The Philadelphia Flyers will kick off the hockey season tonight at the Wachovia Center. The New York Rangers will be visiting them starting at 7:00 pm EST. The Flyers are looking to make the playoffs for the second straight year, and I think they have the talent to do it.
The Flyers will be trotting out almost the same team as last year's squad. One big addition is a healthy Simon Gagne, which they didn't have most of last season. Gagne scored 40+ goals in the 06-07 and the 05-06 seasons. Don't expect him to equal that total, even if he stays healthy. Mainly because those seasons came when Gagne was paired up Peter Forsberg, the best passer in the NHL.
Gagne will probably appear on a line with center Daniel Briere. Briere had a good first year for the Flyers last season. Look for him and Gagne to combine for a lot of goals this season.
Mike Richards has taken over the captaincy, and he is also the best player. Richards had a monster season last year, racking up 75 points. Richards should rebound nicely from that breakout campaigne.
Martin Biron will still be the goalie. Biron was named the number one goalie before last season. The Flyers gave him a chance and he showed he could dominate, especially in the playoffs.
The Flyers only concern seems to be the defense. The offense if stacked with 20+ goal-scorers, but the defense is unproven. Kimmo Timmonen is one of the most underrated defensemen in the game. He was the Flyers go-to defensemen last season, shutting down the other team's biggest stars. Braydon Coburn seems poised for a breakout season, after playing well last year. Coburn, with his smooth skating ability and size, could emerge as a top defensemen. Randy Jones is a solid defensemen also, but injured. The Flyers picked up veteran Steve Eminger to add some depth to the position.
If, when watching the game tonight, you feel something is missing, don't be surprised. Derian Hatcher won't be in the lineup tonight. Hatcher delivers bone-crunching hits almost shiftly. I think he gets into the other team's head. Like Ray Lewis on the Ravens, he instills fear in other team. They think twice before skating into his zone. I think he will be sorely missed.
I can't believe it's hockey season already. I feel like the NFL season just started (ended?) for the Eagles, and here we are talking about hockey. But I do like hockey, and with the Phillies having all these breaks, I'll need something to watch. I'm finding increasingly difficult to find anything good on TV. Between the first and second rounds of the MLB postseason, there was hardly any good sports on TV. Hopefully, the Flyers can fill that void.