Flyers off to a positive start

The Flyers' Jeff Carter reaches for the puck against St. Louis' Alex Pietrangelo in front of goalie Jaroslav Halak. The Flyers earned three of the possible four points on the two-game trip.
The Flyers' Jeff Carter reaches for the puck against St. Louis' Alex Pietrangelo in front of goalie Jaroslav Halak. The Flyers earned three of the possible four points on the two-game trip.
Posted: October 11, 2010

As the Flyers prepare for Monday night's home opener against Colorado, they should feel satisfied about their 1-0-1 start.

Yes, they have been undisciplined and committed far too many penalties - a league-high 21 after two games - and, yes, their power play (1 for 9) has struggled.

But the positives have outweighed the negatives.

Consider:

Their defense has played admirably despite the absence of its injured anchor, Chris Pronger. The retooled pairings - Matt Carle and Andrej Meszaros, Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn, and Sean O'Donnell and Oskars Bartulis - have stepped up nicely.

The goalie tandem of rookie Sergei "Bob" Bobrovsky and veteran Brian Boucher has been very good. Michael Leighton, the projected No. 1 goalie, will undergo back surgery Monday and could miss two months. In his NHL debut, Bobrovsky was sharp in a 3-2 win in Pittsburgh, while Boucher was solid in a 2-1 overtime loss in St. Louis.

The penalty-killing units have been superb. They killed nine of 10 power plays against St. Louis and have killed 13 of 15 in two games. Blair Betts and Darroll Powe have been the penalty-killing leaders, and Mike Richards and Claude Giroux have contributed mightily.

The line of Danny Briere (two goals), Scott Hartnell, and Ville Leino (two assists) has resembled the unit that came of age in last season's playoffs.

Young forwards Giroux and James van Riemsdyk have been especially effective and look headed toward breakout seasons.

Van Riemsdyk is noticeably faster and more physically fit than last season, his rookie year. He is also more confident.

"Experience goes a long way, especially with the long run we had in the playoffs last year," he said. "So I expect a lot more of myself."

Van Riemsdyk is playing left wing on the Alphabet Soup Line - a unit whose players are known to their teammates by letters. Van Riemsdyk is JVR, Giroux is G, and Nik Zherdev is Z.

Getting points in two hostile arenas, van Riemsdyk said, was a good start.

"We played two teams that had their home openers, and we knew we were going to get good games from those teams," he said. "So getting three of four points isn't bad."

Now they will try to continue their points streak as they start their longest homestand of the season: five games.

Monday's opener will be the Flyers' first "real" home game since Patrick Kane and the Chicago Blackhawks carried the Stanley Cup around the South Philly ice.

"It'll be huge," van Riemsdyk said of the early-season homestand. "It'll be good to play in front of our fans again. They were great during the playoffs all last year, and it'll be exciting to get it going."

The Eastern Conference banner, which the seventh-seeded Flyers won with an improbable run last season, will be raised before the game.

Breakaways. Whether Pronger (knee) makes his season debut Monday will be a game-time decision. . . . Coach Peter Laviolette didn't announce his starting goalie, but Bobrovsky was expected to get the call. . . . About 300 tickets remained for the home opener. "The building will have a lot of fire to it," Laviolette said. . . . In their season opener, Paul Stastny's second goal of the game lifted the Avalanche to a 4-3 win over the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks.


Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi at 215-854-5181 or scarchidi@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter/BroadStBull.

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