Last year, the Philadelphia Flyers were a favorite to make it deep into the playoffs at the beginning of the season, but injuries and poor play led to the firing of Head Coach John Stevens in December. His replacement, Peter Laviolette, led the Flyers back up the standings and in the final game of the season, Philadelphia beat the New York Rangers in a shootout to secure a spot in the playoffs.
After dominating the New Jersey Devils in the first round, the Flyers proceeded to take fans on a wild ride, completing the 3rd ever playoff series victory after falling behind 3-0 to the Boston Bruins. They then beat the upstart Montreal Canadiens in the conference finals by crashing the net and getting in the face of red hot goalie Jaroslav Halak. However, after such an exciting and hard fought road to the Stanley Cup Finals, their hopes of lifting the Stanley Cup would be crushed. Instead, they watched Chicago’s Patrick Kane sprint down the ice in jubilation after scoring the game seven overtime goal.
After coming so close the Flyers will be hungrier than ever. Already an intimidating team, look for the boys on Broad Street to come out swinging this season.
Offense: A- Philadelphia will bring in mostly the same forward group this season. Led by captain Mike Richards, a talented, hard-hitting center, the Flyers will look to hit first, score second, ask questions never. Richards is supported by a skilled group. Postseason scoring leader Daniel Briere and sniper Jeff Carter will rack up the points while power forward Scott Hartnell leads a tough as nails supporting cast. Look for both Ville Leino and James van Riemsdyk to see a significant jump in their ice time and point production this year. Tough-as-nails winger Daniel Carcillo will continue to contribute solid secondary scoring while frustrating just about everybody in the league with his “on the edge” style of play.
Defense: A The Flyers have always been a team that relied heavily on defense to punish opponents and make every trip down the ice an unpleasant one. Veteran Chris Pronger, a literal mountain of a man, will play alongside two way defenseman Matt Carle on the Flyers first pairing. It doesn’t get easier after that, with smooth skating Kimmo Timonen pairing up with 6’5” Braydon Coburn. Former Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Andrej Meszaros and youngster Oskars Bartulis will round out the top six and another former Bolt, Matt Walker, should be a healthy scratch most nights but may see more ice time if injuries become a problem.
Goaltending: B- The question that seems to be on Flyer’s fans minds every year is the situation between the pipes. Michael Leighton backstopped the Flyers to an Eastern conference championship but came up short in the finals, introducing plenty of doubt into many critics minds. Veteran Brian Boucher will be breathing down Leighton’s neck and attempt to take over the reigns should he falter.
Key Additions: Andrej Meszaros Key Losses: Simon Gagne, Aaron Asham