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.