Although the Flyers have been without Chris Pronger for a few games already, a situation they are no longer strangers to, tonight marks the first time they'll take the ice knowing that they will be without him for the rest of the regular season. Their best shutdown defender, the big point shot, the masterful antagonism, and the biggest hits will all be in the press box the rest of the way.
Not exactly good news for a team suddenly struggling to close out games when a guy who logs Chris Pronger minutes is out of the lineup. As always, we'll try to find some silver lining, but the rest of the Flyers will need to change a few things pretty quickly, starting tonight in Florida.
Nick Boynton will be active, with Erik Gustafsson called up but serving as a healthy scratch. Obviously the Flyers will now be relying quite a bit on Boynton to maintain, if not help to restore, the defensive depth, with Andrej Meszaros once again playing a prominent role in all facets. But as much as we need to see the D-men steup up, the forwards really have to get back on their game defensively too, which includes not allowing so many turnovers that end up going the other way and giving the defense little chance. At times they've seemed careless, maybe even overconfident with the puck, and that's dangerous no matter who they play, but especially so when they're facing teams that are desperate for wins.
At 11 points out of the playoff race, I'm not sure the Panthers are scratching that bubble. I don't think the Flyers are currently above losing to them either, not after what we've seen from them lately (and the Panthers have beaten both Tampa Bay and Chicago in the past week). Our boys have been rather creative in how they let games get away from them, making it harder to pinpoint exactly what is currently going wrong. It's easy to say they didn't play a full 60 minutes against the Thrashers, but why? And how did that manifest? I don't even feel like getting into that game. Not at all.
A decisive win tonight will, which should be very possible, will go a long way toward getting our minds off back to back weekends of shitful hockey. On the other hand, with a loss tonight, it's possible they could slide out of first place for the first time since early January. Motivation enough?
Boucher is net for the the Flyers, Vokoun for the Panthers. Show 'em why, Boosh.