Flight Plan for the week of 10.16.2011

I will be filling in for Nick this week, who usually files the weekly Flight Plan.

The Flyers played two games this past week, going 1-0-1. They beat the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday, by a 5-4 count in the home opener then lost in overtime to the Kings 3-2 on Saturday night.

Peter Laviolette’s young club continues to take a lot of untimely penalties and even though they were able weather the storm against Vancouver, a costly tripping call against James van Riemsdyk lead to the Kings’ deciding OT goal. Mike Richards came back to haunt his old mates, recording the primary assist on the game-winning power-play goal, but we all knew he would figure in the outcome somehow, didn’t we?

The Flyers power play continues to get a lot of opportunities and has looked better than last year’s abysmal unit that was one of the worst in the NHL. Even though they haven’t converted as much as they would want to, the puck movement is there thanks to the preternatural skills of Claude Giroux, Danny Briere and Jaromir Jagr — and they will have their fair share of points on the power play come the end of the season.

The penalty kill has been good as well considering they have had a lot of work in the last two games. Matt Read and Sean Couturier have logged significant PK time as rookies and have done a very good job. We will see if that trend continues as the season goes on as they might hit the “rookie wall “ that so many young players deal with.

This week the Flyers will be involved in three contests: a road game against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday, a home tilt against the Washington Capitals on Thursday and another Saturday night home game against the St. Louis Blues.

Ottawa Senators:
10.18.2011 at 7:30 PM in Kanata, Ontario, Canada

Simply put, the Ottawa Senators are a bad hockey team. They are currently 1-4 and are 14th in the Eastern Conference with two points. Their penalty kill is currently at 68 percent, 28th in the league and their power play is running at 30% which ties them for 1st in the league.

The PP is really their only bright spot, so staying out of the box is key for the Flyers if they want to get back on the winning side on Tuesday night. Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson are still Ottawa’s most dangerous offensive players, along with Milan Michalek, who leads all forwards with 5 points.

On the defensive side, the Sens only have two plus players and Alfredsson is a ridiculous minus-6 in only five games. In goal, Craig Anderson is 1-2 with a sky-high 5.07 GAA and a save percentage of .853. If the Flyers can get a lead, the floodgates could really open up.This is a potential trap game though if the Flyers start slow and take the Sens too lightly.

Washington Capitals:
10.20.2011 at 7:00 PM in Philadelphia

The Flyers face yet another early season test, facing off against the best team in the Eastern conference in the Caps, who are 4-0 to start the season.

Led by Nicklas Backstrom, Dennis Wideman and Jason Chimera, the Caps have a plus-4 goal differential and a PP running at 25 percent, tied for 5th in the NHL. Washington’s penalty kill is more modest, currently functioning at a sub-standard 78.6-percent rate and ranked 23rd in the NHL. The scary thing about the Caps is Alex Ovechkin has only 1 goal and 1 assist in the first 4 games and is currently a minus-2. Once he steps up his point production, the Caps will be a very hard team to contend with as they have balance up and down their lineup and a good corps of defensemen, led by Wideman, Mike Green and John Carlson.

Their goal tending has also been solid with veteran Tomas Vokoun taking over the starting job from the departed Semyon Varlamov. His goals-against is a respectable 2.57,which puts him in 7th place in the NHL among goalies. It is easy to see why a lot of experts picked the Caps to win the Eastern Conference and ultimately the Stanley Cup.

St.Louis Blues:
10.22.2011 at 7:00 PM in Philadelphia

The Flyers finish the week hosting another Western conference foe, the St.Louis Blues. The Blues are currently 2-2 and in 11th place in the West. The Blues are a mix of younger talent like T.J. Oshie, Roman Polak and Kevin Shattenkirk and  veterans like Jamie Langenbrunner and Jason Arnott. They currently have the worst PK unit in the league, killing only 64.3 percent of power plays against.

The Flyers will want to make the most of their PP against the Blues if they are to be successful.As for the Blues on the man advantage,they aren’t much better, only converting 6.2 percent of the time. St. Louis will want to keep this one at even strength as much as possible if they are to have a chance. The Blues are scoring over 3 goals per game on average in the early going ,so the Flyers should try to keep this one low scoring and let their goaltending and defense win this game for them.

Manning the pipes for the Blues is Jaroslav Halak who is having a rough start to the season with a 1-2 record and a 2.70 GAA. His save percentage is also a horrid .857. If he Flyers can get a lead and keep the pressure on St. Louis, there is no reason they shouldn’t be able to walk out with the win.