The Flyers had a complete day off in Carolina following a grueling December leading into the festivities of the New Year and Winter Classic. January started just as intense with a home game against Chicago and then a back-to-back series with Ottawa.
It is perhaps the perfect day to have off and relax with a cloudy covered sky and rain for most of the day here in Raleigh.
The Flyers flew to North Carolina immediately following their game last night in Ottawa and will face off against the Hurricanes tomorrow night at the RBC Center.
It will be the second game in the Flyers’ weeklong four-game road trip, and when all is said and done, they will have spent 14 of their last 20 games away from the Wells Fargo Center.
What is also of significance is that when the Flyers take the ice tomorrow against the ‘Canes, they will have reached the halfway mark of the 2011-12 season.
The team currently sits in second place in the Atlantic Division with a 24-12-4 record for 52 points through 40 games, which is also good enough for fourth in the Eastern Conference.
(The Flyers have the third best record in the Conference, but the Florida Panthers take the third seed for being a division leader.)
Coming into this season, it was a legitimate concern among fans about offensive production, having lost so many talented players.
The Flyers have responded with the third-most goals in the NHL (137), just four behind the Boston Bruins and one behind the Vancouver Canucks – last year’s Stanley Cup Finalists.
They also rank second overall in the NHL in goals-scored per game (3.42), trailing only the Boston Bruins (3.63).
The Flyers also have a serious contender for the Art Ross Trophy with Claude Giroux
as the one of the NHL’s leading scorer. Claude Giroux
is currently tied for second in the NHL with 48 points, posting 18 goals and 30 assists, and is just one point shy of Canucks’ center Henik Sedin on the leaderboard.
If you break it down the game-by-game, however, Giroux is tied for the most points-per-game at 1.33… not counting Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby who has only played eight games this season.
Other highlights through the first half include the impressive return of superstar Jaromir Jagr
, who is just shy of averaging a point-per-game with 12 goals and 19 assists for 31 points in 34 games. He ranks third on the team in scoring.Scott Hartnell
is in the midst of a career year as well. The 11-year veteran is second on the team in scoring with 37 points, which includes 18 goals (tied with Giroux for the team lead) and 19 assists. His career-high is 30 goals and 30 assists set in the 2008-09 season.
And oh by the way, the top three scorers on the Flyers all play on one line.
The combination of Hartnell-Giroux-Jagr has accounted for a total of 48 goals and 68 assists for 116 points.
In fact, the Flyers have eight players who have scored at least 10 goals through the first 40 games of the season. They also have nine players to record at least 20 points so far.
The other storyline so far this season has been the invasion of the rookies. Matt Read
has started strong and never looked back. He is currently tied for the NHL lead among rookies in goals (13) with the No. 1 overall pick from this past year, Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Read also ranks fourth among rookies in overall points (25).
One of the most difficult tasks to do in the NHL is make the opening day roster as an 18-year-old… and then stay on it. Sean Couturier
has done both and done it exceptionally well.
Couturier, now 19-year-old, is a key member of the team’s penalty-killing unit, averaging nearly three minutes per game while the team is down a man.
Couturier has also posted 12 points (6G-6A) and an impressive plus-minus rating of plus-8.
Meanwhile, rookies such as Brayden Schenn
, Harry Zolnierczyk and Zac Rinaldo
have all made significant impacts to the team dynamic this season.
With HBO’s 24/7 series, and of course, the spectacular show put on in the NHL Winter Classic, it’s hard to imagine what more fans can expect in the second half.
Then again, is there anything more exciting than the Stanley Cup Playoffs?