Better With Popcorn

Philadelphia Flyers Preview 2010-2011

It seems just like yesterday that the Philadelphia Flyers were playing the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals! The Flyers losing in game six on a hard angle shot by Blackhawk forward Patrick Kane through the pads of Flyers goalie Michael Leighton. Well, that’s in the past now and it’s time to start the 2010-2011 season. It was great to see the Flyers in the finals, but it was even harder to see them lose.

Today the Flyers will open the new home of the Pittsburgh Penguins. It will be the start of what looks like a very promising year for the Flyers. The Flyers are trying to become part of a handful of teams that lost in the Stanley Cup Finals the year before and then win the Stanley Cup the following season. I believe this year’s version of the Flyers is better than last year’s but that doesn’t mean an automatic parade down Broad Street. It is a very long season and anything can happen. This franchise has made some interesting decisions this summer that will help this team in the long run.

The offense I believe has gotten stronger with the addition of Nikolay Zherdev. Zherdev has always had the talent to play in the NHL, but its more about his mental make-up that hasn’t let him blossom into a star. I believe finally he has learned, after playing last year in the KHL I believe Zherdev is back in North America to show the critics he can produce and help the Flyers towards their goal of a Stanley Cup. He has shown during the preseason that he is able to find the back of the net. This Flyers team has a potential for eight 20 goal scorers. This list of eight includes Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Scott Hartnell, Danny Briere, Ville Leino, James van Riemsdyk, Claude Giroux, and Zherdev. That is some serious depth that this team posses. I really think the third line has a chance to be the best of the three lines. One reason is JVR has bulked up and looked really good this preseason. If Giroux plays like he did last year in the playoffs he will do very well. Though the Flyers did also lose one player that I think won’t hurt them as much since they have Zherdev and that is Simon Gagne. He was huge during the playoffs and showed when healthy he is still an elite talent. It’s just that he never seemed to stay healthy for a full season. Gagne will be missed. Though offense won’t win you championships; defense is also a key part to any team’s success.

The Flyers had two very good defensive pairings last year. They had Matt Carle and Chris Pronger along with Braydon Coburn and Kimmo Timonen. While the third line last year was ok during the regular season come playoff time Flyers Coach Peter Laviolette relied heavily on the top two pairs. The goal during the off-season was to improve the defense. I believe they have done so. They went out and got two veterans that have proven themselves in the league in that of Sean O’Donnell and Andrej Mezzaros. These two are definitely an upgrade over former Flyers Ryan Parent and Lukas Krajicek. Also, unlike last year if an injury was to occur they have depth at the blue line with Oskars Bartulis and newly acquired Matt Walker. They will help solidify the defense and help whoever is playing in net for the Flyers this season.

The biggest unknown is the goaltending situation for Flyers, but yet again it’s the same question every year. Yet, the Flyers still find ways to win games with journeymen in net. The Flyers re-signed Michael Leighton after he helped carry the team through the regular season and majority of the playoffs once he was healthy again. The Flyers expected him to be their number one goalie this year as well. It just so happened that Leighton got hurt during preseason and will miss an undetermined amount of time to begin the season. Therefore, fan favorite Brian Boucher will start the season in net for the Flyers. The intriguing part of this is the Flyers have a rookie Sergei Bobrovsky who will back-up Leighton. Bobrovsky has played excellent hockey this preseason and may very well be the goalie that Flyers fans are looking for. He is being praised for his speed in net. I believe he should be in the AHL playing more to help him get adjusted to the North American game better since he played in the KHL last year, but the Flyers need him now and well he has impressed me enough to warrant some playing time. If and when he starts a game it will be interesting to see how he does. Though, I also believe that the Boucher will do a good job in net for the Flyers.

Only time will tell how well the Flyers will be this year. I expect an excellent season from the boys in the orange and the black.

On kind of a side note, I’m saddened to hear that Ian Laperriere may miss the entire 2010-2011 season due to post concussion syndrome. The man is a warrior and it will not be the same without him sacrificing his body to help his team win.

Please feel free to post comments or questions!