Flight Plan is a new column that will take a more in depth look at the Flyers’ upcoming opponents every week here at Flyers Faithful.
The Philadelphia Flyers will kick off their week against two good young teams at two different points in their respective franchise history books. The Pittsburgh Penguins, as we all know, are one of the best young teams in the league today. They have built very well through the draft and have become one of the hardest teams to play against in the NHL. The St. Louis Blues on the other hand are a team on the rise. After being the biggest surprise out of the West and squeaking into the playoffs in 2008-2009, the Blues couldn’t get going early on last year and fell just three wins short of being the eighth seeded team in that conference on the other side of the Mississippi. So let’s take a closer look at these two teams shall we?
10.07.10 at 7:00 p.m. in Pittsburgh
Easily the Flyers’ biggest rivals in the league since the lockout in 2004-2005 and for good reason. The Penguins have drafted very well, mostly because they’ve been rewarded for poor play, using their high draft choices in the first round to build a solid core of players that are dangerous every single time they lace up their skates. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are probably the best under-25, one-two punch pivots in the league.
They are both highly skilled players and command a lot of respect when they have the puck anywhere on the ice. They make a lot of guys look awfully silly and they do it with ease. These two have given the Flyers the majority of the trouble they’ve had against the Penguins and you’ve got to believe that even with a Bolstered defense corps, the Flyers will still have to be able shut Sid and Geno down if they want to have a shot at taking the season series between these two for the first time since the 2007-2008 season. It’s a daunting task and without Chris Pronger lurking back there on the blue line, I would put my money on the fact that Sergei “Sponge Bob” Bobrovsky is going to have his work cut out for him in his first NHL regular season start. The Penguins added two former Flyers in Mike Comrie and Arron Asham who should round out their lines pretty well, adding some scoring flash and some grit up front.
The Penguins also improved their backend this offseason by adding former New Jersey Devil Paul Martin and former Phoenix Coyote Zbynek Michalek. These are two very solid defensive defensemen and will certainly help Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang, and others as they attempt to stymie the Flyer forwards. Of course the Penguins also have a good backstop if their fortified defense does falter; Marc-Andre Fleury is no slouch and as Flyers fans remember, he was the single biggest reason the Penguins advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals two years in a row and won once. This should be a good one so make sure you don’t miss a minute.
St. Louis Blues:
10.09.10 at 8:00 pm in St. Louis
The Blues are up-and-comers in the NHL and were able to add the most sought after goaltender in the offseason in Jaroslav Halak. After a stellar post-season with the Montreal Canadiens, Halak was dealt to the Blues and even though the Flyers tore him apart, he is still a very good goaltender. Halak was one of the biggest reasons that the giant-killing Habs were able to surpass everyone’s expectations and make it to the Eastern Conference Finals before succumbing to the big and burly Flyer forwards. Had it not been for Halak’s heroics, the Flyers might not have been able to get to the Eastern Conference Finals, let alone the Stanley Cup Finals last year.
Though they may not be the most talented group of forwards in the league, there are a few names that certainly jump out as guys to watch some video on. T.J. Oshie, Brad Boyes, and Alexander Steen are all very capable of putting the puck so I wouldn’t count this team too quickly on the offensive side of things. The Blues are a big and fast team up front who, under the guidance of Davis Payne, were able to make a last ditch push towards the post-season and just miss getting there by a matter of only five points.
After Payne replaced Andy Murray the Blues were able to win 23 of their remaining 41 games; perhaps even more pertinent and impressive however was their record at home which stood at 12-5-2 from the half way mark to season’s end. This should be a hard fought game with a lot of banging and crashing and perhaps even a few fisticuffs as David Backes certainly doesn’t mind dropping the gloves.
Check back every Sunday for the latest Flight Plan.