Get used to the Flyers having to work that much more for these wins leading up to the Winter Classic and beyond. The news bomb with the headline, “Chris Pronger out for the season”, dropped last night before the game giving fans everywhere a reason to write off the potential for this team. The season isn’t going to be lost, now obviously this team is better with the captain out there playing 27 minutes a night, but this group of guys especially the defense is beginning to come into their own. With Pronger in the lineup the Flyers are 8-3-2 as opposed to a 12-4-1 record without him.
One of the things that GM Paul Holmgren does like no other is stockpile talent. This is a very solid defensive group even without Prongs for the rest of the season. Kimmo Timonen is going to have to step up and shoulder most of the load, which means that the power play will take a significant hit especially with Giroux still in limbo. Timonen is 36 years old so Braydon Coburn and Andres Meszaros are going to have to become more of a force on the defensive front. What makes this group unique is that they have the ability to turn it on offensively and make an impact. Case and point: Meszaros snapped the game winner in from the point against the Habs last night.
That goal put Meszaros in the group of role players that have stepped up over the last two contests to contribute to the score sheet. Leading this group has been Wayne Simmonds, who has scored in four straight games. His partner in crime has been Max Talbot. It was great to see Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma recognize the uptick in the goal column for Talbot on the first episode of 24/7. After scoring against the Habs his total is up to nine, remember his career high is 13. The other members of the group include: Jakub Vorachek, Marc Andre-Bourdon, and Harry Z! Who desperately needs to work on a new goal celebration.
All of these guys are going to be needed and then some when the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins come to town for a Saturday matinee that is sure to provide fireworks. The Bruins come into this game with revenge on their minds after the Flyers scored two quick goals at the end of the first period and then held onto the 2-1 victory on opening night, spoiling their trophy celebration. If the Flyers play like they did last night, it will be the Bruins who spoil an afternoon for 19,000+ in the Wells Fargo Center.
The Habs always provide a tough matchup because of their speed and puck control. In what has become a rare occurrence the Flyers were out shot 31-25. Anyone want to guess what the main reason why? I’ll give you a second… Penalties! The referees were a little quick with the whistle, but called a consistent game and the Flyers took consistent minors. Nine in total which gave the Canadiens more time to attack Sergi Bobrovsky with multiple flurries. Even though he gave up 3 goals he had to be one of the locker room’s three stars because of the job that he did on a 5-on-3 in the first period. That could have swung the momentum meter towards Montreal going into intermission, the key words being could have. Give Boston those opportunities on Saturday and the result will not be the same.
The Bruins thrive on a combination of shutdown defense and puck control. They have the best save percentage in the league (93.7). Not surprisingly they have given up the least amount of goals in the league (60) and are third in goals scored (99). When Boston grabs control of the puck in the offensive zone they rarely let it go. The key is to finding a way to make a quick turnover and send the puck going the other way as this is not a good team in transition. Even though I hate saying this the Prongerless defense is going to get a real test and this could be a sign of things to come in May.
I think that the win streak will end at seven games, but it will be a competitive contest. This Philly team is gelling right now to a point where no one is going to roll over them, but Boston is a fantastic team and they owe them one.
Note: It is hard to imagine that Holmgren won’t go out and flip some lower level guys and a draft pick for another defenseman for the sake of depth. Kevin Marshall and Marc-Andre Bourdon have played well, but the unit couldn’t survive another major injury.
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