The Philadelphia Flyers completely overhauled their roster last summer, trading away virtually their entire core in search of goaltending consistency and a younger team. General manager Paul Holmgren said he didn't know whether or not this team would be better or worse than they were a year ago, but he did assure us they'd be "different."
In reality, they aren't all that much different. They still play a fiery offensive style with an emphasis on hard-nosed play in the attacking end of the ice. The only real difference is in age and where money is allotted. They pay a goaltender a lot of money now, and they have room for that massive contract thanks to the inexpensive youth sprinkled around the roster.
Let's take a look at the Flyers as they prepare for the postseason.
1) What's the biggest reason you have confidence in the Flyers heading into the postseason?
Simply put, the Flyers just don't give up. They've fallen behind during the first period in what seems like every game over the last two months, but they've branded themselves as the comeback kids. In fact, it's actually a bit surprising when the team isn't able to come back from an early deficit.
In the postseason, that sort of determination can take a team a long way. Just look at the Boston Bruins last year, who won three Game 7's on their way to a Cup. This Flyers team has that same sort of attitude, and it's certainly part of the reason they've had so much success after completely turning over the roster last summer.
2) What's the biggest question mark surrounding the Flyers heading into the playoffs?
Well, it's basically the same thing. They get behind a lot, and while they've been able to make comeback attempts during the regular season, it's going to much harder to flip that switch in the playoffs against better competition. On the other hand, the rookies have to be a concern as well. They've performed well higher than expected all year long, but will they wilt under the postseason pressure? It's possible.
3) If there's one player on the Flyers that will have a breakout playoff campaign, who will it be?
Brayden Schenn, without a doubt. He's been the strongest Flyer on the ice over the last several weeks of the season and he plays a game that's suited well to a brutal playoff series like the Flyers will see in Round 1 vs. Pittsburgh. Schenn can play in all situations -- special teams, in an offensive role or in a defensive role -- and has showed particular merit against the Penguins. He'll play a big role for the Flyers in the playoffs and they'll need him to perform well if they expect to advance.
4) When all's said and done, the Flyers' playoff chances hinge on...
Ilya Bryzgalov, as if that wasn't obvious if you've caught a second of Flyers hockey this season. Bryzgalov has played out of his mind over the second half of the season and there's no reason to think he'll revert to his early season form, but anything could happen with the crazy, universe-obsessed Russian. As Bryzgalov goes, the Flyers go, and they need their goaltender to be on point if they're to have success in these playoffs.
5) Give a prediction. How far will the Flyers go in these Stanley Cup Playoffs?
Given their first round matchup, almost anything could happen with this team. They could easily lose in a hard-fought Round 1 series, and if they advance, they could be out of energy by the time Game 1 begins in the Conference Semifinals. It all comes down to the matchups. They could easily lose early, or they could go on a deep run. It's hard to make a prediction because of this, but I'll be optimistic and say they advance to at least the Eastern Conference Finals before ducking out shy of another Cup Final appearance.
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