When Nick Grossmann arrived in Philadelphia from Dallas two seasons ago, he was convinced there was a difference between the Eastern and Western Conferences.
Now, he isn’t so sure.
And Grossmann surely doesn’t have an answer as to why the West has dominated the East so much this season with a 28-7-3 record in the first two weeks of the season.
“A lot of people say it’s because the East is a little more physical, a little less controlled,” said Grossmann, who played 333 games in Dallas. “But now I watch the games and they really look the same. I really don’t have an answer for that, but I think it’s been a lot closer to even and it probably will even out.”
Tonight is the Flyers’ second of 28 cracks at the West this season, after dropping a 2-1 decision to the visiting Coyotes on Friday night. Vancouver (3-3-0) enters with new coach John Tortorella and without defenseman Alex Edler, who is serving the second of a three-game suspension.
One thing is for certain: both the players and fans appreciate the chance to see different opponents. This is Vancouver’s first stop in Philadelphia in more than two years (Oct. 12, 2011, 5-4 W for Flyers).
Each team will travel to all 30 buildings this season. For teams like the Flyers, it means about 4,000 more air miles this year. For teams like Detroit, moving East from West, it will mean about 6,000 fewer miles on a plane.
All-time, the Flyers are 654-388-205 (.520) against traditional Western Conference teams – but that number is a bit skewed since the Flyers did play in the same division as some Western teams originally and there have been franchise movements along the way.
The Flyers are 69-29-13 (.621) all-time against Vancouver. Under Tortorella, the Canucks have allowed 8 goals in their last two games. They are kicking off a 7-games-in-11-nights odyssey tonight against the Flyers.
“I really like it,” Vancouver’s Chris Higgins said of realignment. “It gets a little monotonous playing the same teams over and over again. I know the NHL is trying to create rivalries, but playing in everyone’s building and playing every team twice, I think it’s great.”
“I don’t think it really affects travel that much more for us,” Kevin Bieksa said. “So I think it’s a huge positive.”
It’s easy to feel that way if you play in the West. The Rangers and Devils have both found out the hard way. Both Metropolitan division rivals have gone out West in the early season and they’re a ridiculous 1-8-0 against the West, being outscored by a 39-17 margin.
“Maybe they are more used to the traveling, something that will be a little different for us this year,” said Jake Voracek, who started his career in the West. “I wouldn’t say it’s a different style game. I heard a couple people say there’s more defense in the West, but I really don’t know. It’s the NHL. I think we’re going to break through tonight.”
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