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OpeningNight

There is no dinner. No after dinner drink. No hand holding. No foreplay. Tonight, we get right to the fucking. The 2010-2011 season officially pops off tonight as your Philadelphia Flyers head to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins in their new barn. The last time we saw this team play a meaningful game, Patrick Kane's mouth guard was flying through the air at the Wachovia WellsFargo Center. The Flyers came close, but they lost. There is no "coulda-woulda-shoulda" anymore, it's simply get back on the horse and try again. (New rule this year in the NHL: horses are legal!)

For those of you living in a cave over the summer, allow me to fill you in. Here is an abridged version of the Flyers offseason: Guys had surgery. Blueline got better. Goaltending remained in Paul Holmgren's limbo (Inception joke!). The heart and soul of the team for 10 years left for warmer weather. Jody Shelly? Ukraine gave us their best export. Lappy lied. Ex-Everything tried to make the club but was released. And a dark-horse Russian goalie who will "Cechmanek" if we're not careful. There. Now you're all caught up and ready to unfold that beer soaked, Lukoil sponsored extra large orange t-shirt you got last June and cheer on the Orange and Black.

As big Chris Therian said this week: "What better way to get 'er going [playing the Penguins]" and that is so true. The Flyers get to open the Consol Energy Center, the latest earring on the pig called Pittsburgh tonight, and I fully expect Pens fans to make it sound like the playoffs start in October. The Penguins are a good if not great hockey club. Their downfall last season, when the Habs suprised the Pens, was their defense. Their D is good, and their top 4 is the second best in the East (Flyers blueline is better. period mark.) Goals Against with MA Fluery, Brooks Orpik, Paul Martin, Kris Letang and Zbynek Michalek out there will be hard for any team to overcome.

Forward wise, they are just as talented, although Jordan Staal is on the shelf for the start of the season. The Pens' usual suspects will always haunt the Flyers, but this year they are banking on some younger and grittier players to chip in. The Penguins appear to be less flashy than years past, and will be focused more on getting the best line combination's out on the ice than overpowering teams with dazzling rushes. Along with a deep blueline, playing against their 3rd and 4th lines will be tough. Shutting down their scorers will be tough. Winning in their barn will be tough. Why does all this sound familiar Flyers fans? It's because the Pittsburgh Penguins built their team in the offseason to mirror the Philadelphia Flyers. To get back to lunchpail hockey, rolling out any line, offense or defense, knowing they have the advantage. The Pens are obviously dangerous and will come out tonight ready to remove the bitter taste of that early exit last year.

Inqy writer Bill Lyon had this to say last year, and it struck me so much that I saved it, not knowing when it would come in handy. "To be a Philadelphia
fan is to be conditioned to heartbreak, to fear success because to acknowledge it is to invite hexes and jinxes, to bring down the wrath of Billy Penn's hat, and do-do-that-voo-doo-that-you-do-so-well." I am confident in this team. Its leaders are some of the best in the game, as is their coach and front office. But I do fear that last year's success may have an adverse affect on this team. What if all they see is the team that made it to the Cup Finals, and not that one clinging to life by beating the Rangers on the last day of the regular season? Last year was a roller coaster, a wild ride that did end well, but I still remember barfing during most of it. The Flyers need to show that they are not satisfied with last year's finish. They need to show that hunger and competitiveness that got them so far in the playoffs, and translate that into a full season of domination. To show that last year wasn't a fluke, and they're still determined to hoist the Cup. That starts tonight in Pittsburgh. The roster is there, and it's proven it can overcome any obstacle. Now it simply needs to be consistent.

I don't know about you Flyers fans (and to the penguin trolls, welcome! Here, have a cupcake) but I am fucking pumped. A full season of Ville Leino. A mysterious netminder from Russia who may or may not be the goalie we've all been waiting for. Nik Zherdev's potential. Jody fucking Shelly throwing bombs. Claude Giroux and Rabbit fullfilling their prophecies. Mike Richards being Mike Richards. A season stuffed with expectations, desires and anticipation. And lucky for all of us, it pops off in a around 6 hours.

I firmly believe that the skill and leadership is there to guide this team to the playoffs, but it won't be easy. Being a Flyers fan, we're all groomed to the spurts along the way. The ups and downs, the hots and colds, the falling out of the playoffs, the surge, the end of year heroics, and you know what mutherfuckers? The winning of the Cup.

First stop on this season's face-melt-a-thon: Pittsburgh. Bring on those fuckin' Pens. Time to get back to business. Let's Go Flyers.