Another good performance in the team’s home opener, however, could have much deeper meaning.
That’s because the Flyers will be faced with the task of slowing down Alexander Ovechkin(notes) and the explosive Washington Capitals on Tuesday night at the Wachovia Center, as each fast-starting club tries to stay unbeaten.
Philadelphia (2-0-0) has reached the playoffs the last two seasons based largely on the merits of its offense, led by emerging stars Jeff Carter(notes) and Mike Richards(notes), who’ve each scored a goal in each of the team’s first two games.
But the club signed Emery and traded for Pronger in the offseason in order to strengthen its back end, and the moves haven’t taken long to produce positive results.
Emery, a goaltender who led Ottawa to the Stanley Cup finals in 2007 before falling out of favor with the team and spending last season playing in Russia, has had a seamless transition back to the NHL. He blanked Carolina with 28 saves in a 2-0 win in his Flyers debut Friday, then stopped 26 shots the next night in a 5-2 win at New Jersey.
“He’s been incredible,” said rookie winger James Van Riemsdyk(notes), the Flyers’ leader with three points. “If he has had any doubters I think he’s proved them all wrong now because of how incredible he has played. He made every save he should, and some saves he should not have made.”
The presence of Pronger has certainly helped. The Flyers acquired the veteran defenseman and former Norris Trophy winner from Anaheim in a blockbuster trade in June, and he was a plus-three with two assists in Saturday’s victory.
He’ll likely share plenty of ice time with Ovechkin in just the third meeting between the two players. Ovechkin had a goal and three assists in the Capitals’ 6-4 win over Pronger’s Ducks on Nov. 19.
“Players like that, they want the puck, and you’ve got to do a good job of keeping the puck away from him and not allowing him easy opportunities and easy shots,” Pronger told the Flyers’ official Web site.
Washington’s first two opponents haven’t had much luck slowing down the two-time reigning Hart Trophy winner. Ovechkin has three goals and three assists in the victories, including the first goal in the team’s 6-4 win over Toronto on Saturday.
He also assisted on newcomer Mike Knuble’s(notes) power-play goal, Knuble’s first tally with the team after signing with Washington this summer. Knuble didn’t have to wait long for his first matchup with the Flyers after he totaled 221 points for Philadelphia over the last four seasons.
The Capitals (2-0-0) led the Maple Leafs 6-1 at the end of two periods, with Toronto coach Ron Wilson comparing the experience to being “in a piranha fish tank,” but Washington had trouble closing out the victory.
“It was a great start, but we have to learn how to win 6-1 when we’re in that position, not try to win 9-1. Hopefully it was a cheap lesson for us,” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Our guys are bummed out because of it, because they want to take pride in their defense.”
Theodore played in all four of the Capitals’ games against Philadelphia last season, going 2-1 with a 1.95 goals-against average in his three starts. He gave up four goals in relief of Brent Johnson(notes) in the Flyers’ 7-1 home win Dec. 20.
Philadelphia will be trying for its first 3-0 start in 11 years.