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.
Since game one, the Penguins have had the strategy of trying to destroy Flyers’ defenseman Kimmo Timonen, every time the 5-foot-10, 175 lbs. Finn touches the puck. But however smart the strategy is, Timonen has not been phased.
The hardest hit came early in game three at the hands of Chris Kunitz. As Timonen skated toward the corner to dish the puck, Kunitz came flying out of nowhere and collided with the defenseman’s head, sending him quickly and violently on his back, hitting his head on the ice. The crowd let out a gasp and Scott Hartnell charged Kunitz for some payback.
But the type of hit that could have easily knocked a player out for the rest of the series, was simply brushed off by Timonen, who continued to play as if nothing happened.
“If he is going into the game trying to hurt me, that’s fine,” Timonen said. “I don’t really care. Hopefully, we can do the same things to them tomorrow. It really doesn’t bother me unless I don’t stay healthy. I’m fine now. I’m looking forward to tomorrow, actually.”
The Flyers have announced that Mike Richards, Kimmo Timonen, Danny Briere, Scott Hartnell and Darroll Powe have been voted annual team awards. Richards earned himself the Bobby Clarke award for the team’s most valuable player for the second consecutive season. Timonen won the Barry Ashbee trophy for the second year in a row as the team’s best defenseman and Briere won the Yanick Dupre trophy for classiest Flyer.
Jeff Carter won the Toyota Cup, which is the Flyers’ player with the most star of the game points.
Darroll Powe won the most improved player award and Scott Hartnell won the Gene Hart trophy for player that has showed the most heart.
The Flyers also announced to the media that enforcer Riley Cote, who injured his right ring finger in a fight with a Boston Bruin on March 29, will miss the rest of the season after he underwent surgery to fix the problem. Cote leads the Flyers with 174 penalty minutes.
One day after signing prospect Mario Kempe to a Phantoms try out, the Flyers added another international prospect to the minor league club. The Flyers signed 5-foot-11, 167 lbs. Finnish defenseman Joonas Lehtivuori to a minor league try out.
The 20-year old former fourth-round pick in the 2006 draft is a small puck-moving defenseman that has good puck handling skills and can score. He has a small frame that may limit him in the North American game, but there is no doubt he has a high ceiling of talent. He will need to add weight and learn how to out smart forwards rather than out muscle them.
The Flyers most likely hope fellow Finn, Kimmo Timonen, can help Joonas learn the ropes a bit quicker. A similar style blue liner, Timonen doesn’t have to cross the language barrier to help Joonas get comfortable.
Ryan Bright (Philabright@gmail.com) is a sports writer, born and raised in the Philadelphia area. A graduate of West Chester University, he has been with the Daily Local News in Chester County since early 2007, working as the paper's college and high school ice hockey beat writer. In 2010, began as a contributer for CSNPhilly.com, covering the Flyers and the Philadelphia Union.