December 27 Philadelphia Daily News columnist Frank Seravalli:
“STANDING IN the depths of the Wells Fargo Center last Tuesday night – after the jokes and the smiles of a skills competition for their loyal followers, but before the presents, the food and the joys of the holidays – there was a palpable businesslike feel in the Flyers‘ locker room.
Too far gone was the Flyers‘ sorry, 5-0 drubbing by the Florida Panthers the night before.
Their longest road trip of the season was still more than 5 days away from takeoff – and they were exactly a week away from facing off against one of the NHL’s best in the Vancouver Canucks – but it was already in their minds.
“It will tell us a lot about the character of our team,” James van Riemsdyk said. “It’s a long flight to get out there and it’s a lot of games to be played in a short period of time. It’s going to be a challenge for us, there’s some good teams out there.”
Through nearly the first half of the season, the Flyers have run the gauntlet of the Eastern Conference and came out with little more than a few scratches and a shiner. This month alone they’ve rattled off wins over Boston, Pittsburgh, Montreal and the Rangers, in succession.
The Flyers are a sparkling 20-6-2 against the East and have a winning record against every division: 9-1-1 against the Atlantic, 7-2-0 vs. the Northeast and 4-3-1 against the Southeast.
Their record against the much tighter Western Conference? Just 2-2-3. And they haven’t exactly played against the West’s honor role: Minnesota, Calgary, Columbus, St. Louis, Colorado, San Jose and Anaheim. Only two of those teams entered last night’s action in the West’s jumbled playoff picture.
“We’ve done pretty well against teams in the East,” said Sean O’Donnell, who has spent most of his 16-year career in the West. “I feel like we’ve had some tough games, but I haven’t felt like in any game we’ve been overwhelmed. We go into every game feeling like we don’t need any breaks. We can’t really say the same about the West, yet. The West will be the real test.”
The Flyers landed in Vancouver yesterday afternoon and practiced to prep for the test. This week they will face the Canucks, Los Angeles, Anaheim and Detroit. Their combined record is 79-45-14. Three of those teams are firmly in the playoff picture and the Ducks began yesterday tied for the eighth and final spot.
The Flyers are 10-0-4 in Vancouver since 1989 but have not won in Detroit since Nov. 4, 1988, going 0-13-2 in Joe Louis Arena since then.”
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