Frank Seravalli: Flyers coming home filled with confidence

Ray Emery gets a pat on the mask by Braydon Coburn after Saturday win over Devils.
Ray Emery gets a pat on the mask by Braydon Coburn after Saturday win over Devils.
Posted: October 05, 2009

Not only did the Flyers win in New Jersey on Saturday night, they sucker-punched the Devils with a 5-2 lashing that left them wondering what hit them.

That game - by itself - would be an impressive start to the season.

But the Flyers did it:

-- Fewer than 24 hours after stealing a 2-0

season-opening victory over Carolina about 500 miles away in Raleigh, N.C., with little sleep.

-- Against a fresh Devils team that had not

yet played a game.

-- In front of an excited, opening-night crowd

at the Prudential Center in Newark.

It is hard to imagine that the Flyers are not flying high with confidence right now.

But Flyers coach John Stevens doesn't seem to be worried about overconfidence heading into tomorrow night's home opener in front of what is sure to be a raucous and amped-up crowd at the Wachovia Center.

In fact, it is something he welcomes.

"You need to be successful to be confident," Stevens said. "We have only played two games. I really don't think we have anything to be overconfident about.

"There is no question that I'm really happy with our performance. We played two tough teams on back-to-back nights on the road. And we didn't give up a goal playing 5-on-5, which was one of our goals coming into the year."

Instead, Stevens thinks that the two wins this weekend were something that the Flyers - as a new group - can build on.

They're going to need to build on that success tomorrow, because this Washington team looks as if it could challenge for the Stanley Cup - much like the Flyers.

The Caps pounded a much-improved Toronto team on Saturday, holding a 6-1 edge at one point in front of a Hockey Night in Canada audience. They stunned Boston on the road, 4-1, last Thursday.

And Alex Ovechkin, building off his Hart Trophy-winning season, already has three goals in two games, despite being hawked by opposing defenses.

"Washington is playing really well," Stevens said. "Coming home, we've got to force ourselves to be ready."

They better be ready. It's only one game - the first of 41 at home. But few teams can deflate a building, and a season stoked with expectations, like Washington.

OVER/UNDER DRILL

Every year, Vegas likes to throw a few intriguing numbers out there at the beginning of the season to get you thinking. For entertainment purposes only, let's take a shot at a few of them.

-- Flyers' regular season points: 102.5 - over. To say the Flyers are just 3.5 points better than last year is an insult. The Devils won the Atlantic Division with 107 points and this Flyers team, with more heart and intensity, is better than that.

-- Chris Pronger's point total: 49.5 - under. Pronger's career average is 45.4 points per season over his 15-year NHL career. That doesn't count the 1994-95 lockout-shortened season or 2002-03 when he just played in five games. The last time he broke 50 was 2006-07. He is a well-rounded player who will have a monster season, but 50 is a stretch.

-- Jeff Carter's goal total: 40.5 - over. Carter netted 46 goals last season, by far the best total of his pro and junior career. He is off to a fine start this season and with his linemates, he will definitely be close to topping last year's number. Even if he doesn't surpass it, you're still over.

-- Danny Briere's goal total: 22.5 - under. This might be the most intriguing number on the board. He has bested that mark every year but one in his 8-year career, with last year the exception. He posted 11 goals in 29 injury-riddled games. Briere has always been a better passer than scorer and even though he got stronger and bulked up in the offseason, his health still will be a concern. It wouldn't surprise me if he recorded 80 points this year, but 60 of them could be assists.

The best number on the board may have been Ray Emery at a 40-1 shot to win the Vezina Trophy. He has looked Vezina good in the first two games.

TUNING IN

If you're a puckhead and have Comcast digital cable, tune in to channels 771-780 now through Oct. 24 for a free preview of NHL Center Ice, with all of the out-of-town games. There's nothing better than watching Calgary and Edmonton duke it out on a Saturday night in the Battle of Alberta.

SLAP SHOTS

The Flyers sent defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon and goaltender Johan Backlund to Adirondack yesterday, making room for seventh defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen and goalie Brian Boucher. Both players were eligible to return to the roster yesterday from the injured reserve ... More than 500 tickets remain for tomorrow night's home opener against the Capitals. What's up with that? A few lower-level seats remain and the Flyers expect more to be available with Washington releasing its allotment for the game.

BY THE NUMBERS

1 - Number of shorthanded goals scored against the Flyers last year in 82 games. Jamie Langenbrunner scored one for the Devils on Saturday, already tying last year's total.

3 - Number of assists for James van Riemsdyk in the Flyers' first two games, tying him for second in the league. He is also the Flyers' leader in points.

9-35-9 - Flyers' record in New Jersey prior to Saturday's 5-2 victory over the Devils at the Prudential Center in Newark.

THE WEEK AHEAD

vs. Washington

Tomorrow, 7 p.m.

What to expect: If there ever were a perfect measuring stick for a team with an all-too-perfect start, it would be the Capitals. Alex Ovechkin is tied for the league-lead in goals with 3. Mike Knuble returns to the Center for the first time, with an offense that he described as "scary."

vs. Pittsburgh

Thursday, 7 p.m.

What to expect: It is tough to face the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin in the same week. Similarly, it is the Flyers' fourth stiff test in a row to start the season - all against playoff teams from last year. But the Penguins aren't just any playoff team. They won the whole thing - and knocked the Flyers out in the first round.

vs. Anaheim

Saturday, 7 p.m.

What to expect: Sure, the Ducks were weakened a little bit on the back end when they shipped Chris Pronger to the Flyers on draft day in June. But they'll have Ryan Whitney, a trade-deadline pickup from Pittsburgh last season, and Nick Boynton to shore things up, rounding out the defense corps with Luca Sbisa. Don't forget, Scott Niedermayer is still the real deal. Joffrey Lupul comes back to Philly for the first time.

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