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Rivalry Night on NBCSN: Flyers challenge top-ranked Blackhawks

Dec 11, 2013, 8:40 AM EDT

Throughout the season, NBCSN will feature the NHL’s fiercest rivalries on Wednesday nights. Tonight the Philadelphia Flyers will head to the United Center to take on the Chicago Blackhawks at 8:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

A lot has changed since the Flyers and Blackhawks met in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final.

When Chicago won it all that year, they went forward with the goal of preserving their core as best possible despite their salary cap problems and were rewarded with another championship last season. Meanwhile, Philadelphia has been trying to reinvent itself and that hasn’t gone nearly as well.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $2,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Wednesday’s NHL games. It’s just $10 to join and first prize is $400. Starts Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

The Flyers weren’t able to even make the playoffs following the shortened campaign and they haven’t looked great this season despite dramatically changing their goaltending and adding veterans Vincent Lecavalier and Mark Streit. It looks like Philadelphia’s bold moves are no longer having the desired effect.

They are averaging just 2.23 goals per game despite their numerous offensive threats. The silver lining is that if they find a way to click, as they have done at times this season, they would be a true contender.

It helps that goaltender Steve Mason has been a high point of the Flyers’ 2013-14 campaign while former Blackhawks netminder Ray Emery has held his own as the team’s backup.

Right now goaltending might be the one area where the Flyers actually have the edge over Chicago. The Blackhawks’ top two goaltenders, Corey Crawford and Nikolai Khabibulin, are both dealing with lower-body injuries and won’t be available tonight. That puts the pressure on 24-year-old Antti Raanta and 21-year-old Kent Simpson. Raanta is the only one with any NHL experience (seven contests) while the two have a played in just 32 combined AHL games.

Raanta was in net last night, which means there’s a good chance that Simpson will make his NHL debut against Philadelphia.

At least he’s likely to have plenty of support. In contrast to Philadelphia, the Blackhawks have the best offense in the league with an average of 3.58 goals per contest. Patrick Kane became just the second player to reach the 40-point mark with his three-point performance on Tuesday. On top of that, even Chicago’s fifth best goal scorer, Brandon Saad, has found the back of the net more often than any Philadelphia player.

It’s easy to see who the favorite is tonight, but if the Flyers want to get back to the level that they were at in 2010, they have to steal points in contests against seemingly better opponents. Perhaps that’s what will happen tonight.

  1. ibieiniid - Dec 11, 2013 at 8:45 AM

    “On top of that, even Chicago’s fifth best goal scorer, Brandon Saad, has found the back of the net more often than any Philadelphia player.”

    ouch.

    • broadstreetsbaddest88 - Dec 11, 2013 at 9:51 AM

      Hahah that one definitely hurt a bit. No denying the hawks are scary good. I feel like every game I watch of them they score at least 5-6 goals with such ease it’s ridiculous. It’s nuts how calm and collected that team acts even when down a few goals and come back to tie it so effortlessly. They score such clutch goals when they need to. Flyers better come out strong and hope they’re tired from they’re game last night cause we can’t sit back for nothing even after a solid lead. I think it’ll be a good game. Hopefully Simpson’s nerves get to him in his first outting.

      • endusersolutions2013 - Dec 11, 2013 at 12:02 PM

        A very honest post. Appreciated by a ‘Hawks fan, who’s admittedly an overall hockey fan. I had a “privileged youth”. In the normal sense, that may mean yachts, whims catered to, trust funds…

        My dad took me too see the Blackhawks in the 60′s – Bobby Hull, Glenn Hall, Stan Mikita, Eric Nesterinko, then had the nerve to take me to see them play when Tony Esposito was in goal.

        I think my dad had it right.

  2. ibieiniid - Dec 11, 2013 at 8:55 AM

    interconference game, and maybe not a RIVALRY, so to speak, but this will hardly be just another Chivalry Night on NBCSN. I expect a better game than it looks on paper. Flyers will come out hungry, I’m sure of it.

  3. brainoflindros - Dec 11, 2013 at 9:44 AM

    Flyers go the way G goes. And the last 2 games have showed me that G is not giving it his all. He is a talented player no doubt but he is not showing the characteristics or ability that earned him that big contract. Not that he needs to hit alot but finish checks, get within 10 feet of the goal to score. Hartnell is a terrible passer, G needs to get rebounds not wait for Hartnell to pass to him. Hartnell = turnover machine. Line seems like a bunch of individuals and when they do control the puck it’s Hartnell and Voracek…G no where to be found. Don’t rattle off stats, secondary assists are weak. And it shoudl be G-down not Hartnell-down.

  4. esracerx46 - Dec 11, 2013 at 9:59 AM

    The only Eastern Conference team I’d consider being Blackhawks rivals is the Red Wings. Blackhawks-Flyers IS NOT a rivalry. 1 playoff series in the last 5 years does not make a rivalry.

    • endusersolutions2013 - Dec 11, 2013 at 12:05 PM

      Are you perhaps sensing an obvious episode of “media hype”?

  5. kastout11 - Dec 11, 2013 at 10:28 AM

    No, this game is not a rivalry, but they cannot have Boston/Montreal or Philly/Pittsburgh every week. I think this will be a competitive game only because the Hawks are starting a goalie who is making his NHL debut. The Hawks have the edge in every area except goaltending. Hopefully, Mason stands on his head and Philly can get at least a point out of tonights game. If this game were played a month ago, it would have probably been a 7-1 game, but hopefully we get a hard hitting entertaining game.

    • endusersolutions2013 - Dec 11, 2013 at 12:08 PM

      Several honest posts by Flyers fans. Appreciated. I wince at “go team go” or “your team eats” posts regardless of the team involved.

      • broadstreetsbaddest88 - Dec 11, 2013 at 12:49 PM

        That’s cause true fans of the game give credit where credit is due and the hawks are due all the credit for there’re outstanding play and impressive 2 cups in four years. I’ve always been a fan of the Blackhawks too. You’d think we’d hold ill will towards the hawks since ya stole the cup from us in our house but you they won it cause they were the better team. Still hurts to this day to think about it, but true hockey fans like flyers and hawks fans are will still give credit and can a appreciate a good team like the hawks even only 4 years from beating us in the cup. Unlike them pens fans where you can’t even have a educated argument with, just non stop trolling

      • ibieiniid - Dec 11, 2013 at 3:20 PM

        stop guys, you’re ruining the “Rivalry Night” vibe….

  6. wjarvis - Dec 11, 2013 at 10:45 AM

    I’d say the only silver lining for the Flyers is that they play in the Metro division, so despite having 20 points less than the Hawks are only 3 points out of a playoff spot with two games in hand.

    • endusersolutions2013 - Dec 11, 2013 at 12:13 PM

      The irony is the NHL tried to fix the problem of the on-goingly weak SE division, only to have it expressed in 1/4 of the NHL. I’m thinking of a tangential reference linking the associated name of the “emasculated division” to a “current cultural label”.

      • ibieiniid - Dec 11, 2013 at 1:15 PM

        it’s a little early to call the Metro the new Southeast. it’s an off year for a lot of these teams, but none of them are perpetually bad.

  7. sizzle299 - Dec 11, 2013 at 12:36 PM

    “The silver lining is that if they find a way to click, as they have done at times this season, they would be a true contender.”

    Maybe a true contender to make the second round…….. I’m a Flyers fan, and this team is not contending this year. Yes, if you took their best 20 minutes and could rely on them to keep that up indefinitely, sure they could make a run. But consistency and the Flyers don’t even go in the same sentence.

    • ibieiniid - Dec 11, 2013 at 1:17 PM

      and I bet a month ago, you’d say they weren’t making the playoffs. this IS hockey, for the record. anything can happen and we’ve seen crazier turnarounds before. chances are they don’t win the cup, but NO team is ruled out from doing just that this season.

  8. micasa81 - Dec 11, 2013 at 12:56 PM

    Hey PHT, I know that NBC has to monetize this site just like any of their online content, and I accept that, but I have two suggestions, which may or may not be in your power to implement:

    1. Please don’t insult your readers’ intelligence by calling it an “editor’s note”
    2. Please don’t put it smack in the middle of the article

  9. wisdomnfl - Dec 11, 2013 at 10:40 PM

    Not much of a game. Chicago is lighting them up. Philly needs serious defensive upgrades.

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