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What's the 'Dilly' With Philly? Is Emery Back?

Mark RitterSenior Writer IOctober 13, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - SEPTEMBER 22:  Ray Emery #29 of the Philadelphia Flyers tends net against the Detroit Red Wings during preseason action at the Wachovia Center on September 22, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Written By: Mark “The Hard Hitter” Ritter

After last season’s tough loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals, Philadelphia Flyer fans put their collective tails between their knees and high-tailed it back home.

Flyers fans are arguably the fiercest bunch in the entire NHL. We’re talking about fans that boo successful airplane landings (especially when the opposing team is on board). Fact is, this is a resilient/tough group and, quite frankly, they are over it.

The 2009/10 season should give the Flyers fateful plenty to cheer about. By many expert prognosticators accounts, the Flyers are positioned to represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup finals. With superstar forwards Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Simon Gagne, and Daniel Briere in the lineup, who are we to disagree?

Add to that a secondary cast that includes enforcer Daniel Carcillo, hard nosed winger Scott Hartnell, hard working Blair Betts, rookie sensation James Van Riemsdyk, and a defense corps that includes All-Star’s Kimmo Timonen (2004, 2007, 2008) and Chris Pronger (1999, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2008) and you have the makings of one of the NHL’s best teams.

The wild card in all of this is goaltender Ray Emery. Known more for his off-ice behavior and bad attitude towards authority, Emery is on a mission to prove that his past behavior was just a mirage and, thus far, he is doing a great job.

No longer do we find Emery in the headlines for his antics. Instead, we find Emery in the headlines for all the right reasons, saves and wins. In five starts with the Flyers, Emery has posted a record of 3-1-1, a goals against average of 2.75, a save percentage of .905, and a shut-out to boot. Clearly, Emery is back!

Emery, who was drafted in the fourth round of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft (99th overall), struggled to find his game during the 2007-08 NHL season and, with a record of 12-13, a 3.13 goals against average, and a paltry .890 save percentage, failed to land an NHL contract for the 2008/09 season.

As a result, with no NHL contract for the 2008/09 season, Emery looked to Russia and the KHL to rekindle his NHL career. There were many who doubted Emery, but through hard work, dedication, and a newfound love for the game, Emery resurrected his career.

Playing for the KHL’s Mytishchi Atlant, Emery posted an impressive 22-8 record with a goals against average of 2.12 and a save percentage of .926. He also registered a 3-3 record with a 1.86 GAA and .941 save percentage in seven postseason appearances.

To be fair, the season was not without incident. Emery did have a run-in with the Mytishchi Atlant trainer when he all but forced Emery to put a ball cap on his head, an incident which resulted in Emery shoving the trainer, but, for the most part, Emery was a model citizen.

After his successful season in the KHL, Emery turned his attention back to the NHL. There wasn’t a lineup of teams waiting in the wings to sign Emery, but there was one, the Philadelphia Flyers.

Fortunately for the Flyers organization, general manager Paul Holmgren believed in Emery and stepped up to the plate with a one year contract, a move that looks as if it is going to pay huge dividends.

From a distance, the move to sign Emery seemed like a perfect fit. Flyers fans love an underdog, they also like a guy who puts himself “out there” and plays with a little grit. As the saying goes, “so far, so good.”

Five games does not make a season, but Emery is quickly dismissing any notions that he is not ready to resume his NHL career. As goes the play of Ray Emery, so too goes the results of the Flyers, or so it would seem.

In the past, the Flyers have struggled to find the right goaltender. Early indications suggest they just might have found their man.

Until next time,

Peace!

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