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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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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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New Flyers Performing in Preseason

I’m back and settled into this new semester of school and ready for some Flyers hockey. I’ve gotten the chance to watch a few games on TV and attended one of the home games last week.

With the regular season about a week away, the Flyers have been trying out their new talent during the NHL preseason over the past week or two. New guys like Jaromir Jagr, Ilya Bryzgalov, Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, and Sean Couturier all have had their fair share of play time so far, while returning players look to work on their expanded role this upcoming season. Here’s a few notes about pre-season so far:

Goaltending
Bobs posted a shutout in his first pre-season start. Granted, our skaters dominated most of that game and kept Toronto’s chances slim, but he still looked good in net and made some timely saves. Bryzgalov has let up his fair share of goals so far but has also made some great saves. None of them have been particularly “soft”. If we can somehow find a way to hang on to Bob as our backup this season with the temptation to trade him, I think our goaltending unit will be more than solid to say the least. Who knows if Leighton will be the backup or be waived/sent down to the Phantoms. I’d rather keep the Russian connection between our pipes.

6th Defenseman
If our newly crowned captain Chris Pronger is available to go on opening night, there will be one spot available on the Flyers blue line. Veteran Andreas Lilja signed this off-season to provide depth, but I think the Flyers will lean to one of their younger players. Walker and Lilja are meant to be scratched every night, and I think Oskars Bartulis or Eric Gustafsson will be filling that role. Bartulis has gotten some playing time over the past two seasons and is well liked by the Flyers organization. Gustafsson’s game is more on the offensive side, with skills in puck control and skating. Both of these guys have done a good job during the pre-season, but I haven’t seen enough to figure out who gets the opening night nod. If Pronger is unavailable, I’m sure Walker or Lilja will be paired with one of these guys for our 3rd pairing. Only time will tell.

New Offensive Faces
Jaromir Jagr has sure shown that he can come back from the NHL so far, netting 3 goals and 2 assists so far. He has shown the ability to take high percentage shots and bury them, and as a plus… he’s been having success on the powerplay. Our powerplay was atrocious last year, and I’ve been hoping Jagr can help revitalize this unit. A line of Jagr and Briere with JVR/Giroux sounds amazing, we will see.

Matt Read has been turning everybody’s heads in camp and pre-season with a tie for the league lead with 6 points. Laviolette has used him in pretty much every facet of the game and it looks like he is a shoe-in for the opening night roster on the 3rd line. I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t make the team.

Wayne Simmonds has potted 3 goals as well and has been getting into the dirty parts of the ice and being the high energy player we hoped to get in the Richards trade. Regardless of what happened with him and Avery, I think he will be a great fit on this team. Max Talbot hasn’t done a whole lot to impress me yet, but I think his role will come into play when the season starts and there’s more stability in the locker room.

The young Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn have also been on the ice this pre-season and I think Schenn has a better chance of making the team at this point. Couturier is still a raw talent that will probably need more time outside of the NHL to develop. Schenn may very well make the team, and has been a big part of our penalty kill while displaying the two-way skill that got him touted as such as high prospect. The salary cap will come into play heavily here, so we will see how that works out.

Zac Rinaldo has also shown that he can be our tough guy with some hockey ability this pre-season, and looks to take Shelley’s spot on the 4th line after Shelley got suspended for his cheap shot against the Leafs last week. My projected lines look something like this:

Voracek-Briere-Hartnell/Jagr/JVR
Jagr-Giroux-JVR
Simmonds-Schenn-Read
Rinaldo-Betts-Talbot (Nodl)

I’m not exactly sure how these will pan out, but I know those guys on the first two lines will be there, just not in that order most likely. Voracek has shown some flash and the ability to set up guys, so he might be a natural with Briere. Jagr fits in that category too, so it all depends on where Lavvy wants to put these guys.

With two pre-season games left, small position and roster tweaks will be made in order to get this team ready to watch the Bruins raise their championship banner on opening night next Thursday. I’ll have more on here shortly before the season opener. Let’s see if this Matt Read guy can make the team or not.

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2011 in Flyers Talk and Other

 

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