VANCOUVER - In the NHL, where there is no traditional midpoint of the season, there is barely time to catch your breath - let alone look back at the first half of the year.
With 8 days between games, the Flyers' longest layoff of the season, and their longest road haul of the year beginning tonight as Disney On Ice occupies the Wells Fargo Center, now is as good a time as any to look back on the first half.
Here are our midseason awards for the first 35 games:
Darroll Powe is worth his weight in gold for the Flyers. About the only thing Powe, 25, doesn't do is skate on the power play. But he is versatile enough that he probably could. Powe anchors the top penalty-killing unit with Blair Betts, has chipped in with 10 points, and brings grit and energy to the lineup - especially on the forecheck.
Outside of a select group of scouts, management and fans, did anyone know Sergei Bobrovsky's name before training camp opened in September? Some of his current teammates thought Bobrovsky was a fill-in at informal, on-ice workouts just to keep the crease occupied.
Bobrovsky, 22, took advantage of Michael Leighton's injury and has reeled off a 15-5-3 record with a .919 save percentage and 2.44 goals-against average.
After a strong training camp and noticeable preseason, many expected James van Riemsdyk to take his game to the next level. Not many imagined it would take 17 games for him to score his first goal. Van Riemsdyk, 21, has been a healthy scratch for four games. Since scoring that first goal on Nov. 22, van Riemsdyk appears to have turned the corner with six goals and one assist in 13 games.
While many players have been injured this season - including Michael Leighton and Chris Pronger - few have been as banged up as defenseman Matt Walker, who has yet to play a game in a Flyers uniform since being acquired on July 19 in a trade with Tampa Bay for Simon Gagne.
Walker's right hip was surgically repaired on Oct. 20 after an injury sustained in the preseason. He rehabbed and returned to practice, but then had a similar surgery on his left hip on Dec. 16. Walker, 30, who earns $1.7 million against the salary cap through 2013, would have likely replaced Oskars Bartulis in the lineup now with Pronger out at least another 3 weeks.
"He's come in the league and hasn't earned respect. It's just frustrating to see a young guy like that come in here and so much as think that he's better than a lot of people. You have to earn respect in this league. It takes a lot. You can't just come in here as a rookie and play like that. It's not the way to get respect from other players around the league and hopefully someone on their team addresses it, because I'm not saying I'm going to do it but something might happen to him if he continues to be that cocky."
- Flyers captain Mike Richards on Canadiens rookie defenseman P.K. Subban, on Nov. 16.
Mike Richards bloodied Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke just 6 seconds after the puck dropped at the Consol Energy Center on Oct. 29. Richards said on Oct. 16 that Cooke "runs around and I can never seem to catch him," and Cooke finally obliged - old-time hockey at its finest. Richards' fisticuffs - his only fight of the season - helped spark the Flyers to a 3-2 win.
Claude Giroux's spin-a-rama, blind backhand pass from the boards that went tape-to-tape to a wide-open Richards in front of Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist back on Nov. 4. (Video of the goal is here: http://bit.ly/eEFZhO) Richards' game-tying goal propelled the Flyers to a 4-1 victory over their division rivals.
The Flyers arrived in Vancouver on Sunday morning and practiced twice at the Canucks' home, the Rogers Centre, before tonight's game. "We tried to get in a lot of skating," coach Peter Laviolette said. The Flyers are 10-0-4 in Vancouver since 1989 . . . According to PlayoffStatus.com, the Flyers have played the 10th-easiest schedule in the Eastern Conference to date. That will change this week, battling three of the West's top teams . . . According to the blog Objective NHL, the Flyers have hit the post 17 times this season and have been saved by the post on 22 different occasions . . . The NHL's holiday roster freeze was lifted last night at midnight.
"Well, it's one thing to go out and battle a team and give them everything you got and not end up on the right side. You still may not be happy with the results, but at least you were competitive. We weren't very competitive that game, so I think the opportunity to get back on the ice and do some work, we look forward to getting back into a game."
- Flyers coach Peter Laviolette on the bitterness lingering with his team more than a week after a 5-0 shellacking at the hands of the Florida Panthers. *
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