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.
This week the Philadelphia Flyers open the same old building with yet another brand new name: The Wells Fargo Center as they are set to start a five game home stand. The Colorado Avalanche, the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Pittsburgh Penguins are all due to visit Philadelphia and try to give the Flyers their first regulation loss. Of course there have only been two games, but still, getting three out of four points on the road to start the season in two really tough barns is nothing to be ashamed of.
10.11.2010 at 7 p.m. in Philadelphia
The Flyers will open play at the Wells Fargo Center against the Colorado Avalanche. Avalanche would have been the least likely team to make the playoffs that actually did in the Western Conference if the Phoenix Coyotes didn’t end up getting in. This is another young team that’s well built from top to bottom. A lot of the Avalanche’s success last season was largely due to the stellar play of goaltender Craig Anderson and the Flyers will have to beat him to have any chance of winning their home opener.
Anderson was absolutely the biggest reason the Avalanche had any hope of actually making it into the playoffs last year. Anderson posted a 38-25-7 record in 71 games, had seven shutouts, had a SV% of .917, and had a GAA of 2.64 which are great numbers in the high scoring Western Conference, especially when starting more than half the games in the regular season. He is a good netminder and is heavily relied upon by this team to win games as he sees a lot of rubber and for the most part, makes the stops. The Flyers will also have to shut down quite a few of the young guns that were big surprises last year for the Avalanche.
Matt Duchene, Chris Stewart, and TJ Galiardi were big contributors last season, all scoring 15 or more goals. They have another thing in common in that they’re all under 25. The Flyers had a whole heap of trouble against a young Blues team and will need to step up their attack from the drop of the puck, as well as sharpen up in just about every area, except for goaltending which has been the only bright spot, if they want to walk away with at least another point here in the early going. The Avalanche have plenty of firepower, young as they may be up front, and with the help of seasoned veterans like assistant captains Paul Stastny and Milan Hejduk, the Flyers will absolutely have their work cut out for them in their own zone.
It should be a good, fast-paced game, but as long as the Flyers are able to make a good first pass out of the zone and maintain better puck possession than in the first two games, they have a good shot at starting out at home on the right foot
Tampa Bay Lightning:
10.14.2010 at 7 p.m. in Philadelphia
The return of #12, Simon Gagne, is slated for Thursday evening as the 2003-2004 Stanley Cup Champions the Tampa Bay Lightning come to town. The Bolts did not have a good year in 2009-2010 by any stretch of the imagination, however certain players like 2008 NHL Entry Draft number one pick Steven Stamkos had breakout years.
In his second full year in the NHL, Stamkos lit the lamp 51 times which was good enough to share the Rocket Richard Trophy with fellow first overall draftee Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins. He also tallied 44 assists to bring his point total to 95. Stamkos is a highly gifted offensive forward who, in his first game this season, had one goal and two assists for three points, leading the Lightning to a 5-3 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers. Stamkos centers a line with Martin St. Louis and former Flyer Steve Downie. This mix of skill and grit works well and very often, as the line combined for 102 of the Lightning’s 213 goals last year. The Flyers will need to step up their coverage in the high slot area, near the left circle to stop Stamkos as he is known to snipe from there a lot. The Lightning also have Vinny Lecavalier and up until this offseason, longest tenured Flyer, Simon Gagne. Simon Gagne was a fan favorite in Philadelphia, a class act, and one of the best two-way forwards in the game. Simon is probably playing on a line with Vinny Lecavalier, which will be deadly if they end up having chemistry. The Lightning may not make the playoffs this year, but they will certainly score a lot of goals, so they may be a team to keep an eye on and definitely a team to watch if you can.
Tampa Bay’s new GM Steve Yzerman, also signed free agent goaltender Dan Ellis and defensemen Pavel Kubina. These two will certainly help take the load off of Victor Hedman on the backend and Mike Smith between the pipes. Yzerman also traded Andrej Meszaros and Matt Walker to the Flyers, so Simon Gagne will not be the only player on the ice facing their former teammates. That will only add emotion to this game which should be a fast-paced, offensively geared contest.
10.16.2010 at 7 p.m. in Philadelphia
The Pittsburgh Penguins were stymied by a stingy Sergei “Sponge Bob” Bobrovsky to lose their first ever regular season game in the Consol Energy Center to the Flyers last week, by a score of 3-2. The Flyers were able to weather the attack and survived sloppy play throughout most of the first and latter stages of the third. Hate them or really hate them, the Penguins are an extremely dangerous team and are still looking for their first win of the 2010-2011 season.
These familiar foes will square off Saturday in what should be another sensational game. The Flyers and Penguins both have the firepower, but also have good defense corps and good goaltenders. Brian Boucher and Sergei Bobrovsky have been steady, if not spectacular, in both of their respective starts and the Flyers were lucky to get points in both of their games due to extremely slipshod play everywhere on the ice. The Flyers have had exactly one very good period in two games. In case you were wondering, it was against the Penguins and happened in the second period of that game.
All season this series will be a battle, and it will be interesting to see who will win more games as they are both very talented teams from top to bottom. If Saturday’s game is even half as exciting as the first game of the season, then hold onto your coats, hats, shoes and socks people as these two just might knock them all clean off.
-Stats taken from NHL.com