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Monthly Archives: October 2011

New Flyers Quickly Becoming Fan Favorites

Three games into the young NHL season and the Flyers stand 3-0. I attended the home opener on Wednesday, and the building was loud as ever. It’s almost as if Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were never there. All of the new faces have been contributing in their own ways, but there are a few of the new guys who really stand out. During player introductions and throughout the game, new players were treated just as warmly as older ones, but some more than others. I want to look at three new Flyers who really have made an impact not just on the ice, but in Flyers fans’ hearts as well.

Ilya Bryzgalov
He’s the goaltender this city has been waiting years for. So far, the Bryz has been as good as advertised, and has provided some awesome quotes to the media with his quirky sense of humor. He posted a shutout in the second game of the season at the Devils, something the 2010-2011 Flyers team could not do at all. If he can consistently keep us in games and maybe steal a game or two for us, Bryzgalov is well on his way to being beloved by Philly. He received a nice cheer during the player introductions, and plenty of them when he made some timely saves on the penalty kill.

Wayne Simmonds
I love this guy. When he came over in the Richards trade, I knew we had a prototypical Flyer on our hands but I was not sure exactly if he’d crack the lineup past the 3rd line. Well, here we are three games into the season and Simmonds is on our second line with Briere and Voracek, and sees extensive powerplay time. Simmonds is a young, energetic, talented hockey player. He goes to the dirty areas of the ice, and wreaks havoc in front of the net. Most scrums in front of the net start with this guy, and the fans love him. Every time he mixed it up or got in the middle of something, the fans cheered. I’ve seen some Simmonds jerseys popping up, and it won’t be long before we see more. And did I mention he could fight too?

Jaromir Jagr
For a player who was vehemently hated when he was on the other side, #68 has found that the City of Brotherly Love can be quite accommodating if you wear the right jersey. I grew up watching him kick our ass on the Penguins and the Rangers, and never really liked him. At 39 years old, Jagr has proven so far that he still has some in the tank and we’re all hoping he can go the distance this year. Now we’re not worried about having to take him off the puck because he’s on the good guys side for once. Along with Bryzgalov and Simmonds, I think Jagr is one of the new players who has really excited the fan base and draws most of the cheers. His intro and plays during the home opener were met with loud support and I’ve seen a LOT of Jagr jerseys. Probably the most out of any new player. Jagr has helped revitalized the powerplay that struggled so much last year with his great cycle game, and if he can continue playing a two-way game and contributing offensively, the Flyers should have a very successful year. His chemistry with Giroux is building, and if them two can find a way to fully get on the same page with VanRiemsdyk, this line could be one of the scariest in hockey.

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Posted by on October 15, 2011 in Flyers Talk and Other

 

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Flyers Home Opener 2011

The Vancouver Canucks head into Philadelphia tonight when the Flyers return after starting the season 2-0 on the road to play for the first time in front of their home fans. The Flyers have turned in two solid 60 minute efforts on the road against the defending champions and one of their division rivals, and look to build on their early successes. Claude Giroux leads the team with two goals so far, and Ilya Bryzgalov leads the league with both save percentage and goals against average in the young season. The defense has been good with Pronger still slowly rounding back to form, and the offense has been tenacious on the forecheck and backcheck in creating turnovers and offensive chances. Ilya Bryzgalov has made some dazzling saves, and things seem to be working out just fine so far.

Bryzgalov’s presence has shown a lot to this team already besides his stats. Due to the change in forward personnel and goaltending, this seems more confident in their goaltender and not afraid to lose. Last year, it was clear that the Flyers were having trouble staying confident with their defense in the playoffs because of many soft goals being allowed towards the end of the year. When forwards are worrying about every move they make that can lead to allowing goal, it breaks up the flow of the game and their concentration. Our defense is packed with veteran leaders like Timonen and Pronger and stout younger defenseman like Meszaros and Coburn. If they can continue defending Bryz the way they have and let him make the saves he has to, there is no reason the Flyers should not be a very successful team this year.

The forward lines seem to be clicking as well, with Giroux and Jagr continuing their chemistry they built in the pre-season. Briere has yet to find the score sheet, but seems to be meshing with new linemates Simmonds and Voracek pretty well. First round draft pick Sean Couturier has also played very well in the first two games. He has been a major factor on the penalty kill and has displayed his all-around play that the draft reports talked about in the off-season. He makes things very hard on the Flyers in their decision making coming in the next couple weeks. Blair Betts returned to the Flyers after being deemed unhealthy by the Canadiens, and our contract limit and cap space are making it hard to keep these players. Brayden Schenn is likely for a call-up at some point this year, so we will have to see. Like I said in the past, this forward unit and team as a whole might need some time to get their stuff together; but don’t discount this team for a second. Filled with young talent up and down the roster, there is a very bright season and an even brighter future ahead of this team.

Face-off is 7:30 tonight, let’s see if the Flyers can take down the defending Western Conference Champions.

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2011 in Flyers Talk and Other

 

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It’s Finally Here: New Era of Flyers Hockey Begins Tonight

The Flyers return to the TD Garden in Boston tonight for the first time since they ended their playoff hopes there back in April. The Bruins, fresh off of an impressive run through the playoffs and a Stanley Cup victory, will be hoisting their championship banner into the rafters to kick off their 2011-2012 campaign. The Flyers open up their first two games on the road before heading home against the Canucks next week, so this one should be a good test.

The Bruins are largely unchanged from their roster last year, with lots of depth on the forward lines and a stout defense backed by impressive goaltenders. The Flyers are coming off a forward overhaul and a big signing of a top-tier goalie. Tonight’s game should be a great game for hockey fans to add the budding Philly/Boston rivalry that was rekindled during the Winter Classic and the 2010 playoffs. How will the Flyers match up? Will the forwards begin to gel with such a young squad? Will the defense hold up this season? Is Bryzgalov worth his price?

Forwards
The biggest makeover this season was the Flyers’ forward corps. The departures of Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Ville Leino, Kris Versteeg, Darroll Powe, Dan Carcillo, and Blair Betts left holes all over our line-up. However, the additions of Wayne Simmonds, Jaromir Jagr, Jakub Voracek, Maxime Talbot, Matt Read, Sean Couturier, and (eventually) Brayden Schenn will all see action this season to fill a role. Claude Giroux, Danny Briere, Scott Hartnell, and James VanRiemsdyk will all have to carry the load for the offense as returning players. That’s not to say that the new guys will not be contributing either; because Jagr, Read, Voracek, and Simmonds will see an expanded role offensively for the Flyers. Most of these guys are very young and will have to gather chemistry with each other in order to be successful against some of the top talent in the East. Their age hopefully will equal energetic shifts that will mesh with Laviolette’s up-tempo offense.

Talbot enters as a penalty killer and checking line player that should help alleviate the loss of Blair Betts and Darroll Powe. Matt Read was spectacular in the pre-season, but can he translate that to a regular season NHl game? Can Simmonds eclipse 20 goals for the first time in his young career? Will Jagr have enough in the tank for the whole season? Can Voracek build off of his decent start and equal his trade value? And when Schenn finally plays on the Flyers, is he for real? Only time will tell, but the potential of our forwards is there. Let’s see if they can put some goals together.

Ilya Bryzgalov and Sergei Bobrovsky: The Russian Connection
Ilya Bryzgalov, the bajillion dollar man. He comes to the Flyers this season as one of the best goalies they’ve had in years. Will his success in Phoenix continue here in Philadelphia where he has arguably a better team in front of him? What about Bobrovsky? Bobrovsky could vary well be dangled as trade bait until the deadline, or he could be our young backup trying to gain a starting job in the future. I’d rather see the latter, but for once we have a solid goalie and a solid prospect at the same time. Can’t tell you the last time that happened. Let’s see what Bryz can do between the pipes tonight.

The Aging Defense
Chris Pronger, our newly crowned captain, is apparently healthy and ready to go after seeing some action in the pre-season. He returns with Kimmo Timonen, another fellow aging veteran. Matt Carle, Braydon Coburn, and Andrej Meszaros return as well as the younger guys with good NHL experience. I do not think Carle and Coburn will both be returning next season, so their play will dictate who stays and who goes. Matt Walker will be starting for the Flyers tonight after clearing waivers, and free-agent signing Andreas Lilja will be the 7th defenseman. Our defense’s success will be predicated on our older guys staying healthy and remaining effective. If they can do that, our defense should be as good if not better than last year. Also, look for Bartulis and Gustafsson to get some playing time this year if there should be any injury or Laviolette feels the need to give these guys a shot.

Flyers are set for a 7 PM puck drop aired nationally on VS. Then they’ll travel to NJ to face the Devils on Saturday night. Get ready for this one, because it’s going to be a wild ride.

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2011 in Season Previews

 

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