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Flyers-Devils: Dissecting a rivalry

Thursday, December 4, 2008

NHL rivalries originate from a wide variety of sources: protracted playoff battles (Detroit-Colorado), bitter personality clashes (Anaheim under Burke-Edmonton under Lowe), regional pride (Battle of Alberta), or pure dominance (Nashville-Columbus).

We love rivalries for the excitement that automatically inject into the game. When the New York Rangers come to the Wachovia Center, it’s like a carnival in South Philly. Even during the lost season—you know, the one where the Philadelphia Flyers finished last in the league and then were robbed of the number one pick by Chicago—people would pack themselves into the arena early for the chance to whistle at Jaromir Jagr or take their best shot at Sean Avery. They sat on the edge of their seats, anticipating another round from Colton Orr and Riley Cote. Two points against a divisional opponent were up for grabs, and no one wanted those filthy Ranger fans sitting in the upper bowl to walk away happy.

Matchups with the New Jersey Devils, though, have always felt different because of the Devils’ power over the Flyers. For an entire decade, I watched the Black and Orange battle all season to take the top spot in the Atlantic Division, only to watch New Jersey knock them out in the playoffs. I remember standing in the Wachovia Center the night Martin Brodeur broke Bernie Parent’s record for most single season victories. We Flyers fans consoled ourselves by thinking, “At least we’re not over the in Spectrum, the building where Parent earned that record in an era without overtime victories.”

And I recall the Scott Stevens hit that ended the Eric Lindros era in Philadelphia. Flyer fans desperately wanted to get to the promised land once again, and Lindros was the heralded savior sent to the lead the way. Sure, he had his head down and sure, he was concussion-prone from day one. But he was our head-down-concussion-prone guy. The image of that hit comes to mind each time I see the Devils play.

For many years, the Flyers have struggled to defeat the Devils, whether we’re talking regular season or playoff game. It’s not that the Flyers couldn’t beat the trap; it was just a mental hurdle they never seemed to conquer. Last season, however, Marty Biron dished out a 4-0 shutout to the Devils in October; ever since, we’ve witnessed real games where the Flyers actually have chances to win. The Flyers dominated the first two games against the Devils this year, solving Martin Brodeur and pushing back against the tough-checking John Madden line.

It’s odd to consider that Martin Brodeur will not be in net this evening. That hasn’t happened since 2002, when John Vanviesbrouck allowed one goal to give the Flyers a victory. Perhaps Scott Clemmensen will offer up a similar favor . . . .

I’ll be at the game this evening, so no blog until later.

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24 Comments leave one →
  1. John permalink
    Thursday, December 4, 2008 10:46 am

    My world is collapsing around me! Now I’ll have to follow the game via RealTime…
    Actually, –around 8:15 or so– I can have both the Flyers and Avs games up {RealTime of course}, /and/ watch the NFL’s Thursday Night game!

    Heck, I might even be able to get over not having an in-game blog. 🙂

  2. Thursday, December 4, 2008 10:55 am

    You know, I write a blog on your Avs and suddenly you think you own the place.

  3. John permalink
    Thursday, December 4, 2008 11:28 am

    Hey, I haven’t mentioned them in, what, two consecutive entries now? And I’m only doing this because your ‘Avs’ blog reminded me that Minnesota is good*. 🙂

    *But only in the regular season! HAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!

  4. John permalink
    Thursday, December 4, 2008 9:34 pm

    Well, you’re guaranteed at least one point. The Avs are down 3-2 after letting Nashville score with about 1 second left in the first..

  5. John permalink
    Friday, December 5, 2008 2:43 pm

    1. I see WordPress did another makeover..

    2. Here’s my summary of why the Avs lost last night: “Legwand, D. (19:59 in 1st)”. There you have it! 🙂

  6. John permalink
    Friday, December 5, 2008 4:12 pm

    The Flyers lost because Patrik Elias scored two goals. Also because Jeff Carter didn’t score!

    There’s my PHI-NJ recap. Elias and Carter are the sole reasons for the outcome. There is 0 possibility that anything else factored in. 🙂

  7. Friday, December 5, 2008 4:50 pm

    Here’s my recap:

    1 Marty Biron + 3 goaltending turnovers + 5-hole = 2 points for the Devils

  8. John permalink
    Friday, December 5, 2008 4:53 pm

    Aha! That got you to post!

  9. Friday, December 5, 2008 5:51 pm

    The end of the game was depressing, and I needed a pick me up. So I didn’t get home until after midnight, and I was exhausted.

    Then I had to work today – including afternoon concert duty. And let me tell you, it is extremely unpleasant to wake up early for work on a Friday after a loss. Since I wanted to get out before 6 (which isn’t gonna happen), I was trying to stay off the blog and do actual work. Then I figured, since I was getting out, I might as well bite the bullet.

    Ugh. I hate losing to the Devils.

  10. Friday, December 5, 2008 5:51 pm

    But it’s Friday, I’m almost done here, and then I’m free!

  11. John permalink
    Friday, December 5, 2008 6:32 pm

    Well, it /was/ your choice to go to the game you know. 🙂

  12. Friday, December 5, 2008 7:53 pm

    Very true.

    I try to see it this way – at least I have a life outside my job, my computer, and my hockey team. Which not all bloggers can honestly say.

  13. John permalink
    Friday, December 5, 2008 8:29 pm

    Why do you need a life outside of your team?! 🙂

  14. Friday, December 5, 2008 10:13 pm

    Well, we can’t all be perfect like you are.

  15. John permalink
    Friday, December 5, 2008 10:32 pm

    I’m very sorry to hear that FF. I’ve tried for years to spread some of my perfectness around, but it hasn’t helped too much…

  16. John permalink
    Friday, December 5, 2008 11:12 pm

    I’m almost ready to support letting Raycroft start for a while. Neither guy has been especially good, but Andrew is officially 3-1-0 while Budaj is 9-12-1. Peter has the better Goals Against rating, but quite frankly, I’ll take wins over GAA any day of the week!

  17. Saturday, December 6, 2008 7:05 pm

    It sounds like Raycroft is worth a try. He did have that Calder season, so maybe that Calder guy is still in there somewhere.

  18. John permalink
    Saturday, December 6, 2008 10:48 pm

    Ah! Jose Theodore flashback alert! 🙂
    Although I guess he /did/ play well later in the season last year. But there’s only one way to see if Raycroft is better than Budaj.. And that’s to let him play a decent number of games.

  19. Saturday, December 6, 2008 11:17 pm

    At this point in the season, I don’t know that it can hurt the Avs. Although I guess Granato may be concerned about his job safety.

  20. Saturday, December 6, 2008 11:18 pm

    And Theodore is just more dead weight for the Capitals. Every time I watch him back there, it makes me cringe! They play such an open wide style, and they really need someone solid between the pipes.

  21. John permalink
    Saturday, December 6, 2008 11:46 pm

    He’ll be more concerned about his job if Budaj keeps losing!

    • Sunday, December 7, 2008 9:12 pm

      How do you feel about David Jones? From what little I’ve seen of him, he seems to be a nice depth forward – decent size, keeps his feet moving, knows how to go to the net.

  22. John permalink
    Sunday, December 7, 2008 9:58 pm

    I like him, but don’t love him. Like you said, he’s more of a ‘depth’ player than anything. And I definitely don’t like his -7 plus/minus {Tied for last among our forwards}. Then again, I also don’t like Smyth’s -7, or Sakic’s -6.. 🙂

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