Flyers try to knock off Cup Champs
Wednesday, 10.05.2011 / 2:34 PM
NHL.comFLYERS (0-0-0) at BRUINS (0-0-0)
TV: VERSUS (HD)
This is the first of four meetings between the teams this season. The Bruins won three of four regular-season games, and then swept the Flyers in four games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals en route to winning the 2011 Stanley Cup.
It'll be the last time the Bruins celebrate ending their 39-year championship drought, as they raise a banner to the TD Garden roof. When the puck drops, it'll be mostly the same team that beat the Canucks in Game 7 in June, but they'll be facing a completely different Flyers squad that subtracted All-Star centers Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, and added future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr
and goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov
Of the 20 players Philadelphia dressed for Game 4 of the conference semifinal series against the Bruins in May, 11 won't be around for this season's opener.
Among the departed are forwards Carter, Richards, Ville Leino, Kris Versteeg, Darroll Powe, Daniel Carcillo and Blair Betts, defensemen Sean O'Donnell and Danny Syvret and goalie Brian Boucher. Forward Jody Shelley
is still with the team but suspended for the first five games of the season.
Among the newcomers are forwards Jagr, Maxime Talbot
, Wayne Simmonds
and Jakub Voracek
, defenseman Andreas Lilja
, and Bryzgalov in goal. All-Star defenseman Chris Pronger
, who was injured for the final three games of the series, is expected to play.
Two other newcomers to watch are rookie forwards Sean Couturier
and Matt Read
, who could start together on the third line, along with veteran Scott Hartnell
Couturier, the eighth pick of the 2011 Entry Draft, made the roster thanks in part to his skill defensively. Read, a college free agent signed in March, tied for the team in lead in preseason scoring with 7 points in six games.
If winning the Stanley Cup is hard, defending it is even harder. There's a reason there haven't been back-to-back Cup winners since the 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings.
Goalie Tim Thomas said the best way to break that streak and win it all again is not to think about it.
"Yeah, this is definitely going to be a challenge," he said. "I think sooner or later we've got to stop talking about that challenge, though, because if you keep talking about the challenge all the time, it's like you can't focus on the positive and put it behind you. So it's like as if we talked about the Philadelphia series (from 2010) over and over and over again. It puts kind of negative thoughts in your mind.
"And it's the same thing when you talk about how hard it is to repeat. It is a reality. We acknowledge that, but let's move past that. It's a challenge whenever you lose a top player. But you don't just want to talk about it, you deal with what you've got. So basically, repeating's a challenge, but it's time to stop talking about it and start taking on that challenge."
Last season, Thomas led the League in goals-against average, set a single-season NHL record save percentage and became the second goalie ever to win the Vezina Trophy, Conn Smythe Trophy and Stanley Cup in the same season. So what does he do for an encore?
The Flyers will start the season without top prospect Brayden Schenn
, who is nursing a shoulder injury. Pronger had back surgery in May, but is expected to be in the starting lineup. … The only Bruins played nicked up is extra defenseman Steven Kampfer, who has a sprained knee.
The Flyers cut ties with eight forwards (Carter, Richards, Leino, Versteeg, Nikolay Zherdev, Powe, Betts and Carcillo) who combined for 117 goals with them. The eight forwards who will replace them combined for 36 last season.
One of the final spots up for grabs in Boston appeared to be a battle between veteran Chris Clark, in camp on a tryout, and second-year player Jordan Caron.
It appears Caron has won that battle, as the Boston Globe and CSNNE.com have reported Clark will not be signed. It's a tough break for the 35-year-old, who had a good showing in the preseason. He was playing on the fourth line, and had his nose broken in a fight with the Islanders' Michael Haley.