Quite the pickle the Flyers have earned themselves tonight. Down 0 and 3 to start the season, and matched up against the NY Rangers. This is a team that is not only coming off a big shoot-out win to get the winless monkey off their back, but the very same team (sort of) who has defeated the Flyers 8 straight games. Certainly makes for an exciting story-line, no? To add to this perfect storm, Brayden Schenn has been suspended for the game and Scott Hartnell is out indefinitely with a likely foot fracture. [As a side note, my fantasy team is completely ravaged due to the recent developments, but that's a whole other story!]
There are likely many Flyers fans that are looking at this as a panic situation. While I can understand, and somewhat agree, with the sentiment, I get the feeling that there is a huge opportunity here! First and foremost, don't underestimate the Flyers ability to win this game. Sure, the Rangers added Rick Nash over the summer, but nobody seems to understand the value they gave up in some quality 2-way players in order to acquire Nash. In addition to some seeming chemistry issues, it must be hard to bounce back mentally after losing in the conference finals the year you were touted as the top pick to win it all. That team seemed unbeatable!
That being said, a win for the Flyers would be a much bigger emotional and mental victory than it would be an outcome for the Rangers. Getting the winless monkey off your back is huge, especially under the circumstances of multiple stars being out of the lineup against a team you've had tough luck with in the past. I'm going to put the outcome of this game in the hands of 2 players specifically. They would be Bryzgalov and Scott Laughton. I'm sure there's some nodding and then cockeyed looks coming in quick succession to those points. Obviously I say Bryzgalov because it's about time that he be a hero. He's played markedly better this season, but he's paid and expected to be a hero; a difference maker. The best time to step up and do that is against someone who HAS been that player, in Hendrik Lundquist. OK, so that was an easy one.
I put the game in the hands of Scott Laughton because he has the opportunity to really step up his game. It would be easy to rely on Giroux because he's your go-to guy who has consistently proven he can carry this team. Laughton has the chance to show that he belongs in the NHL as a difference maker. Flyers put a lot of faith in him by choosing him as a surprising first round pick. He's not disappointed this year, just as Couturier was impressive last year. To choose a game with such significance to have the game of your life could really put a benchmark on your own mental toughness and prowess for success in the league. He's being handed an opportunity on a silver platter. How many guys get drafted high and end up never doing anything with themselves because they don't impress in their opportunities? I say this is the game he gets his first NHL goal.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the rest of the team can or will slack off. As always, this has to be a solid team effort. I'm simply pinpointing two players I believe would benefit the team and themselves the most by being difference makers in this specific game. Regardless of who steps up, this is sure to be a wild game, and I'm very excited to see the outcome.