(Photo credit: Andre Ringuette)
True story. Guy walks into a bar. He immediately pulls down his pants, starts cursing a blue streak, and vomits on the floor before stumbling out the door. Bartender says: “Hey, I didn’t know there was a Flyers game today!”
The Low Down: There’s no question Philadelphia is cursed with the worst sports fans in the history of everdom, and that includes the Flyers. Their arena smells, their colors look like butt, and those are the nice things we have to say.
Unfortunately, they’re also a consistently solid squad, bringing a hard game to every outing. The Broad Street Bullies may be long gone, but the Flyers remain a serious team – this year included. Unlike the Caps, they don’t need to “get up” for any particular game; they’re ready to play from the first puck drop. Just like Mike Knuble… except for the fact that we adore Kanoobs and hate them. So what’s the secret to their success?
Their Secret Weapon
The Power of Pugly? No, much credit of late must go to coach Peter Laviolette, who in his nine years as NHL coach has lead three teams to the playoffs six times, capturing Lord Stanley’s Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006. You don’t get those results through luck alone.
This is Laviolette’s third season with the Flyers (Hawks’ fans no doubt remember him well) and so far his overhaul of last year’s roster appears to have built on the core Flyers strengths, much as Boudreau and GMGM (to a lesser degree) have attempted for the Caps.
And we suspect this is due in large measure to a truly secret weapon: Flyer scout Patrick Burke. Just one of 15 on the scouting team, Burke is said to have one of the sharpest eyes for talent around. He should… it’s in his genes.
What Makes Them Hot
#1: Chris Pronger. A newly minted captain, Pronger is among the most effective defensemen anywhere on ice this season. 1 goal and 4 assists make him 20th in the league in points – not bad for a big rig who’s pushing the upper edges of 30’s. Harder to put your finger on, but we think there’s something about knowing you’re leading your team in the Winter Classic that makes a guy feel a little invincible. And with a name like “Pronger”…well, ‘nuff said.
#2: Jaromir Jagr. Defeating every anti-bacterial effort to make this 38-year-old scab dry up and go away, Jagr is back on the ice, already getting three assists this season, and now we’re facing him again. Given the Caps at-times chaotic performances in the zone (1st period against the Pens’ forecheck, anybody?), Jagr and linemate Claude Giroux could give Tomáš (or Neuvy) (or Holtby) (or Saborin) fits. We know it’s righteous to lay down the Jagr-hate in this town, and why not? He’s a stain. He’s the wanker always trying to “Friend” you. He’s basically the Brinks bank robber with a Munster mullet. 10 shots with no points against Ottawa? Let’s just make sure he doesn’t add any more points to his tally Thursday.
#3: Ilya Bryzgalov. OK, I grew up in Detroit where “z” is considered a vowel, but this guy’s name is still a puzzle. So are his tweets. Obvs a big fan of the Lion King, @bryzgoalie30 reads less like a professional athlete and more like a 10-year-old with Twitterrhea. “Childhood is when you are running from the bathroom in the middle of the night, happy you didn’t get eaten,” are among the updates that make more sense. I do NOT want to see what’s in his bathroom. If there is something about this cat, it’s why he’s been spending so much time in the crease. Boasting a .935% save rate so far this season, he’s not infallible but pretty damn close. Worse, Sergei “Bob” Bobrovsky showed a lot of promise in camp this year, giving Laviolette a choice between good and good.
What Makes Them Not
#1: Zac Rinaldo. Sounding like the dumpy one in a Disney boy-band is Rinaldo, a 5’forgettable, 170-pound pest with exactly 0 goals or assists so far. But he almost gave Kings defenseman Drew Doughty a concussion recently, so there’s that. Sasha may or may not care, but this guy doesn’t even rate: a zero save for his willingness to get in the way of good players. We strongly encourage everyone to ignore this jerk at all costs. Maybe like the recession, he’ll just go away. Oh, wait; he just did, sent packing by Laviolette to the Phantoms. (Were you reading our draft, coach?) But we had so many more Rinaldo jokes! Ugh, called up in his place is Brayden Schenn, which isn’t the best news. Schenn’s a skilled center (8 goals 10 assists last year) who hasn’t seen much ice time lately. Whether he takes Rhino’s spot on the fourth line or bumps someone else will be interesting to see.
#2: Ouch. Still on injured reserve are Blair Betts and Ian LaPerriere, which is too bad for the Flyers because they could use these two. Betts isn’t a big scorer, but he’s consistent, as is right winger LaPerriere, who’s out with post-concussion syndrome. And while technically healthy, Matt Carle just has not been performing up to par.
#3: Phans. You know what’s funny? Booing a Cancer Awareness PSA. Fun-nee! Or laughing at injured players on the ice. Hi-LAR-ious! Or beating up rival fans in the stands. Oh, you scamps! Look, Philadelphia: get over it. Nobody wants to be you, nobody wants to live in you, nobody wants to play for you. You are a colossal super-collider of suck, and everyone knows it. Just save us all the bother, sit down, and shut it.
What To Watch For
On the Caps bench, we may, or may not, have put to rest our sluggish opening stanzas. While it’s hard to argue with 5-0, we’ll take a slug or two anyway (just call us Jay Beagle) – the Flyers are in just about everyone’s top 5 list at the moment, and if we give them an opening, it will be very hard to claw back. It wasn’t just a couple star players that participated in the Senators thrashing, it was most of the Flyers unit. We’re also watching for news on Neuvy’s bad paw.
Over on the jerky side, let’s see where Schenn and if Jody Shelley play – Shelley’s just off one of Shanahan’s five-game suspensions for boarding and just generally being an ass (although technically you can’t really be suspended for that – yet.)
The Only Thing We Share
The good sense to despise the Pens. And the Rangers. And the Devils.