The Buffalo Sabres will open their 2013 campaign against the Philadelphia Flyers, who come to town after a 3-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Can the Flyers spoil the Sabres' party like the Penguins did to theirs?
A slow start turned out to make all the difference for the Flyers.
Two quick goals by Pittsburgh in the first eight minutes of play put the Flyers in a deep enough hole to keep the host team out of the game. The early support was preserved by some great play from Marc Andre Fleury, and the Penguins went on to win, 3-1, to kick off the season.
The NHL is back, and there is no better way to celebrate the return of hockey in Pennsylvania than to have its two bitter rivals battle in the City of Brotherly Love.
The Pittsburgh Penguins will travel to Philadelphia for a 3PM show down at the Wells Fargo Center. The arena will be filled to capacity with nearly 20,000 orange-and-black-clad Flyers fans, with a little yellow sprinkled in the mix.
As hockey fans gear up for the Western and Eastern Conference Finals, a few common themes among the remaining teams resonates: trap style play, tight checking, and a reliance on elite goaltending. Every year after the Stanley Cup is lifted, the champs are analyzed as to why they won, and other teams then spend time scouting youngsters and spend cap space on UFAs that resemble the Cup winning roster. The NHL is definitely a copy cat league. For the past five years, teams have been trying to mimic the style of play of the Red Wings, Penguins, and Blackhawks. After all, why wouldn't want you to copy what wins? But take a look at the puck possession-like teams that are eliminated: Detroit, Chicago, San Jose, Vancouver, Pittsburgh. Both Conference Finals will send shock waves through the NHL, and the Red Wings better be paying attention.
After Mike Babcock's puck possession team lost to the Oilers in '06, their style of play didn't change at the root, however; they were told me be more physical and work harder in the dirty areas. That paid off the next three years by making to the Conference Finals in '07, Winning it all in '08, and coming within 1 goal at a chance to win it all again in '09. Now, it sure seems Red Wing hockey needs to be re-evaluated. Ken Holland and Mike Babcock should be watching every game of the playoffs from here on out. The Western Finals have been settled, and it will feature the Phoenix Coyotes and the LA Kings. These two teams skate hard, trap, are defensively responsible, and heavily rely on their goaltenders to steal games. (By the way, is it not a coincidence that the year Phoenix lets Bryzgalov go they make it this far? He's never been a proven playoff goalie, and probably never will be.) The same goes in the East; The Devils (who are the definition of the trap) are waiting to face either the New York Rangers or the Washington Capitals. The Rangers have consistently been a defensively disciplined team with a couple of decent scoring lines, but overall block tons of shots and make things easy for their world class goalie Henrik Lundquist. The Capitals on the other hand, were born a puck possession team when they inherited forwards Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Semin. Since Dale Hunter took over as head coach, he has somehow got them to play a style of hockey whereby no all-stars are praised, but an entire team can reap rewards from teamwork. Players like Jay Beagle, Matt Hendricks, and Joel Ward are laying their bodies on the line for their coach, and Ovechkin is learning a valuable lesson.
There is a laundry list of reasons given when a team doesn’t perform well: tension in the locker room, injuries, a lack of jump, so on and so forth. The team vows that they’ll play better next time, that they’ll keep working at it, and they’ll be just fine.
That’s a vow the Flyers are going to need to keep in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, after dropping two games in a row to the New Jersey Devils and falling a game behind in the series.
A one-game deficit might not sound like that big of an issue, but with the way the Flyers have played over the last two games, tying the series up seems like a much more daunting task than it usually might.
There have been slow starts, lapses in communication, weak goals allowed, and defensive breakdowns – things that the team has been dealing with all season. After 91 games, it’s about time that they figure out a solution to those issues.