Tonight, the Flyers will play their first game since their playoff hopes were officially dashed for the year. It’s a game against the New Jersey Devils, historically among the most dull of matchups. It will be played at the Prudential Center, a building with an excitement level roughly equal to an office park in the suburbs of Terre Haute, Ind.
And yet despite each of these things, I find myself as excited to watch a Flyers game as I have all year -- or, at the very least since the midst of the 11-game win streak we witnessed earlier in the year. Because look at this lineup:
This isn’t a perfect lineup, nor is it one that convinces me the Flyers will even win tonight. There are many flaws. Ivan Provorov is stuck with Andrew MacDonald still, and Nick Schultz is on the second pairing. Any lineup that features those two in the top four is going to make me cry a little inside.
BUT, look at that third pairing on defense. Shayne Gostisbehere and Samuel Morin, a reunited old pairing from the first half of the 2015-16 Phantoms season and, if all goes according to plan, a big piece of our future on defense. It’s premature to say it before Morin has even played a game, but that could be a pairing that helps win the next Stanley Cup for this team. It’s also a reminder that we’re in the latter days of guys like AMac and Schultz playing a key role on the defense. It’s pretty. It makes me smile.
The one lineup move at forward makes me even more excited. It’s just a fourth line swap, but it has the potential to mean so much.
Mike Vecchione appears in line to make his NHL debut as the fourth line center, and that will bump Pierre-Edouard Bellemare to the wing. Bellemare should not be a center in the NHL, and Vecchione’s presence on the fourth line hopefully means that the experiment is over. Even more importantly, the fact that Chris VandeVelde is a healthy scratch is just ... *kisses fingertips*
Honestly, I feel like I’m burying the lead here. I’m excited because Chris VandeVelde is finally a healthy scratch, and perhaps this means that the Flyers are finally preparing to move on from Dave Hakstol’s favorite pet after this season. Chris VandeVelde is no longer untouchable. Maybe there is water in the desert after all.