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BOSTON (CBS) - It’s finally here; the raising of a new banner, the start of the regular season and the year of defending the crown for the Boston Bruins.
For the past several weeks, we’ve been taking a look at some of the top contenders in the East. With opening night, we found it suiting to end it all with the nemiscing Philadelphia Flyers. The rivalry has been renewed and this year should prove to be a great addition to the ongoing saga. With some serious restructuring and Pronger at the head of the pack, the Philadelphia Flyers will be a serious contender for the top spot in the East
Here are five reasons why the broad street bullies will dominate this regular season.
1. Roster Overhaul
More than any other team this off season, the Flyer’s really shook things up. Nothing says change like when you trade away your 30-goal scoring captain of three years, Mike Richards. Their off-season moves also rid them of…are you ready? Jeff Carter, Ville Leino, Kris Versteeg, Darrell Powe, Brian Boucher, Sean O’Donnell and Dan Carcillo. Instead they brought in a “proven” goaltender in Ilya Bryzgalov,a penalty killer in Maxime Talbot, veteran and skill presence in Jaromoir Jagr and youth in Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek and Brayden Schenn. This is a much different team compared to last year. With a good blend of veteran presence and young players, the Flyers have the balance they need to be a strong contender in the NHL
Read: Bruins-Flyers Preview
2. Mind the Net
I’m skeptical about whether or not Ilya Bryzgalov will be the saviour of this team. Comparatively speaking, anything is better than the utters disasters they’ve had in net over the past decade. The Flyer’s on the other hand, clearly have faith in him. Nothing says “we trust you” like a nine year, $51 million contract!
Whether or not he’ll win a Vezina is not the issue. The team finally has a definite number one goalie and with a strong defense in front of him, Bryzgalov will prove to better than his predecessors.
Mike Richards was traded due to his poor relationship with the coach and the front office. You can’t have the captain of your team bad mouthing those above him. Period. Now that he’s gone, in steps Chris Pronger, the true leader of the Philadelphia Flyers. Even without the C, you always knew that the players had respect for the seventeen year NHL veteran. Now that it’s been made official, the union of coach Laviolette and Pronger will finally provide strong leadership for this team.
What makes his presence any different this year? One word, health. After suffering a knee injury in 2010, Pronger hasn’t been the same player. Now that he’s recovered and ready to go, be prepared to see a noticeable difference on the Flyers’ blue line.
4. Power Play
Philadelphia’s power play will be one of their key strengths this year. With the front line of Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds and Jaromir Jagr, other teams will try their best to keep themselves out of the penalty box. The unit has already scored seven goals in the preseason, 26-percent better than they did last year.
5. Never Too Old
Jaromir Jagr has been absent from the NHL for the past three years. With his return came a flurry of questions regarding his future play. This regular season will offer Jagr a chance to silence his critics once again. Sure, he’s not young. We get that. But number-68 is still a very skilled and proven hockey player. Having Claude Giroux, one of the top centers in the NHL, by his side, Jagr will have ample opportunities to score goals and make plays.
In hockey, more than any other sport, veteran presence is worth a lot. Not only will Jagr provide points for this team, he will be able to offer priceless insight to many of the younger players. Don’t forget what Rechhi did for the Bruins last year. With the combination of skill and insight, I expect Jaromir Jagr to have a 50+ point season this year.
More than any other team this off season, the Philadelphia Flyers instituted true change to their roster. With a proven goalie, veteran leadership and a host of young talent, the Flyers will be a giant obstacle standing in the way of another championship year for the Boston Bruins.
Follow Mark Feldman on Twitter @mfsports21