“We’re Going Streaking!” Flyers Look to End Another Penguins 10+ Game Winning Streak, Tonight 7:30
By Michael DeNicola of Orange & Black Pack
Ahhhh, Penguins fans. Despite the icy-cold hatred we have for each others’ Clubs, I consider it an honor to cross enemy lines today and share some of my orange & black pregame thoughts with you fine heathens. I’m sure, by now, most of you have adopted the Philadelphia stereotypes, and consider the City of Brotherly Love’s masses to be a populace of drunken, aggressive Neanderthals.
I assure you that we’re all not like that. Especially myself and my co-writers over at The Orange & Black Pack. Just as long as you’re not wearing a #87 jersey or a Santa suit, you’re safe within our proximity.
But enough social graces, let’s get down to brass tacks.
Tonight my Broad Street Soldiers skate into the Consol Energy Center for their fourth and final battle versus your beloved Pens. As the regular season series stands, Pittsburgh’s up one victory with a 2 – 1 record and aim to virtually sweep the rivalry under the rug with another ‘W’ this evening. Not only are you looking to capitalize against your Club’s most evil villain, but the Penguins are also staring down the barrel at their 12th consecutive win.
I don’t believe I need to tell any of you that this is your third straight season with a 10+ game winning streak. But all streaks DO come to an end, just as it’s been proven the two prior years before tonight. And which organization brought the hammer down on your Black & Gold celebrations both times?
My Philadelphia Flyers.
Now, before you begin lighting your torches and sharpening your pitchforks….. hear me out – this abbreviated season has been anything but an auspicious collection of results for Philadelphia. We’ve struggled harder than Kim Kardashian zipping up a pair of skinny jeans (you’re welcome for the image). Just when my Fly Boys deposit a valiant effort one night, they completely contract it the next with a miserable outing, sucking any and all momentum from their sails like a windless sea.
Head bench boss, Peter Laviolette, has shuffled the forward line combinations like a Black Jack dealer in Caesar’s Palace, mainly due to a string of unfortunate injuries. But look, I am not here to paint a picture of excuses. I’ll leave that job to the late Bob Ross, only there’s no “happy little” Flyers fan in this portrait.
Injuries have been our Club’s largest 2013 aggressor; when one man returns from the shelf, another seemed to take his place on IR. Because of this sequence of destitution, chemistry between our forward skaters has had the life squeezed from its neck. “Struggle” is quite the understatement. We’ve seen very little amount of dominance from our top scorers, and that goes double for our blue line.
The key to winning Stanley Cups (or so I’ve heard…. I am a Philadelphia sports fan after all) is effective zone-defense and impermeable goaltending. This season, the Flyers’ defense has been anything but controlling – they’ve been ‘controlled’.
See, offense begins with defense. While the puck’s cycled through the defensive zone, it’s up to your blue liners to stay the course, neutralize the chance against their net, and stretch the play in the opposite direction with precision neutral-ice passing. Philadelphia has consistently shown that the only strategy they harness in our end is undisciplined play. It’s led to goals against us, or minor penalties taken and we’re forced to kill off the man-advantage.
We’ve looked no better than a coop of chickens under attack by a wily fox. And right now…. there’s no fox wilier than your Pittsburgh Penguins.
Your Pens look unstoppable. Your possession cuts through defending backchecks like a ginsu knife through a piece of fruit. James Neal, Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, Brandon Sutter and Pascal Dupuis lead your offensive charge like General Patton against a small town militia.
Are the odds stacked against my Flyers tonight? Yes, more than I wish to admit. And here’s where I may stun some of you…
I’m impressed. Not only am I impressed with the Penguins’ success this season, I also hand your organization a lot of props. This team of yours has molded so well together. It’s not always about finding the best players; it’s about finding the RIGHT players, and Ray Shero must be patting himself on the back so much that he has more bruises than a Christian Flagellant.
It’s another case of David vs Goliath, and I don’t believe I need to tell you which one is which.
So, who should you expect to face this evening? Well, like I mentioned, Courtney Love changes her undergarments less than Laviolette switches up the forward line combinations. However, in our latest practice, the lines looked like this –
Line 1: (LW) Matt Read, (C) Claude Giroux, (RW) Jakub Voracek
Line 2: (LW) Simon Gagne, (C) Brayden Schenn, (RW) Wayne Simmonds
Line 3: (LW) Scott Hartnell, (C) Ruslan Fedotenko, (RW) Zac Rinaldo
Line 4: (LW) Harry Zolnierczyk, (C) Sean Couturier, (RW) Danny Briere
Max Talbot sat out of practice for “personal reasons,” but he’s expected to make a start tonight.
As you can tell, Danny Briere’s taken one HELL of a demotion. Want a good laugh? Danny B. demands a staggering $6.5-million off our cap per season, but he’s been on such a horrific cold streak that Laviolette has no choice other than to stick him on the peasant line.
However, news has gone out this morning that Danny suffered an undisclosed injury in practice yesterday, and is listed as day-to-day. He will not be participating in tonight’s brouhaha.
And ahhhhh yes, Scott Hartnell. I’m sure each of you has heard of this man before….
…well, he’s suffering a demotion after committing a bonehead penalty in our 4 – 2 loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning last Monday. On top of that, Hartnell has been another Flyer who’s struggled to find any form of momentum this season. He’ll be tagging along on our third line combo versus your Flightless Pigeons tonight.
So, that just about does it, my friends. My boys may be venturing in as Underdogs at 7:30, but we do have two things favoring our odds; for one, we absolutely own you in your building with a 6-1-0 record. And two, whatever it is, my Flyers seem to be the only adversary that knocks your Pens mentally off their game.
One thing is for sure – we’re both hungry. The Flyers are looking to claw themselves back into Playoff contention, and you’re looking to tally another ‘W’ to your streak. But Philadelphia’s got the edge in desperation, which makes us incredibly dangerous. We’re like a wounded animal, and after tonight the Flyers are either going to live to fight another night, or we’ll be closer to being put out to pasture.
Don’t miss a second of it.
Good night. Good hockey.
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