So What's Up With the Flyers?|
By Ray Van Horn, Jr. Copyright 1999
Just when they thought they were finally over the hump, the Philadelphia Flyers have found themselves jinxed and in the hole once again as the Stanley Cup playoffs looms near.
After a masterful first half of the season (in one stretch losing only once in 21 games), the Flyers have become the talk of the NHL for not-so-dubious reasons.
The infamous 12 game winless streak (0-8-4), further marred by the well-publicized rinkside eruption by head coach Roger Nielson, had appeared finally behind the team, who got back on track in an attempt to solidify their positioning in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Alright, so they've clinched the spot already--their fabulous play during the first half ensured a virtual lock. Even with the Flyers' second half troubles, they post a 34-25-18 mark through April 5th.
However, the plague has returned to Philly at the end of the regular season, as four key players are currently out: John LeClair, Mark Recchi, Eric Desjardins, and of course, the shocking development of Eric Lindros' collapsed lung.
LeClair, whose previous absence was an ugly, prominent factor to "The Streak," is out again indefinitely with a sore back. Mark Recchi, after rejoining the Flyers after being traded from Montreal a few weeks ago, is suffering a reported post-concussion syndrome following a March 22nd incident versus the Toronto Maple Leafs. Desjardins is gone for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
Of course, the most devastating news involves Eric Lindros.
After serving a two-game suspension for a high stick to the face of the New York Rangers' Petr Nedved, Lindros took a harsh cross check from Bob Boughner in his return game against the Nashville Predators.
Seemingly unshaken on a long-term scale, Lindros "went out and had a cheeseburger and fries," in his own words, only to find himself short of breath, which prompted roommate Keith Jones to call team trainer John Worley, who consequently summoned an ambulance.
Lindros, who suffered a concussion earlier this season, found himself facing a punctured lung. About three quarts of blood had seeped into the contusion as doctors in Nashville pumped and re-expanded Lindros' damaged lung.
Lindros is slowly recovering and unavailable for the remainder of the regular season. It is as of yet undetermined whether or not he will be healthy for the playoffs.
Flyers General Manager, Bob Clarke announced, "This is a serious injury. The players' health is of major concern to us. We won't be playing him (Lindros) until all doctors are very confident that his health is fine."
Since this late run of terrible luck involving the Flyers' elite, the remaining team has dropped consecutive games to the Bruins (3-0) and the Rangers (5-1), which leads to the following question: Okay, the Flyers are in the playoffs, but can they roll with anyone in their current state?
With Lindros and LeClair combining for 178 points, including 79 of the team's 219 goals, and Recchi, who has 52 points between tenures with Montreal and Philadelphia, the scoring will assuredly drop off.
Rod Brind'Amour is the next Flyers goal leader with 22, while Mikael Renberg has been making a late season surge, racking up 12 points in his last 14 games, accounting for 4 goals and 8 assists.
Is this enough, though?
The answer, unfortunately, is no. With the Flyers' defensive ace in the form of Desjardins out for the year, and goalie John Vanbiesbrouck sporadically showing brilliance in the net, while more than occassionally going soft from a burdensome workload, the Flyers currently have too much of an imbalance on all aspects of their game.
How do their chances shape up in the playoffs? If they draw New Jersey off the bat, forget it. The Flyers need help and fast, lest they face the aforementioned rapid elimination.
Copyright©1999 The HockeyNut