The hulking veteran defenseman -- who sports a Stanley Cup ring and is freshly-minted as an Olympic gold medalist -- was dazzling at times throughout the season, but also made some mistakes that were unbecoming of him.
In the second-to-last game of the season, with a playoff spot on the line, Pronger had two critical errors that led to Ranger goals in a 4-3 New York win.
Of course, he also posted 10 goals, 55 points, and a plus-22 this season for the Flyers. Oh, and he's been sharp as a tack so far in the playoffs, showing the form that helped Anaheim win the Cup in 2007.
Pronger, 35, wasn't nominated for the Norris Trophy, despite having a more-than-solid season, even by his lofty standards. It could be because he wasn't the huge offensive force guys like Mike Green and Duncan Keith were, but it could also have to do with his sometimes-subpar play in the Olympics, or his famous game Jan. 28 against Atlanta.
Evander Kane is a good player, yes, but Pronger doesn't usually get whipped like that twice in one game. It led some to think that he had lost a step and wouldn't be as strong come playoff time.
Now that we're in the playoffs, he's been his usual self. All three of his goals so far have come on Flyers power plays, and he's not getting the puck to the net as much as he did earlier in his career. But he has to be accounted for in the offensive game, and coach Peter Laviolette has been smart to send him to the net once in a while, where his huge frame and long reach can be a factor.
Defensively, he's been tough to play against, but he hasn't crossed the line with dangerous physical play like he was known for in the past. It's a combination of his experience and some added maturity that apparently came with age. He understands that his team is counting on him for huge minutes, and he can't afford to be spending time in the penalty box or press box.
Pronger took 79 penalty minutes during the regular season, meaning 80 players in the league had more. He has just four PIMs in nine playoff games. By comparison, Pronger has never had fewer than 12 penalty minutes in a playoff year, no matter how short his team's run was. His regular-season total was down from each of the last two years, and it marks his second-lowest total for a full season.
He's playing over 29 minutes a game so far in the playoffs, and he's arguably been Philly's best player, and certainly he's been their best defenseman.
Pronger is the guy Laviolette can throw on the ice in any key situation. It doesn't matter if the Flyers are even strength, short-handed, on a power play, protecting a late one-goal lead, or trying desperately to tie a game late in regulation. Pronger is on the ice whenever Laviolette can get him there, and Pronger is trusted to make the right play when the puck is on his stick.
Either Pronger was pacing himself at times during the season, he was battling an injury no one knew about, or he has developed the keen ability to step it up when things really matter. No matter what the reason, Pronger appears to be playing some of his best hockey in the spring.
None of it justifies the seven-year deal the Flyers gave Pronger after their draft night trade with Anaheim last summer. When he's over 40 and still counting for big money on their cap, they will likely regret drawing up that contract.
However, in the here and now, Pronger is showing few signs of his age, and he appears determined to prove he can still be a big-time difference-maker in the playoffs. Give the Flyers a couple more years of this, and they'll surely figure out how to build the right team around him so they can again contend for the Stanley Cup. If they can do that, it will take the sting out of that cap hit in 2014-2015.