Don't look now, but the Philadelphia Flyers are officially one of the hottest teams in the league. Last night, they outlasted the Dallas Stars to win their 5th straight game and currently sit at 10-6-4 on the season. Not too shabby considering the rash of injuries the Flyers have suffered early on.
Certainly, this team is coming around thanks to a little more stability on defense, better play in the net by Martin Biron, the fast start from Simon Gagne and the all-around play of Mike Richards, among others. But the main reason the Flyers are as dangerous as ever right now is because of Jeff Carter.
No player in the NHL has been more lethal with the puck than Carter. Last night, he scored his 15th goal of the young season, placing him tied for the NHL lead along with Buffalo's Thomas Vanek. Right now, there is no one hotter than Jeff Carter.
When Mike Richards went down last season to injury, the Flyers desperately needed someone to step up. That's when Carter stepped his game up and became the player the Flyers always knew he would become. The question was, when Richards returns, will Carter keep this up? He answered that with an emphatic yes down the stretch and into the postseason.
The Flyers made resigning Carter their No. 1 priority this offseason with good reason, but the question still remained as to whether or not he could carry over his success from the second half of last year. Question answered. This season, Carter has been quite possibly the best player on the Flyers. Certainly, Richards and Gagne are in the equation there, and a guy like Mike Knuble (who scored twice last night including the game winner) is key, but Carter has been doing it on both ends all year.
He kills penalties. He often goes against the other team's top forwards. And, oh yeah, he can shoot the puck like nobody's business. It is truly a marvel to watch Carter with the puck. He'll shoot it from anywhere, any time, and usually put it in a damn good spot. His release is lightning quick and his wrist shot heavy.
And this year, he's risen his game to join the elite status of players in the NHL. All season long, no matter who John Stevens has put on his line, the Carter line has been the most consistent for Philadelphia. He makes others around him better, whether it's Scottie Upshall, Andreas Nodl or Scott Hartnell. If you haven't had a chance to really watch Carter play, do yourself a favor and do so. The way he's playing right now, there isn't a more impressive hockey player in the world. That's why he's tops in the league in goals and destined for his first All-Star birth.