Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013 -
We're facing the dawn of a new season. Granted, it's a shortened schedule and we're still a little peeved over the lockout. But hockey's upon us, and we couldn't be more excited. Our Flyers open the year against the Penguins, and from there our boys journey through one of the most combative sprints the sport of hockey has to offer.
As Saturday draws nearer, we can feel our palms begin to sweat. We can hear the skates cutting and shaving the ice. The smell of the players' gear has never been more welcomed around the brims of our nostrils. The goal horn will, once again, become the catalyst to an invigorating heart beat that feels like a drum pounding behind our chest plates.
And if there's one feeling we love to feel, it's hatred for the opposing star players. Especially those who suit up in Atlantic Division sweaters.
If I so much as mention Crosby around my Flyers brethren, it's like sticking a raw prime rib in a piranha tank. If I show a photo of Brodeur to a crowd wearing Orange & Black, they become a violent sea of repulsion and growls.
But it's these same few we LOVE to HATE that add to the fire of NHL hockey. It keeps us coming back. We want more. We want to paint the road to a Stanley Cup Championship with the blood of our contention. The thought is hair-raising, and dilates our eyes to a cold, ironfisted shade of black.
Today I'm going to get into the new faces we'll learn to hate very quickly. But more notably, the new faces dressed in the colors of our Atlantic Division rivals.
(C) Brandon Sutter, Pittsburgh Penguins
Enter a 6'3", 185-pound center who will be bringing up the third line behind Crosby and Malkin. Brandon Sutter is a 23-year old skater with four NHL seasons under his belt.
He joins our Western Pennsylvania neighbors after being traded from the Carolina Hurricanes during the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
We thought -- with the exit of Jordan Staal -- the Flyers would get a break from the Penguins checking line. Staal, after all, comes from quite the hockey pedigree. We thought with him gone, the Flyers have one less center to worry about from the Flightless Pigeons...
Not so much....
In 2011-12, Sutter had a faceoff percentage of 50.2, potted 17-goals and assisted on 15 others in 82-games played. Brandon has touch, he has breakaway speed, and -- more importantly -- he has finish. To round out his game, Sutter is a very disciplined player, only capping 21-penalty minutes in 17:23 average ice time.
This sneaky sleeper will get noticed immediately by each of us Flyers fans.
(LW) Tanner Glass, Pittsburgh Penguins
Tanner is a fighter. He's a chirper. He's a son of a bitch. Glass packs a punch, as well as a mouth full of smack talk. He'll be in the ear of every Flyer who skates by, and he'll drop the mitts just as fast.
Glass was signed on July 1 to a two-year contract with Pittsburgh.
Not exactly known for his goal scoring, Tanner lit 5-lamps last season and totaled with 16-points on the Winnipeg Jets. However, he racked up 73-minutes in the penalty box while only averaging 13:25 of ice time in 78-games played.
According to HockeyFights.com, in the 2011-12 regular season, Tanner Glass fought 7-times (3 Away, 4 Home) and voted winner only ONCE in those 7-bouts. But never mind the results on his fight card, the man's a nuisance. He's good for nothing but getting under your skin and pissing you off.
And he'll do exactly that.
(LW) Rick Nash, New York Rangers
You knew it was coming. It was the biggest blockbuster trade of the summer, and it made the ever hated and extremely talented New York Rangers that much better.
Rick Nash has been a superstar NHLer on one of the most abysmal franchises in the League, and now he's thrown in with a mix of teammates that'll rise his star status even higher.
The 28-year old winger adds size, speed and an exceptionally gifted offensive skillset to the Blueshirts roster. He's what analysts say is going to get the Rangers over that hump, and the acquisition easily makes New York the Stanley Cup favorites.
In his 9-year tenure (all with the Columbus), Nash has scored 289-goals and cashes out at 547 total points. If my math's correct, that's an average of 32G, 60-points per season. And, again, all of that accomplished from the front line for the Jackets. That is no small feat, and it'll only boom bigger on Broadway.
Get used to it, Flyers fans. It's not about how we can stop Rick Nash. It's about how we can limit his production.
(LW) Chris Kreider, New York Rangers
If you paid close attention to the Rangers' Playoff run last season, you noticed 21-year old left-wing Chris Kreider. The 2009 19th Overall Draft pick suited up in a Rags sweater for the first time during the Stanley Cup Playoffs and made quite an impact from the get go.
The kid has yet to play his first regular season game, so the Flyers haven't had the pleasure of dealing with him on the ice.
He's currently battling for a permanent spot on the roster at camp, but let's not fool ourselves, Chris will be handling the puck for Tortorella's crew come Saturday, January 19.
Kreider spent time playing for Boston College and USA's World Junior team before being penned into the Rangers lineup last April.
Through his 18 Playoff games played, Chris deposited the rubber 5 times and totaled 7-points. Though that may not sound earth-shattering, the kid still put on one hell of an impressive performance and aims to be one of this season's ROY candidates.
Chris is a promising project for the Rangers, and currently stands as a depth offenseman to an already polished NHL Superpower. Just another headache for the Flyers, and will no doubt demand his name to be brought up in pregame planning.
(D) Matt Carkner, New York Islanders
Ladies and gentlemen, it's time to start taking the Islanders seriously. Sure, they've been scraping the bottom of the Eastern Conference barrel longer than most of us have had hair....."down there." But they've put some respectable numbers up as of late, and employ a handful of rising NHL stars of their own -- Michael Grabner, John Tavares, and Kyle Okposo to name a few.
Despite their franchise's misery over the last couple decades, the Isles are still a proud organization. And want to let everyone know they're serious about becoming a contender in this League.
Enter Matt Carkner, a 6'4", 227-pound machine. He's spent the last four seasons on the Ottawa Senators blue line, and certainly adds more grit and snarl to New York's defensive depth. Though he won't be a primary concern for the Flyers by any means, Carkner's the type of player who will go toe-to-toe with others like Tom Sestito, Jody Shelley, or any brassy middle-weight skater who decides to get too comfortable in the Isles' faces.
Matt will keep our heads on a swivel.
(C) Stefan Matteau, New Jersey Devils
It's still not clear whether Stefan will crack the Devils roster right away or not, but he's making a great impression in camp for the New Jersey Devils. The 18-year old prospect stands at 6'1", and is already a mature 215-pounds. He's skating and working out with Devils forward Dainius Zubrus who's taken Stefan under his wing.
Matteau has been pulled out of Boisbriand, Quebec, where he plays his Junior hockey for the Armada, and stuck on a scoring line during Devils practices.
He's a big body -- who will only get bigger -- and scores his goals by crashing the net and getting dirty. The kid is no stranger to the sin bin, seeing as how he was the most penalized player to be selected in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
With the exit of former-Captain Zach Parise, and glowing up-and-comer Adam Henrique sidelined with an injury for the next 2 - 3 weeks, the Devils are looking for offense from anyone. Stefan is nothing short of receiving some serious looks, and given consideration to suit up for our Newark rivals come January 19.
(G) Tomas Vokoun, Pittsburgh Penguins
Pay no mind to Marc-Andre Fleury's performance in net last post-season. That was an anomaly. We're all aware that Flower is a dominating, game-changing netminder. And now he's being backed up by another goalie of the same caliber, only just a tad older.
Tomas Vokoun is a 36-year old veteran between the pipes. He spent most of his career rotting away in hockey wasteland, also known as Florida. Last season he spent his first year away from the Old Folks Home Capital of the World and joined Ovechkin & Co. in Washington, D.C.
Just this past summer, the Pittsburgh Penguins decided to bulk up MAC's insurance policy, and traded for the Czech goaltender, strengthening arguably the best tandem to guard the twine.
Vokoun sports a career .917 SV%, 2.55 GAA in 680 regular season games played, and has not allowed his seasoned age to slow him down.
It's tough to tell if the Flyers will face Tomas in net more than once or twice, but it's definitely disconcerting to know that if Fleury crumbles (again) like a sleeve of cookies in the hands of Rosie O'Donnel, then it ain't like we're going to go up against an incompetent second-string goalie.
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