While the New Jersey Devils are still reeling from the unexpected retirement of Ilya Kovalchuk, Philadelphia Flyers fans and players alike should breath a sigh of relief. The orange and black will no longer have to face the Russian superstar when they meet with their division rivals, an event that occurs six times a season, not including playoffs matchups.
In his 19 games against the Flyers, Kovalchuk registered six goals and 11 assists, totaling 17 points, just under one point-per-game. During the playoffs, however, Kovalchuk established a level of dominance against the Flyers. In nine playoff games, he tallied four goals and nine assists, totaling 14 points.
Scoring aside, Kovalchuk excels by other means as well. He never hesitates to put a shot on net to establish a scoring attempt, and has recently increased his skills in battles along the boards. He played an instrumental role in the Devils 2012 Stanley Cup run, tallying 19 points in 23 games, scoring just one point in the six game final series against the Los Angeles Kings.
Above all else, Kovalchuk was one of the most explosive players in the NHL. His speed and accurate shot made him one of the most feared scorers in the league, as seen by the 417 goals he scored in his 12-year career. Much like Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin, witnessing Kovalchuk move in on an opposing Flyers goalie was a stressful, heart-racing experience.
The Flyers are not out of the woods yet. It remains to be seen what moves Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello will make to replace the offensive potential Kovalchuk brought to the team. With Kovalchuk’s $6.66 million-per-year salary eliminated, the Devils have the cap space to acquire offensive talent. Until they do so, Flyers fans can continue celebrating the retirement of Kovalchuk.
In Philadelphia, he will not be missed.