Thursday, October 7, 2010

Oh Yeah, Hockey Starts Tonight

I'm not sure if you heard, but Roy Halladay pitched a no-hitter last night in his postseason debut. The only way Roy Oswalt can top that tomorrow is by throwing a perfect game. Is that a challenge to the other Roy? Damn straight it is.

Everyone's still on the incredible high from last night and all of Philadelphia is wrapped up in Red Doctober, not to mention the ongoing drama of the Eagles' quarterback situation, but don't forget, the Flyers start their 2010-11 season tonight. In Pittsburgh. Against the hated Penguins.

While it may be tough to focus on hockey right now — it always seems like it starts so early — there are plenty of reasons to watch tonight. Like I said, the defending Eastern Conference champions take on the Penguins, a rivalry that has really grown strong ever since Sidney Crosby entered the league. On top of that, this begins the first full season under the leadership of Peter Laviolette, the coach who seemed to push all the right buttons in the playoffs to help the Flyers get within two victories of hoisting Lord Stanley's Cup.

And to add an interesting cherry on top, Laviolette has decided to start rookie Sergei Bobrovsky in goal over Brian Boucher with Michael Leighton out of commission in the season opener.

The 6'2, 190-lb, 22-year-old Russian netmiinder has received high praise from players and coaches alike, and he'll be thrown right into the fire against a potent offensive team that finished with 101 points last season and won the Stanley Cup the year before. I'm excited to see what the kid can do in his first start in not only the NHL, but in North America.

Described as a quick, agile goaltender, he'll certainly be tested against the league's leading goal scorer from a year ago, Sidney Crosby, and Evgeni Malkin, not to mention newcomer (and former Flyer, briefly) Mike Comrie.

As excited as I am to see what Bobrovsky can do, I'm saddened by the news that Ian Laperriere will likely miss the entire season and may be forced to retire due, it appears, to the devastating eye injury he sustained in the first round against the Devils.

I must admit, when the Flyers signed Laperriere, I was underwhelmed. Then I watched him play, and I couldn't be a bigger fan of his. Laperriere works as hard as anyone ever has on the ice. He is a true warrior, never afraid to drop the gloves or block a shot, literally willing to risk life and limb for his teammates. Paired with Blair Betts, he comprised one of the best penalty-killing duos I've ever seen. It would be a real shame if I never got to see that again.

Though, it appears that may be the case. If it is, I want to let Laperriere know how much of an honor it was to watch him lace it up for the Flyers this past season. He was only here for a year, and having spent most of his career in the Western Conference, I didn't get to see him much before that. But one season was all I needed to see. Laperriere is everything you could ever want in a teammate, a guy that is impossible not to root for. I wish him well in whatever is in store for him, whether it be more hockey or something else. Truly, I can't imagine anyone disagrees. It really was a privilege watching you help the Flyers reach the Stanley Cup Finals. Thank you, Ian. And best of luck.

"I've been here for 7 months and for them to show me how they appreciate what I do, I don't have any words to describe that. It was unreal. I'll never forget that."

And we'll never forget what you did for this team. Ever.

Puck drops at 7 tonight.

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