Flyers want to raise Stanley Cup at end of season
The Flyers had the Stanley Cup in their arena. They saw it
hoisted, passed around, shaken in celebration – and then packed on
a plane headed toward Chicago.
This season, the Flyers want to be the team drinking from the
So close to missing the postseason entering the last game of the
regular season, Philadelphia mastered the art of the comeback in
the playoffs and soared all the way to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup
finals. The Chicago Blackhawks put a sudden end to its hunt for its
first title since 1975, but the Flyers return this year believing
they can win it all.
Somewhat lost in the hoopla of the championship run was the fact
the Flyers were one goal away from missing the playoffs. They won a
shootout against the Rangers on the final day to make the
postseason – and kept going until June.
So are they really a mediocre bunch of talent that got hot at
the right time or a loaded roster that underachieved in the regular
season before playing to their potential over a riveting Stanley
They stunned the Bruins in the Eastern Conference semifinals and
became the first NHL team in 35 years to pull off a 3-0 comeback to
win a series.
Coach Peter Laviolette, starting his first full season after
taking over in December, says this year’s Flyers are the real deal
and can contend in the Eastern Conference all season.
”Hopefully we can just keep going from there,” Laviolette
said. ”I know it’s a new year but we can certainly build upon
those experiences from last year to get us off to a good start this
The Flyers open defense of their conference championship
Thursday at Pittsburgh in the regular-season debut of the sparkling
Consol Energy Center.
The Flyers are expected to have Chris Pronger, one of the NHL’s
top defenseman, in the lineup after offseason knee surgery. Pronger
has been evasive about his availability and only practiced three
times since training camp opened.
Pronger averaged nearly 26 minutes on the ice during the regular
season, fifth best in the NHL. He was injured in Game 1 of the
Eastern Conference semifinals against Boston, yet still played a
league-leading 29 minutes per game.
”He looks good, he looks like he’s getting back,” Laviolette
said. ”When Prongs is available and he starts to get close, it’s
good for everybody, the organization and the team, its success.
He’s a big part of our lineup.”
He’s not the only hurting Flyer.
Philadelphia opens with two huge pieces from last year’s run out
with injuries. Goalie Michael Leighton has a bulging disc in his
back and will be out at least until the end of the month. He went
8-3 with a 2.56 goals-against average in 14 playoffs games and set
a team playoff record with three shutouts after taking over for
Boucher will likely get the start against the Penguins.
Forward Ian Laperriere’s career is in jeopardy as he suffers the
lingering effects of post-concussion syndrome. Laperriere was hit
by a puck blocking a shot late last year and fought his way back to
He might not be so lucky to make a comeback this season.
The good news for the Flyers is they are deep, even after the
salary-cap related trade of clutch goal scorer Simon Gagne to Tampa
Bay and the Flyers. They boast some of the best defenseman in the
league and they are rich with scorers.
Mike Richards and Jeff Carter each scored 30-plus goals and
Danny Briere had 26. Briere finished as the leading scorer in the
postseason with 30 points (12 goals, 18 assists). He also set the
Flyers’ franchise record for postseason scoring.
Carter and Richards may start the season on the same line,
allowing Briere to remain in the middle with Scott Hartnell and
Ville Leino. The Hartnell-Briere-Leino line clicked in the playoffs
and the Flyers believe that can carry over into this season
(Leino’s 21 points tied the NHL record for points by a rookie in
Andrej Meszaros, Kimmo Timonen and Matt Carle team with Pronger
for sturdy combinations on the blue line.
They expect to go out and prove they’re the team to beat
starting in October, not April.