Aside from gaining a proven winner and needed physical presence on the defensive end, newly acquired defenseman Chris Pronger gives the Flyers something they desperately lacked for the past two seasons — the ability to counter the Penguins.
With Pronger in the mix, the Flyers are instant Stanley Cup contenders. The sudden legitimacy is due to the new-found ability to shut down the opposition’s top-two scoring lines, but specifically, the most potent two-line duo in the league.
In the past two post seasons, the Flyers faced match up problems with the Penguins, trying to adequately defend the duel attack of Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, who ranked first and third in league regular-season scoring and one and two in playoff scoring. The Flyers paid for the lapse in defense by getting dismissed from the playoffs in back-to-back years by Pittsburgh. But the times of getting easily dispatched by the Penguins could be over.
The Flyers’ top defender Kimmo Timonen was overused due to effectiveness, logging 24:31 minutes a game. But with Pronger’s second in the league average of 26:56 minutes a game, including heavy power play time, Philly can take the pressure off Timonen, while also being able to run a second, maybe even more capable shut-down guy out there. Not something many teams can match.
Pronger will also relieve pressure off assumed partner Braydon Coburn, who was relied on too frequently last year to be a second shut-down guy and front of the net presence. Pronger’s ability to patrol the net will allow Coburn’s mobility and range to flourish in the corners. However, if Pronger is paired with either Matt Carle or Randy Jones, it would allow Coburn to man the third defensive pairing, making all three combination’s formidable. But with the high amount of TOI that Pronger and Timonen command, it is likely coach John Stevens will want Coburn to be used as much as possible, as he is now the team’s third-best rear guard.
“To add a guy like Chris is great,” Coburn told @Flyersonthefly. “I am excited to watch him play and learn from him and see him on an every day basis. The guy has been the MVP of the league and has done so many great things. He is a future hall-of-famer. To learn from a guy like that is going to be great.”
With the blockbuster acquisition, Philly’s blue line has gone from suspect, to the class of the Eastern Conference. And that’s exactly what General Manager Paul Holmgren had in mind when he inked the deal.