October 6, 2011

Philly fired up for rematch with defending champs

by Jesse Connolly

Scott Hartnell shakes hands with Zdeno Chara after the Bruins swept the Flyers in the second round of the 2011 playoffs. (Getty)

BOSTON – After an embarrassing implosion in the second round of the 2010 playoffs, the Boston Bruins took to the proverbial chalkboard and erased the choker label they’d long worn, advancing to the finals and capturing the Stanley Cup for the first time in 39 years last season.

Flip that order of events around, subtract a championship and swap a historic collapse for a resounding sweep, and you’ve got yourself the Philadelphia Flyers.

Philly advanced to Game 6 of the finals after their epic comeback again Boston two seasons ago before falling short against a stacked Blackhawks squad. Last year it was the Bruins seeking revenge, but now their roles are reversed.

The Flyers will return to the scene of the crime this evening, as their last game came at TD Garden in Game 4 of the conference semifinals – a lopsided 5-1 loss that ended their season.

“It’s a long training camp,” forward Scott Hartnell said of the team’s anticipation for tonight’s tilt. “You always circle that first game. Coming into Boston with what happened last year, them winning, if we’re not fired up for tonight, I don’t know what we could get fired up for.”

It is, of course, banner night in Boston, where the Flyers will be forced to watch the B’s and their faithful fans celebrate a championship run that included Philly’s swift exodus from the postseason.

“Well I’ve never been a part of it,” Hartnell said of witnessing a banner night. “I’d love to be on a team that raises a banner to the rafters, but they had to go through us to get that Stanley Cup, so our memories are fresh for sure.”

This Flyers squad, however, is one markedly different than the team that bowed out of Cup contention back on May 6. Gone are captain Mike Richards, sniper Jeff Carter and netminder Brian Boucher, while new additions Max Talbot, Ilya Bryzgalov and future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr will skate in their first regular season contests for the Orange and Black.

“I think the attitude is great,” Hartnell said of the team’s new makeup. “There’s a lot of young guys that can skate and can move the puck. Tonight is a big test. Obviously Bryzgalov in net is a big piece that was missing the last couple of years. It’s a big test for us.”

Forward James van Riemsdyk foresees tonight’s matchup giving the Flyers a little extra juice, but no matter the opponent, he and his teammates should be jacked up for opening night and the start of a brand new campaign.

“It’s a new year, new opportunity and new guys on the team,” said van Riemsdyk. “There’s a lot of new things this year. I think we’re going to be motivated no matter what.”