Starting tonight, the Flyers will play Washington, Pittsburgh, the Islanders, Boston, and Pittsburgh (again) in seven days. Four out of five games against the three teams directly below them in the standings. Getting points will surely be important (The Capitals and Penguins are within four points of the Flyers), but the Flyers enter the week with two games in hand on both Washington and Pittsburgh. That surely helps.
But this week is (correctly) being viewed as a measuring stick for the team. In the past two weeks, the Flyers have gotten ten out of a possible twelve points, but they only played one playoff team (Dallas, no longer in the playoffs) in that stretch. Nevertheless, when the team lost four straight games right before that, we looked at how their best players were not performing. Well, things turned around in the past two weeks.
As you can see, the Flyers have been carried through the past two weeks by their best players. Danny Briere, Jeff Carter, and Scott Hartnell are scoring goals while preventing the other team from scoring on them. Mike RIchards and Kris Versteeg, while not scoring goals, are shutting their opposition down. Matt Carle continues to have a fantastic season - even without Chris Pronger - while Andrej Meszaros stepped up and played some Pronger-like hockey.
While it may not look like Sergei Bobrovsky played well, he rebounded to an above-average 0.923 even-strength save percentage despite giving up 6 goals. The only player in that table with below-team average save percentages is Jeff Carter, but he's giving up fewer shots on goal than the team average.
Entering this week, the Flyers' best players are playing like themselves. But the storyline for the week - this is a test - is still accurate. The offensive players were able to beat up on inferior competition, while the defensive forwards were able to shut down weaker opponents. There are still improvements to be made (specifically, the fourth line, Ville Leino, and the Coburn-Timonen pairing), but the most interesting thing to look out for is probably Sergei Bobrovsky.
In Bobrovsky's previous 8 games (before the three games above), Bobrovsky only stopped 90.3% of opponents even-strength shots. Some of that is surely on the defense, but in a stretch where the team played half playoff teams and half non-playoff teams, Bobrovsky was unable to make up for his team's failings.
The team may not be playing as best they can, but their best players are once again their best players. If Bobrovsky can continue playing to his season average (stopping 92.3% of even-strength shots), the Flyers should have a good week. If Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn return to their normal form, the Flyers' biggest problem will be Ville Leino. Which is not much of a problem, considering where the team is.
With Bobrovsky getting the start tonight, Coach Laviolette is asking him to step up.