Flyers Face Devils in Hellish North Jersey
The Flyers are coming of a west coast road trip which started in Vancouver, a place they have not lost in 14 years and ended in Detroit, a place they have not won in 22 years. The Flyers went 2-2 on that trip with both those records being broken with a loss in Vancouver and a win in Detroit.
The Devils are going through some tough times that they did not for see when they signed Kovalchuk his huge contract. Even their one solid piece is starting to crumble, Martin Brodeur usually the glue that held this team together, some say without any stars on the team.
I say there was a star on all those teams and that was Marty Brodeur, he has won many games for that franchise and no one knows how many he has left in him.
The Flyers and Devils will meet for the third time this season when they drop the puck tonight at the Prudential Center in downtown Newark.
The series is split 1-1 with the Devils taking the first matchup 2-1 in an OT shootout on Nov. 27th and the Flyers taking the game on Dec 4th 5-3. These two teams are headed in opposite directions, with the Flyers having a legit shot at challenging for the President's trophy and the Devils heading towards a lottery pick.
The Flyers seemed to have figured out their goalie situation, at least for the short term. They have waived Michael Leighton their starting goalie in the Stanley Cup Finals just a year ago.
Don't know if this is the first time for this to happen, but both starting goaltenders from last year's Stanley Cup teams are not currently with their teams, as Niemi, the Blackhawks goalie was not resigned in the off season.
With Leighton waived it makes for more room at practice for all involved. Let's face it Leighton needs work and he was not going to get it in practice nor in any games as it would cool Boosh down and take time away from Bobrovsky's development.
Leighton was not the most mobile tender before he hurt his back and it will take him some time to get his mobility up to NHL backup standards. With him not being claimed off waivers he has reported to the Phantoms where he can get the playing time he needs to get back in game shape.
This is good news for Bob, Boosh and Lavy as things head back to normal with a two goalie rotation. All that being said the Flyers cannot take this game lightly, they need to reach down and find their "A" tonight.
The Devils have the worst record in the league, have score the least goals in the league averaging 1.77 goals per game. They have only won 2 games in their last ten and enter tonight on a two game losing streak.
Stats like that can make a team take the night off and if the Flyers do that they will not win as the Devils always seem to play them tough.
In The Nets
Now that the Flyers situation in net has been resolved for now, it looks like the Flyers will start Brian Boucher (8-4-2) 2.33 GAA in net tonight. Boucher is 7-1-1 in his last nine starts with a 2.10 GAA.
The Devils will go with Johan Hedberg (5-8-1) 2.87 GAA who has been more dependable than Brodeur this season. Hedberg turned in a 40 save performance versus the Flyers on Nov 4th in the Devils' 2-1 OT SO win.
Just when you think the Flyers are an unstoppable team this season, you stop and wonder if these goaltenders are any better than last season's.
With the additions on defense in the off season, the defense has played a big part in the success of the goalie play this season, as they go the goalie goes. If you break it down they are kind of in the same situation as last season.
Bob is a rookie who has not played more than 35 games in a season and has fallen off a little lately. Can he regain his early season form? Does his struggles go away with the return of Pronger?
Boucher is what he is and that is streaky at best. Unfortunately his streaks are not as long as an NHL playoff run would be. He is a good backup and great guy but not the answer the Flyers need to win the cup.
Leighton also has had very limited NHL experience the most coming last season with the Flyers. Now he is not even in the NHL or worthy of a waiver pickup which he was once good at.
This should worry Flyers' fans, as this team, if they do not make any moves at the deadline, will head into the 2010-2011 playoffs no better at the goaltending position than they were last season.
It is kind of hard to envision them doing anything to strengthen that position this season. One thought that has been floated out there is possibly picking up Nabokov who has recently left the KHL and has become a free agent.
Holmgren would have to be creative and also hope Nabby would not ask for much as the season would be half over. I am half on board with this thought as he would have the most experience of any Flyer goalie and he could also mentor Bobrovsky in the game and life in the US.
Of course Boosh, Leighton and possibly someone else would have to go. Just a thought, you never know what management is thinking, especially right now.
Step Up Players
Carle, Richards, Giroux