Flyers and Bruins Battle for First Place
On Wednesday night, HBO premiered their first installment of the award-winning series “24/7” profiling the road to this year’s Winter Classic.
The show’s introduction concentrated on the up-and-downs of the long NHL season and acknowledged how turbulent the grueling 82-game marathon can be.
Saturday afternoon’s game between the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins is a perfect example of how true that statement is.
The two teams met on the first day of the regular season. The retooled Flyers were prepping for their first official game, while the team who eliminated them from the previous season’s playoffs, the Bruins, raised their first Stanley Cup banner since 1972.
Following an extended ceremony that felt like it traversed all of Massachusetts, the two teams finally had a chance to play the game.
It did not begin the way the Flyers would have hoped.
The Bruins took the lead at the mid-way point of the first period when Brad Marchand scored a power play goal on the team’s first man-advantage of the game.
However, the newly assembled Flyers did not go down without a fight.
Scoring two goals in the final minute of the first, the Flyers shut down the reigning champs for the rest of the game and pulled out the 2-1 victory.
Much has changed since their initial match-up; some changes for the better, some for the worse and some that have been downright devastating.
For the Bruins, the opening month of the season was rough.
The team went 3-7-0 in October, losing twice to the bottom-feeding Carolina Hurricanes and losing the last three games of the month, which included back-to-back losses to their bitter rivals, the Montreal Canadiens.
While the team looked as if they were suffering from a Stanley Cup hangover, nothing could have been further from the truth.
The Bruins went 12-1-0 in November, catapulting the team back to the top of the standings. They have continued that play in December going 5-2-0.
Since losing three consecutive games at the end of October, the Bruins have only lost three games in November and December combined.
The Flyers have also had a hot-hand of late.
The team is currently on a seven-game winning streak and is 9-1-0 in their last ten.
However, not all has gone smoothly for Philadelphia.
The Flyers have been battling injuries all season. Most notably, the team has lost their captain, Chris Pronger as well as their leading scorer, Claude Giroux to concussions. While Giroux is out for an indefinite period of time, it was officially announced on Thursday night that Pronger will be shut down for the remainder of the 2011-12 season.
The Bruins are no longer the team that faced the Flyers on the first night of the season. They are running on all-cylinders and performing at maximum efficiency.
With a win in regulation, Boston will gain control of first place in the Eastern Conference from Philadelphia.
The Flyers have also changed. While they may not have Pronger or Giroux, they do have players that have developed into their roles and are confident in their ability to execute assignments.
It is evident that the Bruins and Flyers are rising to the challenges of the NHL season. Each team has overcome difficult starts to be in position to battle for first place.
Saturday will be a benchmark game for both teams; Philadelphia will look to hold onto the top spot, while the Bruins will look to take it.