Philadelphia Flyers: 5 Teams Standing in the Way of the Flyers' Playoff Hopes
As it currently stands, the Philadelphia Flyers seem to be pulling out of their mini slump and shaping into the team that most Philly fans expected. Claude Giroux is absolutely dominant right now, and he's not showing any signs of slowing down.
The team is getting healthy again, and it's showing on the ice. The Flyers are getting contributions from every line, which makes them hard to stop. It certainly doesn't look like they're missing Mike Richards or Jeff Carter, and I'm sure most Philly fans can agree that they don't miss Ville Leino at this point.
That being said, there is still plenty of work to do. The Flyers will have to work hard and really grind out some upcoming games and, most of all, stay consistent. There are plenty of hurdles Philadelphia must get through, but in this slideshow, I'll pick five teams that I believe are standing out the most right now.
5. Pittsburgh Penguins
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The Pittsburgh Penguins always seem to be a thorn in the Flyers' side. They're a tough, competitive team who always has a great shot at making the playoffs.
It's no secret that the Flyers and Penguins are a huge rivalry, and many of the guys seem to play with an extra jump in their step when the two teams square off. Adding James Neal to their already potent offense kept Pittsburgh above water last season, and now that their top players are beginning to get healthy again, the Penguins could be a scary team to play against.
I fully expect Pittsburgh to give Philly a run for their money this season, and I'm sure the two teams will finish very close to each other at season's end. Philly fans must keep a close eye on Pittsburgh, especially if they square off in the playoffs.
4. Boston Bruins
The Boston Bruins have historically given the Flyers problems in the past, but if it wasn't already evident before, it should be by now.
For starters, the Bruins sport the NHL's best goalie, Tim Thomas. Not only that, but the team is built around big, tough, gritty players, like Milan Lucic, who certainly aren't afraid to drop the gloves and act out a rock 'em-sock 'em robots match. Boston, like Pittsburgh, has always been a bit of a pain for Philadelphia. They knocked the Flyers out of the playoffs last year, and the year before that they defeated the Flyers to win the 2010 Winter Classic.
Now, it isn't all bad. The Flyers have had their fair share of triumphant victories as well—probably none more apparent in recent years than the 2010 playoffs, when the Philadelphia Flyers rallied back against the Bruins after being down 3-1 in the series to knock them out of the playoffs.
This season promises to be an interesting one, as both the Bruins and Flyers are poised to make a deep run, and both find themselves atop the standings. Philadelphia should not take the Bruins lightly, as they will not falter easily.
3. New York Rangers
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The Philadelphia Flyers versus New York Rangers is probably one of the most iconic, richest rivalries there is. They've been rivals for their entire history, and it sure isn't going to change anytime soon.
This season, the stakes are a bit higher, however, with both teams making major moves in the offseason. Not only that, but in case you've been living under a rock the past six months, the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers will be squaring off in Philadelphia for the 2012 Winter Classic.
New York has looked solid this season, and rightfully so. They went out and signed quite possibly the biggest free agent in the offseason in Brad Richards and are still looking to improve. If you're expecting the Rangers to be quiet at this year's trade deadline, think again. New York is all in this year, and they certainly won't be missing out on the playoffs because of a shootout loss like the Flyers handed them a few seasons ago.
The Rangers have a potent offense and really seem to have gelled this season. Any Flyers fan who thinks the Rangers will be an easy opponent this year ought to watch a few more Rangers games this season.
One thing is certain: The 2012 Winter Classic will certainly be one of the more memorable Classics in recent memory.
2. Buffalo Sabres
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OK, so maybe the whole Ville Leino signing didn't exactly work out the way Buffalo fans had hoped, but at least it's still early in the season, guys!
All joking aside, the Sabres are still a contender and won't bow out quietly. Ville Leino was expected to really pick up the offense, but that hasn't really happened yet. Luckily for the Sabres, they have guys like Roy and Vanek to pick up the slack. Even if they're having off nights, they have this guy named Ryan Miller between the pipes. You know, the guy who nearly backstopped Team USA to a gold medal against team Canada a few years ago? Yeah, that Ryan Miller.
Philly fans certainly won't forget the playoffs from last season, where the Sabres nearly handed the Flyers a first-round exit. They battled hard, and by the time the series was over, I don't think there was a single player on either team that had any energy left.
Like the Rangers, I fully expect them to be players at the trade deadline this year, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them add a big piece. If Ville Leino can find his game, the Sabres could really be a scary team to play against—especially once they get Tyler Myers back from injury.
Don't underestimate the Sabres this year. They have all the potential in the world right now.
1. Vancouver Canucks
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I'll be completely honest: Before the 2010-11 season began, I made a prediction that the Flyers and Canucks would square off for the Stanley Cup. I was half right, but unfortunately, the Flyers weren't part of that series. The Boston Bruins were instead. Of course, that never happened, but that doesn't mean it can't still be a possibility this year.
The Canucks aren't quite the dominant team they were a year or two ago, but they're still winning hockey games and they still boast arguably one of the best goaltenders in the game, Roberto Luongo. Oh, and don't forget about Henrik and Daniel Sedin, the cornerstones to their whole team. The Canucks will almost certainly make the playoffs this year, and my assumption is that it will be a deep run.
The Canucks have all the pieces to win the Stanley Cup and came within one win of doing so last year. I'm sure they're still just as hungry, if not hungrier, for a Stanley Cup now more than ever after coming so close last year.
Watch out for Vancouver this year, They're going hard this year and may not be possible to stop. Oh, and Vancouver fans, please, no more riots!
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