Sitting second overall in the gritty Western Conference with 47 points, the Vancouver Canucks are no slouch of an opponent. But when the Flyers hit the ice tonight at 10 PM at Rogers Arena, they might just have history on their side.
Dating back to 1989, when (now general manager) Paul Holmgren was the head coach of the Flyers and the Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel, were eight-years-old, Philadelphia hasn’t lost a game in Vancouver. The odd and probably coincidental statistic spans 10 games, the last being in Oct. 2007, which was a memorable 8-2 Flyers victory. The contest was highlighted by a then-Flyer Jesse Boulerice cross-check to the neck of Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler, which earned the enforcer a hefty suspension.
“There’s no rhyme or reason to it,” said veteran Flyers defenseman Sean O’Donnell. “I mean, they don’t play very often.
“I think it’s meaningful when you see a stat about not having beaten a team in 10 straight, when you play each other a lot, because it’s pretty much the same personnel. But when you stretch it out over 20 years or more, it’s just a bizarre coincidence.”
Tonight’s battle will feature two of the top teams in the league, both playing fantastic hockey of late. The Flyers, with 49 points, are 7-1-1 in their last nine, but are coming off a long eight-day holiday layoff. The Canucks are 9-1-2 in their last 12, and are coming off a fresh 3-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Dec. 26.
But despite what many will see as a possible Stanley Cup Finals preview, neither Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault of Flyers coach Peter Laviolette see the contest as anything more as an out-of-conference challenge.
“What’s happened in the past is in the past. Different teams,” said Vigneault. “I think what you’re going to see (Tuesday night) is two good teams each trying to put their best game on the ice and not worrying so much about what the other team is doing.”
“I don’t know if our guys see it as a measuring stick,” he said. “Measuring sticks are usually for teams that aren’t having the year that they want, and they go and play a top-seeded team. The way we talk about it is we’re playing what might be the top team in the West.”