November 20th, 2009, 9:34 am
One of the most anticipated match-ups of the year for me, the Philadelphia Flyers are in town (7pm start, not 7:30). This will be Chris Pronger’s (booo!) first visit to the Tank since he was traded to the Flyers in the offseason. As has been well-documented on the podcast, both Doug and I have put money down on the Flyers to win the Stanley Cup this year. For those who might be sneering at us right now- c’mon, we got 12-1! That’s just a solid bet.
The Flyers have been built to strike fear in the hearts of their opponents. In addition to the aforementioned Pronger (booo!) the Flyers have Dan Carcillo, Riley Cote, Ian Laperriere (who we thought would be a good fit for the Sharks) and Scott Hartnell to provide some rough stuff. Although I’m not sure throwing your glove at somebody counts as “rough stuff”. Despite that impressive list of pugilists, it’s Mike Richards who has more penalty minutes than all of the above save Laperriere, and it’s Richards that put David Booth to sleep with one of the most crushing (and controversial) hits of the year. I’ll leave that debate for another day.
It also bears mentioning where Philly sits now versus where they sat on October 25, the day that Thomas Greiss got his first start, and led the Sharks to an impressive 4-1 win at the Wachovia Center. At that time, the Flyers were 5-2-1, good but not fearsome. Now, they are at 12-5-1, and have won 8 of their last 9 games. Some of those games weren’t against exactly the cream of the NHL crop (Tampa, Ottawa, Carolina), but the last two wins have been the most impressive- at home versus the Devils (handing New Jersey their first road loss of the season) and two nights ago against the Kings, our old pal Brian Boucher weathering the storm.
Tonight we will have Nabby between the pipes facing a mostly healthy Flyers squad, minus the ever-shelved Simon Gagne. Like the Sharks, there aren’t a lot of weaknesses to the Flyers. They do commit a ton of penalties; they have four more minor penalties than the Sharks in five fewer games. Can’t say I’m surprised by that, but they do have the 8th-best penalty kill in the league, plenty good enough to allow for some extra goonery. They also sport the best power play at the moment, which means the Sharks, who are 16th in the league in PIMs/game (Philly is 25th) need to stay the hell out of the box.
Interestingly enough, the fourth line may be the difference for the Sharks. If Ferriero, Couture, and McLaren McGinn are recalled as expected, this could be a real speed mismatch, going up against Blair Betts and Riley Cote. Can’t wait for this game. And no, I won’t be wearing the Carle jersey. I do like Fear the Fin’s prediction for the game though: “ win 17-1. Goals by Heatley, McGinn, Clowe, and a whole bunch of others. Matt Carle’s league-leading +/- drops like a stone. ” Won’t be betting on that outcome, but a good call nonetheless.