For the first time since January 23, 2011, the Philadelphia Flyers will pay a visit to the Madhouse on Madison tonight to take on our beloved Chicago Blackhawks, and bandwagon and diehard Hawks fans alike know the Flyers have a special place in Chicago history. Strange to think that any Chicagoan would have any fond memories at all having anything to do with Philadelphia (yeah, I said it!), but in 2010 the Flyers left their orange and white mark on the Blackhawks’ storied legacy as the last team the Hawks triumphed over to end their infamously historic 49-year Stanley Cup drought.
Good times, good times…but 2010 is now long gone in hockey years. The Blackhawks have written several great chapters in the franchises’ chronicles since then, and are looking to add a few more pages tonight as they play Philly in an undoubtedly nostalgia-wrought match-up. That being said, here are five thoughts about the Flyers @ Blackhawks:
#1 – Flyers in Flux
Since their last meeting in the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals, both the Blackhawks and the Flyers have undergone changes, and needless to say, the Blackhawks have changed for the better. The Flyers have hit a downward spiral the past couple years (and that’s me being polite). Last season Philly started 0-3-0 for the first time in 17 years and missed the playoffs for the first time since the 2006-2007 season. This season, head coach Peter Laviolette and assistant coach Kevin McCarthy were asked to clean out their desks after the Flyers again posted a 0-3-0 record in the first three contests. As of now replacement head coach Craig Berube hasn’t really been able to turn the fortunes of the franchise: Philly is sitting in the #12 slot in the Eastern Conference.
#2 – Flyers Filthy in Western Conference
It’s really a one-sided debate at this point that the Eastern Conference is the weaker of the two conferences in the NHL, and Philly’s record against Western Conference teams has certainly been supporting the argument. The Flyers are 1-7 in the Western Conference so far this season, their one win being a one-goal victory over the lowly Winnipeg Jets. Must have something to do with the Mississippi River…
#3 – Ray Emery Returns to the Madhouse on Madison
Perhaps most noteworthy of tonight’s match-up is the return of former Blackhawks’ goalie Ray Emery, who will be between the pipes this evening at the United Center for the Flyers. After his career season with the Hawks last year, Emery looked to transfer his skill and success to a team where he could be the featured keeper, and well, let’s just say things haven’t necessarily gone according to plan. Emery is 3-5-0, 2.57 GAA and .908 to start the season and finds himself in the back-up position once again in Philly.
When asked about his thoughts on going against his former team, Ray Emery remarked that tonight is “just another game. I think you can’t get too caught up in past experiences. You just have to live in the moment and realize you’re playing against a good team.”
Regardless, one thing is certain: Emery will be welcomed with a standing ovation and in-game-tribute at the United Center tonight. We miss ya Razer!
Probably the only Flyers players that’ll be familiar to Hawks fans from the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals are Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell (Dustin Byfuglien’s former heavyweight challenger Chris Pronger is on the IR, again). Philly’s captain Captain Giroux leads his team with 20 points this season. As for Hartnell, that ginger-mullet instigator that scored two goals in Game 6 of the 2010 Finals that sent the game to OT and set-up Patrick Kane for the biggest goal of his career, well he has 12 points so far this year, after coming off the worst season of his career.
Numbers aside, these are two Flyers that remember oh so well what the Hawks denied them four years ago, so look for these players to bring some extra fire and ire to the ice. PS – also look out for Sean Couturier tonight: he’s on a hot streak with three goals and three assists over Philadelphia’s last five games.
#5 – Another Feather in Antti Raanta‘s War Bonnet
Blackhawks goalies don’t play consecutive games often, but when they do, they prefer playing teams like the Philadelphia Flyers. Antti Raanta has continued to make a name for himself and a case for his cause since stepping in for the injured Corey Crawford, and will be looking for more of the same tonight after allowing two goals on 29 shots in last night’s win against the Dallas Stars. Raanta is now 4-1-1 with a 2.14 GAA and .924 SV% and the Flyers should be a team that’ll help him pad his numbers further, considering they lost three out of their last four while being outscored 15-11 in the process. Stay solid Antti!
EXTRA CREDIT –
One noteworthy stat that should be mentioned is that since their defeat at the hands of the Blackhawks in the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals, the Philadelphia Flyers are undefeated against the Hawks, going 2-0-0 against the 2010 champs during the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 regular seasons (they didn’t meet in the 2012-2013 season due to the lockout). So it would appear the Flyers have a long memory.
Knock on wood, it should be a punch-clock night for the Blackhawks: punch in – get the W – play Chelsea Dagger – salute fans – punch out. However, you can never be certain of the outcome when teams with a history go toe to toe. The Hawks should very well expect the Flyers to channel their inner Rocky Balboa tonight, considering their season’s on the ropes, and beating a reigning Stanley Cup champ that you have a vendetta against would be a great storyline for Rocky VII: Paulie’s Revenge.
FOR THE DAGGER!