How Divisional Opponents Playing In Sochi Could Benefit The Philadelphia Flyers

By Steven Smith
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Olympic break seemingly crept up on the NHL and its fans last week, causing a whirlwind of mixed emotions. With some teams ailing going into the break, many people were thankful for the stoppage of play, hoping that their teams could utilize the break to come back stronger when NHL play starts again. On the flip side, many fans were left with simultaneous feelings of excitement and nervousness; some fans are fearing that their streaking teams will be harmed from the stoppage of play. The Philadelphia Flyers are a perfect example.

Philadelphia, who had won five of their last six games going into the break, was not only beating teams, they were beating some of the best in the league. Flyers general manager Ed Snider is just one of the many individuals who is not in favor of the stoppage of play, as multiple reports unveiled his disgust with the decision.

This leads to a very interesting topic. A bit tired? Yes. However, it still makes for good conversation. So, do teams, in this case the Flyers, benefit from the Olympic break? It’s obvious how the team activity is affected, but how do the Flyers benefit from some divisional foes playing over in Sochi?

Of the 147 players playing at Sochi from the NHL, 33 of them come over from Philadelphia’s division.  That’s almost a quarter of the total players. Of the 33 players, seven of them are made up by New York Rangers players and seven are made up by Pittsburgh Penguins players, the only two teams ahead of Philadelphia in the divisional standings. Keep this in mind when reading how the Flyers will benefit.

The Scheduling is the first factor. It’s not the schedule itself that will benefit the Flyers, however; it’s the fatigue that comes with the schedule that will wear divisional foes down. The games are played at a more frequent pace in the Olympics, which means the players will be more tired when they return for NHL competition.

The second factor is the injury risk.  While this applies to the Flyers as well, it could very well still benefit them in the end.

Finally, there’s no telling how the different lines and strategies of play could affect the players. Some players could come back to the NHL with Olympic habits, which in the end, could cost their teams the first few games back.

The only downside to all of this is that most of the divisional foes playing at Sochi have been through this before, so they have a pretty good idea on how to prepare and react when coming back from long breaks. The average age of the 33 players is 28.

Luckily, Philadelphia only really has one player that could makes a serious run in the competition and that’s Kimmo Timonen, who’s playing for Team Finland.  Timonen has been through this plenty of times, however, as he is five-time Olympic veteran.

Philadelphia will definitely be one of the fresher teams in the Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference when NHL competition starts up again. Their first opponent coming back from the break will be the San Jose Sharks, a team that sent four players to Sochi, including starting Finland goalie Antti Niemi.

Steven Smith is a Philadelphia Flyers writer for  Follow him on Twitter and “like” him on Facebook.  

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