Image courtesy of Dustin Bradford
Colorado Avalanche (36-15-5) @ Philadelphia Flyers (28-23-6), 7:00pm, CSN-Philly/ALT
After winning the final two games in their three-game West Coast swing, the Philadelphia Flyers return home for a pair of games before the Olympic break with the first coming tonight against the Colorado Avalanche. It was a one-goal affair in early January out in Colorado, as the Flyers look to avenge their 2-1 loss to the Avs this evening at the Wells Fargo Center.
It was another third period comeback for the Orange and Black on Monday against the San Jose Sharks, as they came away with a 5-2 win at the SAP Center at San Jose led by Claude Giroux, who recorded a three-point performance. Two days before the win over the Sharks, Steve Mason and Wayne Simmonds led the way for Philly to edge out a 2-0 win against the Los Angeles Kings. Including their 5-0 win over the Detroit Red Wings the Tuesday before the three-game road trip, the Flyers have won three of their last four games. Considering Philly suffered a 6-1 loss to the Boston Bruins less than two weeks ago and many felt as though they would struggle greatly during the trip, the Flyers are staying within reach of a playoff spot in the suddenly competitive Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference.
As for the team they’re hosting tonight, the Avalanche had won four straight before being blasted by the New York Rangers on Tuesday night by the count of 5-1. Having won nine of their last 12, and motivated to rebound from their loss at Madison Square Garden two nights ago, Colorado should give the Flyers a strong test tonight.
We saw how good the Flyers can play when they are focused and energetic for a full 60 minutes. The only problem is Flyers’ fans haven’t seen the Orange and Black play every game like that this season. Although the Sharks are one of the better puck possession teams in the league, the Flyers were dictating play all night. If Philly plays like that night in and night out for the remainder of the season, there’s no reason they shouldn’t make the postseason.
One thing that should help the Flyers tonight is the return of Kimmo Timonen. After missing the last two games, Timonen will return to action, as he will likely be paired with Braydon Coburn and see time on the power play. With Timonen's return to the lineup, and with how well Erik Gustafsson has been playing, it looks as though Andrej Meszaros will be the odd man out.
However a huge hindrance in the path to the postseason for the Flyers is the Olympic break, which starts this Sunday. With a few Flyers taking part in the games over in Sochi, the Orange and Black will need to focus and return to form immediately after the break. Philadelphia’s first two games after the break are against the Sharks and the New York Rangers, which come a week and a half before arguably the Flyers’ toughest seven-game stretch all season as they will face the Pittsburgh Penguins twice, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Dallas Stars, the St. Louis Blues, the Los Angeles Kings, and the Rangers in a span of 12 days.
In past Olympic years, the Flyers haven’t fared particularly well after the mid-season break. In 2005-2006, the Orange and Black were 33-16-9 before the Olympic break and won half of their games when players returned to action. In 2009-2010, the Orange and Black entered the break on a four-game winning streak, but finished the season with a 9-10-3 stretch and needed a shootout win on the final game of the regular season to advance to the postseason.
Aside from the performance of the team before and after the Olympic break the Flyers currently sit ninth in the Eastern Conference. Tied with the Columbus Blue Jackets for the final playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division and with the Detroit Red Wings for the second wild card spot with 62 points, the Flyers are currently on the outside looking in as they have played one more game than both squads. With both the Blue Jackets and the Red Wings in action tonight, the Flyers can grab a playoff spot with a win and a loss by either club. If Philly were to lose in overtime or a shootout they can still grab one of the two playoff spots with a regulation loss by either club. Obviously, it isn’t the biggest concern for the team at the moment to be in a playoff spot by the middle of February, but it is something to build off of for the final portion of the season.
Against the Eastern Conference: 15-6-1
Against the Metropolitan Division: 8-2-1
Against the Western Conference: 10-8-2
Against the Central Division: 3-4-2
Gabriel Landeskog - Paul Stastny - P.A. Parenteau
Ryan O'Reilly - Matt Duchene - Jamie McGinn
Max Talbot - John Mitchell - Nathan MacKinnon
Cody McLeod - Marc-Andre Cliche - Patrick Bordeleau
Jan Hejda - Erik Johnson
Andre Benoit - Nate Guenin
Nick Holden - Tyson Barrie
Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jakub Voracek
Vincent Lecavalier - Brayden Schenn - Wayne Simmonds
Steve Downie - Sean Couturier - Matt Read
Michael Raffl - Adam Hall - Zac Rinaldo
Kimmo Timonen - Braydon Coburn
Mark Streit - Nicklas Grossmann
Luke Schenn - Erik Gustafsson
Goals: Ryan O'Reilly, 21
Assists: Matt Duchene, 31
Points: Matt Duchene, 48
Power-Play Points: Nathan MacKinnon, 13
Plus/Minus: Gabriel Landeskog and Tyson Barrie, plus-13
PIMs: Cody McLeod, 97
Average TOI: Erik Johnson, 22:42
GAA: J.S. Giguere, 2.47
Save Percentage: Semyon Varlamov, .924
Goals: Wayne Simmonds and Claude Giroux, 18
Assists: Claude Giroux, 37
Points: Claude Giroux, 55
Power-Play Points: Claude Giroux, 24
Plus/Minus: Erik Gustafsson, plus-11
PIMs: Zac Rinaldo, 101
Average TOI: Braydon Coburn, 22:33
GAA: Steve Mason, 2.53
Save Percentage: Steve Mason, .916
Cory Sarich - Back (out)
Alex Tanguay - Knee (questionable)
Former Avs in Philadelphia's organization
With Philadelphia: Steve Downie, Ian Laperriere (assistant coach), John Paddock (assistant coach, Quebec Nordiques), Ron Hextall (General Manager, Quebec Nordiques)
With the Adirondack Phantoms (AHL): NONE
With the Greenville Road Warriors (ECHL): NONE
Former Flyers in Colorado's organization
With Colorado: Max Talbot, Nate Guenin
With the Lake Erie Monsters (AHL): NONE
With the Denver Cutthroats (CHL): NONE