Pennsylvania: The New Hockey State

Timothy W.Contributor ISeptember 10, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - APRIL 25: Daniel Briere #48 of the Philadelphia Flyers celebrates his goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins with his teammates during Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Round of the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Wachovia Center on April 25, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The Stanley Cup looks to be staying in Pennsylvania this year but not in Sid’s town.

No, Mr. Richards has an opportunity of a lifetime. For those who eat, sleep and breathe hockey, the fact that the Philadelphia Flyers have given themselves a fair chance this spring is already well known and over-stated. In fact, as a fan, I hate the fact hat they are being so hyped as early favourites.

The underdog role is so much fun and the pressure isn’t there.

The Flyers have three solid lines to deal with that pressure and the fourth has so much potential with young guns James van Riemsdyk and Patrick Maroon looking very sharp in their prospect camp.

The orange and black will leave teams blue and purple as toughness is an understatement in Philadelphia with the additions of Chris Pronger, Ian Laperriere and even Ole-Kristian Tollefsen.

Forget about a repeat in Pittsburgh. Sorry to say it Penguin fans, but Sidney Crosby will be left with a nasty Stanley hang-over and no real key additions to back him up.

They lost Rob Scuderi, not a monumental player, but a solid player none-the-less and a key piece to that Stanley Cup.

Euro-Giant Hal Gill took off to fair in le bleu, blanc et rouge.

They’ve resigned Bill Guerin and Ruslan Fedotenko, which was smart, expected but smart. The Penguins added Mike Rupp(?), Nate Guenin from Philly, Chris Lee(?) and Chris Conner(?), Jay Mckee (a decent shot blocker) and also signed goalies Brent Johnson and John Curry (?). Nothing there really shouts, “REPEAT!”They’ll have a decent finish to the season at best.

This year, if and when the Flyers play the Penguins in the play-offs, the Flyers have found the answer to Evengi Malkin, Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury. And like they say, third times a charm right?  

But before I forget the ultimate piece to the Flyers puzzle, Ray Emerey and Brian Boucher were much of the talk after the Pronger signing as the Flyers over-hauled their net-minders.

Gone are the days of Martin Biron and Antero Niittymaki, and good riddance. Biron gave us a chance but a chance is not what the fans want, they want the Cup.

Here’s how I see this unfolding. Emery knows this is his last chance to prove his worth here in the NHL. I want to believe he won’t let his ego get in his way again but only time will tell if this is true.

Brian Boucher is already a fan favourite here in the city of… well you know the rest.

Boucher wants to revisit his glory days in Philly where he took the Flyers to the conference finals so many moons ago. And let’s not forget he beat the penguins that year too. Oh Keith Primeau, your overtime goal still makes my skin numb.

My gut tells me that Boucher could even steal the show from Emery if Ray falters. Boucher isn’t getting younger and this is also a chance to prove his worth.

Now Danny Briere also has something to prove too. See a theme?

Briere had a frustrating season last year with a nagging groin and stomach injury. It sat him for most of the year but the few games he played with the Flyers, he still contributed and found a connection with up and coming stand-out, Claude Giroux.

The Atlantic Division will still be a close race for that coveted third spot in the Eastern Conference.

Both New York teams have added lots of skill, Pittsburgh will be consistent and New Jersey will and always has been a scary team to face with the likes of Martin Brodeur and Zach Parise. Brodeur wants that starting spot on team Canada and the first half of the year is his for the taking.

So when the puck drops in North Carolina, the Flyers first regular season game, expect the expected.

The Flyers have players with vendettas and a lot to prove. The cup stays in PA this season, but with a side order of Philly cheese steak.