After the smoke had cleared from the Philadelphia Flyer’s pre-Wrestlemania match up with Pittsburgh on Sunday, one thing was clear. The Flyers had sent a message to the top four teams in the Eastern Conference, “They are ready for the playoffs”.
After surrendering an early two-goal lead, the Flyers took control of the game and looked like a team that is ready to make a run in the playoffs. They were opportunistic, scoring 6 goals on 26 shots, and got a steady defensive effort, allowing just 3 goals on 47 shots to an explosive offensive team.
They also showed that they won’t tolerate senseless hits against their star players. Joe Vitale must have felt like the walls were closing in on him after he put a stiff but clean hit on Danny Briere with just over a minute left in what was then a 6-3 game. Even newly-named NHL player of the week, Wayne Simmonds, who’s nose had nearly been taken off by a deflected shot the day before, showed no hesitation in standing up for Briere. He quickly engaged Pittsburgh goon, Deryk Engelland.
Pittsburgh Coach, Dan Bylsma, must have had a similar feeling as Peter Laviolette snapped a stick on the glass separating the benches, then stood on the boards to confront Bylsma.
They’ll look to make that message even clearer tonight, as they take on the conference-leading New York Rangers. The Flyers will look to avoid an 0-6 mark against the Rangers on the year. The main problem for the Flyers has been finding ways to get the puck past Henrik Lundqvist, who is having a career year. Lundqvist has allowed just 8 goals to the Flyers on 151 shots this year, but the Flyers look to be finding their playoff legs.
It will be interesting to see how the Flyers bounce back from such an emotional game against their in-state rival. However, Flyers-Rangers games are usually just as action-packed. These are two teams that thrive on physical play.
It promises to be another exciting game between division rivals, with import playoff seedings on the line.