So how far do you expect the Flyers to go this season?
The vote is in: All . . . the . . . way.
In the survey conducted by the Daily News in tandem with Temple's Sport Industry Research Center, a whopping 73 percent of respondents who identified the Flyers as their favorite team said they expected the team to win the Stanley Cup finals this season.
Fifteen percent said they expected the Flyers to win their conference, 3 percent said they expected them to win their division, 9 percent said they expected them to advance to the playoffs. No one said they expected the team to miss the playoffs.
In fact, the Flyers have seen a big jump in fan optimism since last March. When all respondents were asked which local team they expected to win the next championship, the Flyers climbed from 5 percent last March to 32 percent in the current survey. They remain behind the Phillies at 48, but ahead of the Eagles at 14 percent. (Incidentally, the survey was conducted before the Phillies signed free-agent pitcher Cliff Lee.)
Additionally, 76 percent of the Flyers fans said Sergei Bobrovsky was the team's best option at goaltender, followed by Brian Boucher at 12 percent, Michael Leighton at 8 percent, and someone else at 4 percent.
Adam Dvorin, of Philadelphia, credited head coach Peter Laviolette, who was hired last December to replace the fired John Stevens. "Having a full year under Peter Laviolette makes a huge difference," Dvorin said. "He is a brilliant coach who, I think, actually is a better coach now than he was in Carolina. [General manager] Paul Holmgren has provided Coach Lav with the deepest defense in the NHL. And Bobrovsky has been a true find, possessing the kind of 'it' factor that championship teams seem to have at goalie. I do like their chances."
Bill Hand, of Sewell, N.J., said the Flyers are "young and talented, and they now have experience going deep in the playoffs." Said Barkley Sample, of Philadelphia: "Last year, they struggled with injuries and inconsistent goaltending for much of the season, not hitting their stride until the final 10 games of the regular season, then riding that momentum into the playoffs. To this point [this season], they have simply been the best team in hockey." *
- Mark Kram