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Who are these Flyers? Tonight’s visit to Chicago could go a long way in answering that question

Dec 11, 2013, 6:27 PM EDT

streit-emery-lecavalier-AP

Patrick Kane… Michael Leighton’s five hole… Game 6 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Final… Yada, yada, yada.

Whatever. That all happened three-and-a-half years ago.

Snap back to reality and focus on the here and now because the Philadelphia Flyers finish up their six-game road trip tonight with a visit to Chicago to take on the once-again defending Stanley Cup champion and red-hot Blackhawks, who have the most points in the NHL with 49.

The Blackhawks are the most well-oiled machine the league has to offer.

They lead the league with an average of 3.58 goals per game. They’re second in the league with 33.7 shots on net per game. Don’t forget their lethal power play, which is fifth-best in the league with a 22.9 percent success rate.

Kane is well on the way to having the best season of his career. With 40 points, he trails Sidney Crosby by just three points for the league lead. He’s also scored 17 goals, which puts him at fourth-best in the league. Captain Jonathan Toews is one of the best players in the universe. Duncan Keith is second among all defensemen with 27 points, third among defensemen with a plus-15 rating and is back playing at his 2010 Norris Trophy-winning form.

To wrap things up here in Christmas paper and put a pretty little bow on top, this is one of those litmus test games for Flyers that could help us figure out of the they are contenders or pretenders. Tonight help show us who these Flyers really are.

The up-and-down road trip has pretty much been a microcosm of the season so far.

On this trip, the Flyers won a shootout (!) in Nashville, sleepwalked to a shutout loss in Minnesota, exploded in the third period to win in Detroit, got blitzed in the second period of a loss in Dallas and blew a third-period lead and lost in a shootout in Ottawa.

The trip really hasn’t shed much light on what the team is or isn’t. The same questions about goal scoring, defense and consistent play still linger. It doesn’t help that second-line center Vinny Lecavalier was injured on the trip could miss up to a month.

Getting back to tonight’s visit to Chicago, look for Sean Couturier and his line to play a big role.

If Flyers’ head coach Craig Berube has his way and gets the matchups he wants, Couturier and his line will be out there as much as possible against Toews and his line.  Whichever line gets the best of the other will have a huge say in the way the game goes. Keep in mind that Couturier’s line has been the Flyers’ best offensive line recently, too. If the matchup evens itself out, it’ll be up to the respective teams’ secondary scoring. With guys like Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp and Andrew Shaw, just to name a few, it’s a clear advantage to the Blackhawks.

Ray Emery goes tonight between the pipes for the Flyers. Steve Mason has allowed eight goals in his last two starts – the first two times he let in more than three goals as a Flyer – so he gets the night off. Expect Mason to be back in net tomorrow night when the Flyers finally come home and face the Montreal Canadiens in the second game of a back-to-back.

Emery, of course, won a Cup with the ‘Hawks last season and will be facing his old mates for the first time since. Last season with the ‘Hawks, “Razor” went 17-1-0 with a .922 save percentage and a 1.94 goals-against average in 21 games played. This season in his second stint as a Flyer, Emery is 3-5-0 with a .908 save percentage and a 2.56 goals-against average in 10 games played.

Let’s just say the quality of defense in front of the goaltender helps. But that’s another story for another day.

The last time the Flyers had a big game like this, Emery started and the Flyers won, 2-1, in Pittsburgh.

Long story short, this game will go a long in proving whether the Flyers can hang with the big boys of the NHL or whether they aren’t much better than a middle of the pack team.

Either way, it’s never a bad thing to have an excuse to look at the Blackhawks’ beautiful sweaters. Best uniform in pro sports right there.

  1. Ray Emery - Dec 12, 2013 at 12:03 AM

    It’s been 2 hours since the game ended and I am still hearing it! Please make it stop!

    Reply
    • Matt S. - Dec 12, 2013 at 12:04 AM

      It’s been over 3 years and I still hear it.

      Reply
      • The Bees Knees - Dec 12, 2013 at 9:08 AM

        I refuse to drink Heineken due to one of their campaigns using the Chelsea Dagger song around the time the Blackhawks took the Cup. I want nothing to do with that song or the memories it conjures.

      • BenE. - Dec 12, 2013 at 1:29 PM

        It was Amstel, not Heineken. So it’d also be ironic if you had switched to Amstel this whole time.

      • The Bees Knees - Dec 12, 2013 at 2:21 PM

        Good thing I don’t drink Amstel either. :)

  2. Matt S. - Dec 12, 2013 at 12:03 AM

    Tonight’s game answered some questions alright

    Reply
  3. BenE. - Dec 12, 2013 at 12:34 AM

    Well, that right there was the best team in the NHL.

    Reply
  4. MJS - Dec 12, 2013 at 7:16 AM

    Does Wiggins play hockey too?

    Reply
  5. psudrozz - Dec 12, 2013 at 9:47 AM

    i don’t think there is a team who is more undisciplined and sloppy near their own blue line than the flyers.

    Reply
    • mike - Dec 12, 2013 at 11:18 AM

      I’ve noticed that for a while now. They just can’t clear the puck from the zone. There are times I feel like I am watching half-rink hockey with only one goalie.

      Reply
  6. Chutley - Dec 12, 2013 at 10:57 AM

    I was at the game…it was rough to watch at times.
    Here’s nothing new: Meszaros is really bad, Raffl adds nothing – i’ve got to think McGinn would bring more to this team right now. And when the Flyers are struggling like this, they cannot withstand Rinaldo’s downside which has come out the last few games.
    Watching Luke Schenn bodychecks in person was a awesome…he crushes dudes.

    Reply
    • t800m101 - Dec 12, 2013 at 1:32 PM

      I agree with you, McGinn needs to be in over Raffl.

      Reply

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