One-by-one, as the Flyers regrouped yesterday at the Skate Zone in a light mood, players were asked to predict the outcome of Super Bowl XLV. While New England natives Peter Laviolette and Brian Boucher got in digs about the Patriots, the remaining results were no surprise.
Nearly every player picked the Green Bay Packers to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
"Is it because you hate Pittsburgh?" players were asked.
While some quipped that they were big fans of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers or that they grew up a Green Bay fan on their own frozen Canadian tundra, there were more than a few affirmative responses with a smile. And whether it's the Steelers or the Penguins, there is no love lost between the Flyers and the city of Pittsburgh.
Perhaps more than a few of the Flyers were snickering under their breaths when they read the headlines on Saturday, that Penguins star Evgeni Malkin would be out for the rest of the season with ACL and MCL tears in his left knee, suffered on Friday.
But for those believing Malkin's misfortune will simply hand the Flyers their first Atlantic Division crown since 2004, Laviolette had a word of caution on Saturday night.
"They're winning hockey games without those guys," Laviolette told reporters. "It's tough to lose a player like that. Pittsburgh is hoping that [Sidney] Crosby returns to form and clears his head. We've got to be ready."
Despite missing Crosby or Malkin for the last 14 games, the Penguins have posted a 9-4-1 record. Pittsburgh, 8-2-0 in their last 10 games including yesterday's loss to Washington, remains tied with the Flyers for the best current 10-game run in the NHL. While the Flyers hold a three-point cushion over Pittsburgh with one game in hand, they still have to face each other twice in March.
And the Flyers have been relatively lucky with injuries this season. There is still a lot of hockey to be played.
"There's lots of good teams," Laviolette said. "I'm worried more about us than other teams and how they play and their injuries. [If] we keep working hard, playing hard, nose down, pushing ahead, we'll win some hockey games."
Twelve of the Flyers' 35 wins this season have come by holding an opponent to just one goal. It's no surprise that the Flyers are 12-0-1 when limiting opponents to a single tally.
But what is surprising is that the Flyers remain the only team in the NHL to not have held an opponent scoreless this season. Brendan Morrow broke up Brian Boucher's would-be shutout in the second period of Saturday's 3-1 win over Dallas.
"We're not going to get one this season," Boucher said with a laugh. "It's not going to happen."
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, two teams have gone on to win the Stanley Cup without posting a single shutout during the season.
Saturday's win over Dallas commenced the Flyers' ninth winning streak of the season. Four of those streaks have been of four or more wins . . . Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen has yet to beat the Flyers, posting a combined 0-10-1 record with Atlanta and now the Stars . . . Darroll Powe's shorthanded goal on Saturday was the Flyers' eighth of the season, one short of the Rangers for tops in the NHL . . . Claude Giroux, the first Flyer to break the 50-point mark this season, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Danny Briere are all in the top 25 in league scoring.
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