The sell-out crowd of 19,652 rose to their feet for an eccentric ovation Monday night for the Philadelphia Flyers home opener at The Wells Fargo Center and it was all for one man.
Defensive guru Chris Pronger.
Well not exactly. But the Philadelphia defensemen was a major reason for Flyers fans to rejoice on a night where the 2009-2010 Eastern Conference Championship banner was revealed.
Pronger, who was listed as questionable before the game, made his season debut against the visiting Colorado Avalanche after missing all of the preseason and the Flyers first two games due to knee surgery in August.
What wasn’t questionable was Pronger presence on the ice in his return.
Behind rookie goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky’s second start in the net, the Flyers held the Avalanche to just 27 shots against 38 in Philly’s 4-2 win.
Pronger played 25 shifts for 20:26 total minutes on the ice and was on the game winning line during Jeff Carter’s 17th minute third period goal put the Flyers up 3-2. Pronger also had a pair of blocked shots in front of the rookie goalie.
Yet with the Flyers abusing the Avalanche with 20 hits, Pronger seemed to steer clear of any real hard-hitting action in his first game of the season.
In fact, he didn’t hit anyone.
“I really didn’t have the opportunity,” said Pronger when asked if he tried to avoid putting someone into the boards. “It just wasn’t one of those games.”
And who could blame him. The Flyers 2009-2010 team MVP and most outstanding defenseman was a major presence and leader in the Flyers Stanley Cup run last season and could be a major player as the team looks to defend its conference title this season.
Pronger is entering his second season in Philadelphia and 17th overall. After celebrating his 36th birthday on Sunday he made it clear that when the times comes to get physical on the ice the big hit is always a “woulda, coulda, shoulda” opportunity.
Check. Check. And Check.