Flight Plan Week of 11.13.2011

The Philadelphia Flyers lost their only game of last week by a score of 2-1 in overtime against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Never mind that the bizarre tactics employed by Peter Laviolette’s team to try to break the Bolts out of their 1-3-1 neutral zone trap ended up making the game look like a Mexican standoff. Instead, think about how the Flyers are now in third place in the Atlantic Division, below both the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Rangers, all because they stopped pressing in a game where they clung to a 1-0 lead through a good portion of the game and only managed to muster 15 shots through 62:30 of play. Yep, the top scoring team in the league only tested an opposing goaltender 15 times. 

It’s just one game and it’s only two teams, but the Flyers really need to find a way to start picking up two points against the Lightning and the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets likely won’t make the playoffs, but the Flyers really can’t afford to give points away to the Lightning, no matter which game it is during the season, or they’ll find themselves either lower in the standings, or out of the running completely.

On the upside, Ilya Bryzgalov has now allowed just seven goals in his last four starts and has lowered his goals-against to a more respectable 2.85, though his save percentage is still at .895. He and the Flyers will have four chances to improve those numbers as they face the Florida Panthers, the Carolina Hurricanes, Bryzgalov’s former team the Phoenix Coyotes, and the Winnipeg Jets.

Florida Panthers
11.13.2011 at 5:00 PM in Sunrise

 The Florida Panthers are currently tied for second place in the Southest Division — which is not that big a surprise given the massive makeover they received in the offseason at the hands of former Chicago Blackhawks architect Dale Tallon.

Tallon was able to get quite a few of the Blackhawks that contributed to that 2010 Cup run including former Flyer Kris Versteeg who, to the dismay of some Flyer fans, is actually leading the Panthers in scoring with 17 points (eight goals, nine assists). The Panthers have just two forwards other than Versteeg who are in double digits in points in Tomas Fleischmann and Stephen Weiss, but they have gotten goals from 16 of the 21 players who have suited up for them this year. Scottie Upshall, another former Flyer and fan favorite, is also on the Panthers, and although he has contributed just three points (one goal, two assists) to date, his one goal was a game winner.

The Panthers recently acquired Marco Sturm and Mikael Samuelsson from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for David Booth, which should give them a little more depth but definitely help them out defensively, though Samuelsson is out with a lower-body injury.

The Panthers defense is far from intimidating, but with a couple of wily veterans in Brian Campbell and Ed Jovanovski, they certainly have the ability to move the puck. For a defenseman, Jovanovski scores a lot of goals and has done so steadily over his 16-year NHL career as he has 135 goals in 1,033 games, averaging about eight a year, and 57 of that big 135 total have come on the power play. He already has two goals on the year. Meanwhile Brian Campbell is doing exactly what he’s there for: putting points up. Campbell has just one goal, but he’s amassed 15 points, already within seven of his total from last year.

 The Panthers netminders are Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen, who has yet to play in a game. Theodore has started 11 games and has a sturdy 6-2-2 record, a livable (especially in the Southeast) 2.39 GAA, and a .922 SV%, as well as a shutout. Theodore hasn’t played a whole lot the past three seasons because when he’s shaky he’s bad, but when he’s confident, he can be very hard to beat.

 Carolina Hurricanes
11.14.2011 at 7:00 PM in Raleigh

The Flyers won the first meeting between these two teams by a score of 5-1 several weeks ago. The Hurricanes have won just two games since then and have allowed 23 goals over a span of six games. The Canes sit in 26th overall in the NHL in goals against as they have allowed 57 to date. However, if they can lower the amount of goals they let in per game, they are going at a pretty decent clip as far as potting pucks as they’ve done so 45 times in 17 games. With that in mind, take a look at the offensive players the ‘Canes have.

 Jeff Skinner is a bona-fide offensive weapon as he is a point a game player with 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists). Jussi Jokinen and Chad LaRose are the next closest ‘Canes with 11 points apiece (three goals, eight assists for Jokinen and five goals, six assists for LaRose).

Beyond them, it’s not real pretty, but one guy who still really needs to pick it up is Canes Captain Eric Staal. Staal has just seven points (four goals, three assists) total this year, but the most glaring stat you will see in his line is his incredible minus-17. That is just simply unacceptable. To be on the ice for that many goals against your team so early in a season is just unreal. It should be noted that Jokinen is actually a plus-4

 Former Flyer Joni Pitkanen is leading the Canes defense with eight points (three goals, five assists), but is a staggering minus-10 through 16. Jay Harrison is just a step behind him with seven points (one goal, six assists) and is just a minus-one through 17 games. Tim Gleason and Jamie McBain both have five assists and no goals to their credit, but while Gleason is a plus-two, McBain is a minus-four. The Canes’ defense needs to start limiting opponents’ shots if they want to lower that goals against as they give up 33.2 shots per game.

 Poor Cam Ward and Brian Boucher get just about no help. Ward has amassed a 6-6-2 record in his 14 starts. He has been able to manage a 3.03 GAA, and a .910 SV%, as well as one shutout. Boucher has had a very rough go of it since signing in Carolina in the offseason. He has an 0-2-1 record in three starts. His GAA is a swollen 4.15, and his SV% is .860. This should be an easy two points for the Flyers.

 Phoenix Coyotes
11.17.2011 at 7:00 PM in Philadelphia

The Phoenix Coyotes are a defensive-minded team and have been fairly successful under head coach Dave Tippett, making the playoffs in each of the last two years. Tippett’s teams have missed the playoffs just once in his entire coaching career, spanning eight seasons, and in 2010 he was awarded the Jack Adams Trophy for the best coach in the NHL. Bottom line: Dave Tippett is a legitimate NHL coach and to date, the Coyotes are sitting in second place in the Pacific Division, though they are in a three-way tie with the Sharks and Kings.

 The Desert Dogs don’t have a ton of firepower up front. Right now they are led by Ray Whitney with 15 points (six goals, nine assists), Radim Vrbata with 13 points (six goals, seven assists), Martin Hanzal with 11 points (three goals, eight assists), and Coyotes Captain Shane Doan with 10 points (four goals, six assists).

Beyond them, there hasn’t been anyone who has really stood out, though once Flyer Daymond Langkow has eight points (three goals, five assists) in 13 games after coming back from a serious neck injury which kept him out nearly all of last year.

Keith Yandle is the only Coyote defenseman who is worth paying attention to at the moment in terms of production, as he has nine points (one goal, eight assists). It’s pretty important to note that the Coyotes allow 31.7 shots per game, which puts them in 26th overall. 

The Coyotes lost Bryzgalov to the Philadelphia Flyers in the offseason, but went out and picked up Mike Smith who pretty much picked up right where Bryzgalov left off. Smith has started 12 games, put up a 7-2-3 record, with a 2.22 GAA, and a .931 SV% to go with his one shutout. Those are absolutely elite numbers.  Backup Jason LaBarbera has a 1-2-0 record in three starts, a rough 3.02 GAA, with a save percentage right at 90 percent.

 Winnipeg Jets:
11.19.2011 at 3:00 PM in Winnipeg

The last time the Flyers and Winnipeg Jets paired up, there were 17 goals scored between the two teams and the Flyers found themselves on the wrong side of a ridiculous 9-8 score. 

In that game, the Flyers pretty much refused to play defense at all – and in fairness neither did the Jets – though it was the second full game in which the Flyers played without their captain and blue-line anchor Chris Pronger. Either way, this Flyers team should be fully aware now that the Jets can score and if you don’t tightly check them, or if you don’t check them at all as was the case that night, then they can pile up a mountain of goals.

 Nik Antropov is leading all Jets players in points with 12 (three goals, nine assists), while Evander Kane (nine points), Kyle Wellwood(10 points), and Jim Slater (six points) each have five goals. Youngster Alexander Burmistrov has 10 points and four goals, meanwhile Jets Captain Andrew Ladd also has four goals, but just six points and is a minus-two.

This group of forwards isn’t the most flashy, but they clearly get the job done and the Flyers would do well to maybe try playing a little bit of defense against them considering the Jets really don’t do much of that at all, though admittedly that’s kind of tough to do when most of your defenseman are hurt.

The Jets also have put Ron Hainsey, Randy Jones, and Derek Meech on the injured reserve list. Tobias Enstrom, probably the Jets’ best overall defenseman has not played since October 31st as he is out indefinitely with a broken collarbone, but had contributed six points (one goal, five assists) until that point. That leaves “Big Buff”  Dustin Byfuglien to shore things up on the back end and he does put up a lot of points.

Byfuglien has nine points to date (two goals, seven assists), but his main concern should be to help keep the puck out of his own net because he is also a minus-seven. Mark Stuart has been able to help out a little bit as he has six points (two goals, four assists). Zach Bogosian and Johnny Oduya both need to step up their game in their own zones as they are a minus-five and a minus-four respectively.

Ondrej Pavelec could probably use some help. His record is 4-7-3 and it just gets worse from there with a 3.35 GAA, and .892 SV%, though he does have one shutout to his credit. Backup Chris Mason has a 1-2-0 record, a 2.68 GAA, but his .893 SV% is no better than Pavelec’s. The Flyers should get points out of this game, they just actually have to show up in their own zone.