The Flyers get underway with the 2010 playoffs this evening when they travel to Newark to play the Devils at the Prudential Center. The Flyers went through a very up and down season, and had to win the final regular season game in a shootout against the Rangers just to get into the playoffs. The Flyers are in as the #7 seed in the East.
This season will definitely be considered a disappointment if the Flyers get bounced in the first round. The Flyers have arguably as much talent as almost anyone in the NHL, and should be competing to win Stanley Cups. The defense did improve this season with the help of Chris Pronger, and the offense, while not great, is above average. The Flyers still have no go to guy in net, and the musical chairs that has been the Flyers goaltending of the past decade has continued. It started with the offseason signing of Ray Emery. Emery started the season in net, and played well. He then had some injury problems and was eventually shut down. Enter Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton. Both goalies got their shot, and Leighton outplayed Boucher. Unfortunately, Leighton also got injured, which left Boucher as the Flyers starter through the end of the season. Boucher did play very well in certain games down the stretch, but overall was not effective. Nothing explains the Flyers inconsistencies in goals more than Boucher vs. Brodeur in the 2010 playoffs… a rematch of the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals that the Flyers lost to the Devils 4 games to 3. We all know the Flyers have had about 100 netminders in between that series and this one, while the Devils have the best goalie in NHL history in Brodeur.
While the goaltending edge obviously goes to the Devils, the Flyers might have the edge in some other categories. As I mentioned earlier, this Flyers team is not without talent. On paper, the Flyers probably have more talent than the Devils, not including goalies. The Flyers have a solid veteran offense made up of playoff veterans such as Danny Briere and Simon Gagne, and younger emerging stars like Glaude Giroux, and James Van Riemsdyk. The leaders of the team, guys like Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and Chris Pronger will need to have a very good series if the Flyers want to win. Richards and Carter need to step it up offensively, as they led the Flyers in points throughout the season, and will continue to need to do so into the playoffs. Pronger brings an element to the Flyers that they have not had in a while -- A punishing, intimidating veteran defenseman who has a ton of playoff experience, and success. The defense will need to play well in front of Boucher if the Flyers want to beat the Devils.
The Flyers do go into this series as the underdog, but this is not a typical 2-7 matchup. I think the Flyers have underachieved most of the season. If the Flyers continue to underachieve, then they will be out in the first round, and another disappointing season will pass. The Flyers may just be an above average team and nothing more. The Flyers also will not be afraid of the Devils, as they have won 5 of the 6 meetings this year with New Jersey.
Hockey playoffs are always extremely exciting; one of the best things to watch in all of sports is playoff hockey. The Flyers and Devils know each other very well, and get under way tonight in Game 1 at the Prudential Center.