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Preview: Penguins @ Flyers 4/6/2008

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The story line of this game: season-long rivalry, Penguins attempting to wrap up a conference championship, Flyers attempting to gain major momentum into the playoffs without Danny Briere.  Would this be more dramatic if the Flyers were still fighting for a playoff spot?  Probably, but given the history between the two teams, the game should prove one of the most entertaining on the final day of the 2007-2008 season.

As I was thinking about this afternoon’s game, I recalled the final game last year.  The “lowly” Flyers – to borrow from everyone else’s terminology – defeated the President’s Trophy winning Buffalo Sabres at the Wachovia Center.  Perhaps it was the Giant failing to take the proverbial David seriously, but the Flyers found a way to summon another level and win a game.  Quite miraculous considering the awful games played in the building a year ago.

Friday night the Flyers again discovered a new level within themselves.  They left the gate running, using physical play and aggressive defense to force turnovers and spend significant time on the offensive.  The Flyers set the pace and never really allowed the Devils to alter it – even when the Flyers took potential damaging penalties and became slightly disoriented to begin the third period.

To win today, the Flyers need that deeper level of hockey to emerge once again.  The Penguins possess the speed and agility to run any team into the ground, so there isn’t time for lapses in judgement or focus.  However, the Penguins can be defeated in the same manner as the Devils, despite the differences in playing style.  Maintaining puck control, a strong forecheck, and outstanding goaltending allows the Flyers to establish their own offensive cycle and prevents the Penguins from transforming the game into a track meet.

This game could very well be more important than Friday’s against the Devils.  It’s the Flyers’ chance to make a statement to whichever team they will face in the playoffs and all the pundits who doubt them.  Regardless of the past failures and frustrations, this team is not going to roll over and die in the first round; they are a scrappy underdog who will fight to the finish.

That’s the message we fans want to see today.  That’s the team “Back with a Vengeance” defines.

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