Philadelphia Flyers center Mike Richards, left, celebrates his goal with teammate Claude Giroux, right, during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Washington Capitals, Saturday, Nov. 20, 2010, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass) Nick Wass

Depth has been cited frequently as the biggest reason for the Flyers' success.

It's tough to pick out the team's best line, let alone its best player.

And that's not just conjecture. The stats support the argument that the Flyers are the league's deepest team.

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The Flyers are the only team in the NHL with two players in the top 10 in goals (Danny Briere and Claude Giroux). They're the only team with three in the top 16 (adding Jeff Carter), and the only one with four in the top 30 (adding Mike Richards).

Briere, Giroux, Carter and Richards are all centers, meaning they're usually spread over three lines. And Nikolay Zherdev, who is tied for 43rd in the league in goals, has been playing on the fourth line.

The depth extends to the Flyers' defense. Their third pairing is Sean O'Donnell and Andrej Meszaros, who rank first and fourth, respectively, in the league in plus-minus. Matt Carle makes them the only team with three defensemen in the top 16, and Braydon Coburn makes them the only team with four in the top 28.

Four of the top 28 defensemen in the NHL's plus-minus rankings, plus four-time All-Star Kimmo Timonen and former league MVP Chris Pronger - not too bad.

The depth extends to special teams, also. Six different Flyers have scored power-play goals (Giroux, Briere, Carter, Richards and Ville Leino). And they're the only team in the league with two players who have scored multiple short-handed goals (Giroux and Richards).

It's not top-heavy depth, either. Once Dan Carcillo comes back from injury, he will have a hard time cracking the lineup, which has 12 quality forwards even without him.

The scratches on defense include injured Matt Walker, a veteran of 306 NHL games, and Oskars Bartulis, who played four games in the Stanley Cup finals as a 23-year-old rookie last season.

The depth even extends to the goalie position. The two goalies from last year, Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher, will battle for the backup spot behind rookie sensation Sergei Bobrovsky once Leighton returns from injury.

What all this means is that the Flyers are far less vulnerable than most other teams to injuries.

Perhaps more importantly, teams cannot exploit any specific weaknesses. Last season, teams feasted on the Flyers third defensive pairing, but this season that pairing is O'Donnell and Meszaros. And good luck to opposing coaches trying to choose whether to send their checking lines out against Briere, Richards, or Carter and Giroux.

In light of all that, it's no surprise that the Flyers have the second-best record in the NHL.


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