsistent goalie in the playoffs spells an early exit.

2. Aside from Timonen and Coburn, the defense in front of Biron is just average. The Flyers were never able to acquire a physical, clear-the-crease defenseman and that could prove costly. And it doesn't help that Jones (hip) and Parent (groin) are not 100 percent. (And am I the only one who thinks the Flyers miss Ossi Vaananen?)

3. The power play has struggled for a few months. For most of the season's first half, the Flyers' power play was No. 1 or No. 2 in the NHL. Heading into the weekend, it had fallen to sixth with a 21.9 percent success rate. That's still solid, but in their last 19 games against playoff-bound teams, the Flyers are converting just 13 percent of their power-play chances (12 for 92). The Flyers are 30-8-7 when they score at least one power-play goal.

4. This team takes too many senseless penalties (league-high 17.7 minutes per game entering the weekend) and allows too many shots (32.6 per game, 26th out of 30 teams) - and that can lead to disaster in a series.

5. The momentum factor. While teams like Carolina and Pittsburgh were sizzling in the last several weeks, the Flyers were just so-so. Will it have a carryover effect? (Last year, the Flyers finished 7-1-1 and charged into the playoffs - and it helped them knock off rampaging Washington, which won its final seven regular-season games, in the opening round.)

6. Little things win playoff games. Things like face-offs become more magnified. The Flyers entered the weekend 22d in the league with a 48.5 face-off percentage. That could end up hurting them in the postseason.

7. The Flyers, who could miss former assistant Terry Murray's playoff coaching experience, have not been very good against the better teams. Heading into yesterday's game against the Islanders, the Flyers were just 17-16-9 against current playoff teams, and 26-10-2 against teams that are not playoff qualifiers. If that trend continues, tee times could come early.

Spectrum flashback. The Flyers set a club record for most goals in a game, trouncing the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Spectrum, 13-4, on March 22, 1984. Dave Poulin and Ilkka Sinisalo each had hat tricks for the Flyers.

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

Posted: by fly58 09:05 a.m., 04/10/2009

Subject: The Flyers, beset with salary cap problems, signed Ambler's David Sloane to a 24-hour amateur contract and thrust him into a key game.

If that doesn't sound like a scene from "Slap Shot," what does?

"Hey, Reg, I found this kid playing for Colgate, signed him for just a hundred bucks."

"For cripes sake, Joe, you would sing your mother for a hundred bucks."EndText

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