I asked Travis at Broad Street Hockey to answer five questions about the Flyers. Thanks to the Internets, I had some trouble getting them up before game time, but his answers are below and well worth a read. [Special thanks to Pension Plan Puppets' Chemmy for adding some comment banter to this game thread. Now keep your hands off Tavares.]
New York Islanders (16-32-6, 30th) at Philadelphia Flyers (28-16-9, 4th/E)
1 p.m. EST | [oughtta be Spectrum] Center | MSG+, 1100 WHLI
Questions/answers from Travis at Broad Street Hockey:
Lighthouse Hockey: The Flyers are eight points behind the Devils and tied with the Rangers for home ice (but with two games in hand). Now they've lost to two weak teams. What's your general mood and outlook for the rest of the way? What needs to happen for them to make it out of the East?
Broad Street Hockey: First and foremost, the goalie situation has to get cleared up. Coach Stevens seems content to ride both goalies and then pick one before the playoffs. That's not the way to go, in my opinion. I'm not afraid of the Rangers at all if we're being honest, and I think we can catch the Devils, but I don't know if we will. Honestly, I'd be happy not winning the division and getting the fourth spot. The team that wins the division is probably going to get a team that's been playing playoff hockey for two months trying to get in, and those are the teams that can be really dangerous. The Flyers were one last year.
The Flyers play down to weaker teams, and I think that shows the youth of the club as a whole, but once you get into the playoffs that worry goes away because there are no weaker teams. To get out of the East, the Flyers need to get better as a defensive unit in front of whoever winds up in net. Holmgren has talked about acquiring another defenseman and that might be necessary to the teams' playoff success. Randy Jones is a liability on the second pairing. If the defense gets that one guy to fill the hole, this is a damn good team. [NOTE: more questions after the jump.]
LH: Niiftty Niittymaki has taken the #1 spot but struggled against Ottawa. Do you think he can carry them on a long playoff run?
BSH: A lot of people forget that Niittymaki carried Finland to the gold medal game in the 2004 Olympics and was the MVP of the tournament. A lot of people also forget that he carried the AHL's Phantoms to the Calder Cup title in 2005 during the lockout, and that team consisted of a ton of the guys that make up the Flyers now (Carter, Richards, coach Stevens, etc). It came out Friday that Niitty has the flu, so that might've affected his performance against Ottawa. Who knows.
But yeah, I believe Niittymaki can carry the Flyers on a long playoff run. He has the experience at a ton of different levels but he just hasn't gotten the opportunity at the NHL level. He's hitting the prime of his career about now and I think he could be the Flyers goalie for a number of years. I suppose part of that might be wishful thinking on my part, but I really do think he can be a phenomenal goalie.
LH: Daniel Briere: Still a happy, justifiable signing, or "Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time, but..."?
BSH: Too early to tell. Is that a cop out? I'm still trying to determine if the season before he came to Philly, 2006/07 in Buffalo where he scored 32 goals and 63 assists, was a fluke. His goal numbers were right there last year when he scored 31, but his assists dramatically tailed off and he had 41. I think, in large part, that had to do with missing Gagne on his line all season. Once the Flyers get Briere and Gagne healthy at the same time, it's got some potential.
I still think he's a soft little wimp though. Never liked him in Buffalo, and he can score a hundred goals and won't touch my favorite Flyers list, but as long as he does his job, I can deal.
LH: Aaron Asham: What did Flyers fans think of him before he became a Flyer, what do they think of him now?
BSH: I always kind of respected Asham, actually. It's hard to like a tough guy who played for two division rivals, but I kind of respected him because he had a bit of a scoring touch (for a tough guy) too. Now that he's a Flyer, I think he's a great guy to have on that fourth line. You always notice him on the ice, and that's a good thing.
LH: I mean, the Flyers are going to beat out the Rangers, right? Tell me they'll stay ahead of the Rangers.
BSH: I'm not afraid of the Rangers at all, honestly. I haven't been all season. They have no scoring. A team like that doesn't go deep into the playoffs. A team that wants Sean Avery doesn't go deep into the playoffs. I'd LOVE to play them as the 4/5 matchup in the playoffs. I mean, it's the Rangers we're talking about here. They're the Yankees of hockey without the success.
LH: Thanks again to Travis for the interesting look at the Flyers.