NHL 2013-14: Philadelphia Flyers Diagnostic Report
The dictionary defines the word "keystone" as "the wedge-shaped piece at the summit of an arch, regarded as holding the other pieces in place." If you take out the keystone, you take out the whole structure.
This is why Pennsylvania is referred to as "The Keystone State". During the days of the American Revolution, Pennsylvania was believed to be the keystone of the United States. Take out Pennsylvania, and you weaken the entire country.
In Philadelphia, PA, the term takes on the same meaning when it comes to the hockey team.
Here's a quick recap of the last three Philadelphia Flyers games: a 7-0 blowout loss with a massive line brawl, a 1-0 win the next night, and a 2-1 loss on Tuesday night despite leading 1-0 with under a minute left.
What do all three games have in common? An extreme lack of goal scoring from the Flyers.
Even though goaltender Steve Mason's body language showed his frustration with himself on Tuesday night in Carolina, he is not to blame. Neither is the other goaltender, Ray Emery.
Going into the 2013-14 season, Philadelphia's major concern was goaltending because, well, it's been that way for years and years. The offense was supposed to be the team's strong point, and it was the common belief that if the team could prevent goals, it would score more than enough to return to the ranks of the NHL's elite.
Well, this is hockey. And sure enough, that's the complete opposite of what has transpired in the first month of the season for the Flyers.
Emery and Mason have each done fairly solid jobs between the pipes, especially Mason, who is statistically one of the best goalies in the NHL other than his 3-7 record.
Guess where the offense ranks? Last. Dead last. And it's not even close.
The Flyers average only a goal and a half per game, and "superstar" captain Claude Giroux has yet to put the puck in the net. Same story with the young Sean Couturier.
Giroux is the supposed to be the star that this team rallies around. Without his scoring, the team weakens to a point of being inefficient, and it cannot score enough no matter how much the defense and goaltending have improved.
Since the Flyers overcame their dreadful 2007 season with a 2008 campaign that saw them return to the playoffs and inch their way back to the Stanley Cup Final in 2010, they have been based on offense. Even if the team gets better at preventing goals, it still cannot win without scoring them.
It's safe to say that the offense is the keystone of the Philadelphia Flyers, and that Claude Giroux is the keystone of the offense. Without Giroux's scoring, the offense is weak. With a weak offense, the team is weak.
The good news, however, is that the season is still young. There is more than enough time for the Flyers to turn the ship around and make a charge to the playoffs again. Will they? Time will tell.
For now, Giroux needs to put the team on his back and lead them to greener pastures.