Scott Hartnell, Chris Vandevelde, Adam Hall, and Claude Giroux look on as the Philadelphia Flyers would fall to the New Jersey Devils by a score of 2-1. Image c/o Amy Irvin of 38Photography.
It is crunch time in Philadelphia. There are 16 games remaining in the schedule for the Philadelphia Flyers and they are currently sitting in fourth place in the Metropolitan Division with 75 points. Fortunately, they have a game in hand on two of the three teams that they are jockeying for position with in the standings. Unfortunately, the road ahead is a difficult one with 13 games coming against teams who have either as many or more points in the standings. If the Flyers find themselves in the playoffs, they could be a team to reckon with based on both their resiliency and who they will have to beat the rest of the way. The old adage of "when the going gets tough, the tough get going" is a pretty fitting one here, and if yesterday was any indication: the Flyers will be in good shape.
Steve Mason stopped all 20 shots fired his way for the shutout as the Flyers blanked the Penguins in a game which they had well in hand from the drop of the puck. Philadelphia not only came out of the game with some serious energy, they also played incredibly smart hockey and made it nearly impossible for Pittsburgh to generate good scoring opportunities at even strength. On top of shutting down an undermanned team, the Flyers got scoring from all three lines and won the special teams battle as they were one for four on the power play and received a shorthanded tally from Matt Read who had two goals.
The Flyers will need to play like they did yesterday in order to make it in and they have four opportunities to show that they are playoff contenders this week. They begin with the back end of a home-and-home series with the Penguins, one against the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks, their second and final game against the Dallas Stars, and they end the week squaring off against the St. Louis Blues for the firs ttime this season. You can purchase tickets to all Philadelphia Flyers games at tiqiq.com.
Pittsbrugh Penguins on 03.16.2014 at 12:30 PM in Pittsburgh
There isn’t much more to say about yesterday’s game than it was a rout and a clinic. The Flyers were full throttle from the get-go and didn’t let off until the final buzzer in a 4-0 shutout. Philadelphia dominated every facet of the game and while the Penguins were without Paul Martin, Kris Letang, Chris Kunitz, James Neal, and Pascal Dupuis, the game was a testament to the Flyers’ depth and will when they push the pace.
Even without some of their bigger names, the Penguins still have a solid roster as team captain Sidney Crosby leads the charge. Crosby has a league leading 88 points (31 goals, 57 assists). Evgeni Malkin has 66 points (19 goals, 47 assists) in just 55 games. Jussi Jokinen has 46 points (17 goals, 29 assists), while defenseman Matt Niskanen has 38 points (nine goals, 29 assists) and rookie defenseman Olli Maata has 28 points (nine goals, 19 assists).
In net, the Penguins rely heavily on Marc-Andre Fleury who has started all but 13 games and has only been pulled once this season. He is 34-15-3, with a 2.29 goals against average, a .918 save percentage, and five shutouts. Jeff Zatkoff has backed him up all year long and could see action today given that it’s the second half of a back-to-back, home-and-home set. Zatkoff is 10-3-1, with a 2.70 goals against average, a .912 save percentage, and one shutout.
If the Flyers come with the same effort as they did yesterday, even if Kunitz returns, they should end up with two more points in the standings.
Chicago Blackhawks on 03.18.2014 at 7:30 PM in Philadelphia
The Chicago Blackhawks are currently in third place in the Central Division with 90 points. They are 5-5-0 in their last 10 and have lost two straight. In the first meeting between the two clubs, the Blackhawks manhandled the Flyers en route to a 7-2 victory at the United Center. The Flyers got goals from Jakub Voracek and Steve Downie, but the depth of the Blackhawks proved to be too much as Duncan Keith, Andrew Shaw, Michal Handzus, Kris Versteeg, Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook, and Patrick Sharp all lit the lamp.
And that’s precisely the problem when facing Chicago: they are an extremely deep team. Patrick Kane leads the squad with 67 points (29 goals, 38 assists). Patrick Sharp is close behind with 64 points (29 goals, 35 assists), and captain Jonathan Toews is right there as well with 63 points (26 goals, 37 assists). The Hawks have five more players with at least 30 points in Duncan Keith who has 51 (three goals, 48 assists), Marian Hossa with 50 (24 goals, 26 assists), Brandon Saad with 44 (19 goals, 25 assists), Brent Seabrook with 37 (six goals, 31 assists), and Andrew Shaw with 31 (16 goals, 15 assists). There is no easy way to check a team with so many offensive weapons, but they have also received strong goaltending as well.
Corey Crawford has started the majority of the games and is 25-12-10, with a 2.29 goals against average, a .917 save percentage, and one shutout. When Crawford missed time earlier in the year, Antti Raanta filled in on most occasions. Raanta is 12-3-3, with a 2.44 goals against average, a .904 save percentage, and one shutout.
The Flyers need to come out with guns blazing, but they also need to find a way to keep the Blackhawks’ scorers in check. If they get into a run-and-gun game with this team, they will likely lose, so if they can keep the game tight, they probably have a better chance at coming away with the win.
Dallas Stars on 03.20.2014 at 7:00 PM in Philadelphia
The Dallas Stars hold the last wild card slot in the Western Conference by virtue of fewer games played, though the Phoenix Coyotes are tied with them in terms of points at 75. The Stars are 6-2-2 in their last 10 and enter the week coming off a shootout loss to the Calgary Flames. In the first game between these two teams, the Flyers scored first on Andrej Meszaros’ first tally of the season and took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission. From there it was all Dallas as Tyler Seguin scored a natural hat-trick, Valeri Nichushkin potted his fourth of the season, and fourth-liner Cody Eakin capped it off with his seventh of the year. The Stars have a lot of talent on their first line, but are not very good beyond that.
Tyler Seguin leads the team with 68 points (27 goals, 36 assists) as he has found some great chemistry with linemate Jamie Benn who has 63 points (27 goals, 36 assists). Alex Goligoski has 31 points (five goals, 26 assists) while three Dallas players in Erik Cole (16 goals, 13 assists), Cody Eakin (13 goals, 16 assists), and rookie forward Valeri Nchushkin (13 goals, 16 assists) all have 29 points. The bottom line is the Stars have one good line and that’s it.
In net, the Stars have Kari Lehtonen who is 16-10-3, with a 2.47 goals against average, a .917 save percentage, and three shutouts. Lehtonen did suffer a concussion recently so he may be unavailable for this game in which case Dallas would look to the newly acquired Tim Thomas who is 2-0-1 for his new team, with a 2.11 goals against average, and a .924 save percentage in three appearances. Thomas is 18-20-4, with a 2.83 goals against average, and a .910 save percentage.
If the Flyers can shut that top line down, they’ll be in good shape to add another two points to their total.
St. Louis Blues on 03.22.2014 at 1:00 PM in Philadelphia
The St. Louis Blues have the most points of any team in the entire NHL. They are a very good squad with the best goal differential in the league at 72. The Blues are 7-2-1 in their last 10 and come into the week having won two in a row. The Blues are led by committee as they have no players with over 60 points, but have seven players with 40 or more points, and 10 players with 30 or more.
T.J. Oshie tops the list with 54 points (17 goals, 37 assists), while Alexander Steen has 53 points (30 goals, 23 assists), and Jaden Schwartz has 51 points (21 goals, 30 assists). David Backes has 47 points (21 goals, 26 assists), defenseman Alex Pietrangelo has 46 points (eight goals, 38 assists), Vladimir Tarasenko has 43 points (21 goals, 22 assists), and blue-liner Kevin Shattenkirk rounds out the 40-plus point Blues players with 40 (nine goals, 31 assists). Derek Roy has 36 points (nine goals, 27 assists), Jay Bouwmeester has 32 points (four goals, 28 assists), and Patrik Berglund has 31 points (14 goals, 17 assists).
St. Louis is also really strong in net and got even better at the trade deadline as they acquired Ryan Miller from the Buffalo Sabres. Miller is 6-0-1 for the Blues, with a 1.70 goals against average, and a .932 save percentage in the seven starts he has had since coming over from Buffalo. Brian Elliot, his backup, is 16-5-2, with a 2.07 goals against average, a .916 save percentage, and three shutouts on the year.
The fact is that when going up against the team with the most points in the NHL, most would expect a loss. If the Flyers can find a way to get to Miller or Elliot, they may have a shot at stealing this game, but in order to do so, they will also have to keep the Blues from running up the score.