Flight Plan 12.18.2011

The Philadelphia Flyers had won seven straight and were rolling along despite missing their best forward, their best defenseman, and a few others. Saturday afternoon, that all came to a head. The Flyers were blanked, blown out by the Boston Bruins in the Flyers’ final home game of 2011, by a score of 6-0. If that wasn’t sobering enough, Philadelphia has almost certainly lost another center to a concussion as 19-year old rookie Sean Couturier took a shot in the back of the head from Kimmo Timonen.

If, or more likely when, Couturier is diagnosed with a concussion that will mean four Flyers will be out due to head injuries at the same time. Chris Pronger was declared out for the entire season and playoffs earlier this week by GM Paul Holmgren as Pronger is suffering from severe post-concussion symptoms, while Claude Giroux and Brayden Schenn both remain out indefinitely due to concussion symptoms as well. Couturier and Giroux both kill penalties and while Giroux had been out these last three games, Couturier had moved up to the top line and played between Scott Hartnell and Jaromir Jagr.

Not only do things not get easier for this team on the injury front, the Flyers also have three games this week on the road against the Colorado Avalanche, the Dallas Stars, and the New York Rangers.

One thing that seems to bode well for this team however, is their league leading road record as they are 12-3-1 away from the Wells Fargo Center. Danny Briere also seems to be hitting his stride as he has eight points in his last eight games. Wayne Simmonds has picked it up as well as he has seven points in his past seven games and had scored a goal in four straight before the Flyers were outclassed by the defending champs.

Colorado Avalanche:
12.19.2011 at 9:00 PM in Denver

The Colorado Avalanche are currently in 13th place in the Western Conference with 31 points, and are six points out of a playoff spot. The Avalanche are only 9-9-0 at home. They have scored 88 goals in 33 games and have allowed an even 100 on the year for a minus-12 goal differential. They are 5-5-0 in their last 10 and four of their last six while being outscored 22-13 during that same span.

As forwards go, the Avs are led in both assists and points by Ryan O’Reilly with 16 and 23, respectively. Colorado Captain Milan Hejduk has nine goals and13 assists for 22 points and Matt Duchene leads all Avalanche players with 11 goals and he also has 22 points. Paul Stastny, who has missed three games this year, has 10 goals and eight assists for 18 points. Second-overall pick Gabriel Landeskog has five goals and nine assists for 14 points, but more importantly is leading all Colorado forwards in plus-minus with a plus-5. Beyond them, the Avalanche are hard pressed for offense from their forwards or their defensemen.

Kyle Quincey has three goals and 14 assists for 17 points and is only a minus-1 while Ryan Wilson has a goal and 13 assists four 14 points and is a plus-5 on the year. Erik Johnson has a goal and 12 assists for 13 points but is carrying a minus-12, and while that’s a pretty tough number to look at for a defenseman, Jan Hejda has him beat four notches lower at minus-16, despite having three goals and six assists for nine points.

That paring has to get better — and right quick — if the Avalanche want to have any hope of being competitive.

Semyon Varlamov was acquired in the offseason via trade and has had the lions’ share of the starts. He owns a 10-13-1 record, one shutout, a .896 save percentage, and a 3.14 goals against average. Jean-Sebastian Giguere, his back up, has better numbers as he has a 5-4-0 record, one shutout, a .927 save percentage, and a 1.86 GAA.

Dallas Stars:
12.21.2011 at 7:30 PM in Dallas

The Dallas Stars are in eighth place in the Western Conference with 37 points. At home, the Stars are 9-4-1. They have scored 80 goals this season and have allowed six more at 86. The Stars are 5-4-1 in their last 10 and had won three in a row on the road before losing the back end of a back-to-back to the New Jersey Devils by a score of 6-3.

The Stars haven’t scored a whole lot of goals as their top center, Brad Richards, left via free agency in the off season to join the New York Rangers, but that doesn’t mean the Stars don’t have some offensively gifted players.

Jamie Benn is having a breakout year thus fart, totaling eight goals and 19 assists for a team-leading 27 points. Loui Eriksson leads the goal parade with 11 scores and has added 14 assists for 25 points. Shifty, and sometimes “shhhh”-ing, center Mike Ribeiro has just three goals but is tied with Benn for the team lead in assists with 19 helpers on the year. Michael Ryder, the former Boston Bruin and Montreal Canadien, has 10 goals and nine assists for 19 points. Eric Nystrom is having a breakout year as well as he has 10 goals on the year, just one away from reaching his career high.

A re-invigorated Sheldon Souray has been the team’s top scoring defenseman pretty much all year long as he has four goals and 10 assists for 14 points, as well as holding the top plus/minus rating for Dallas defensemen with a plus-6. Wily vet Stephane Robidas has two goals and eight assists for 10 points, but is a minus-6 and Trevor Daley has three goals and six assists for nine points.

In net, the Stars’ starter had been Kari Lehtonen as he has started 19 games. He has a 13-4-1 record, a .926 save percentage, and a 2.34 goals against average despite having no shutouts. Lehtonen has not played since November 26, a game in which he was on the ice for just five minutes and 31 seconds for, due to a groin pull.

Andrew Raycroft has pretty much continued to be a backup as he last started a game on December 8, from which he was pulled in favor of 24-year old call-up Richard Bachman. Raycroft has posted a 9-2-7 record, along with a .897 save percentage, a 3.53 goals against average, and no shutouts. Bachman has rambled off four straight starts and has played up until his last game against the New Jersey Devils. Bachman has done well, going 3-1-0 with a .931 save percentage, a 2.08 goals against average, and a shutout to his credit.

New York Rangers:
12.23.2011 at 7:00 PM in New York

The New York Rangers are sitting just behind the Flyers in the Atlantic Division with 40 points and have one game in hand. They have a plus-20 goal differential with 87 goals scored and just 67 allowed to this point. The Rangers are 6-3-1 in their last 10 and are 8-3-2 at Madison Square Garden. In the last meeting between New York and Philadelphia, the Rangers scored two goals and for the first time in the 2011-2012 season, the Flyers were shut out.

Currently, the Rangers are led in goals and points by Marian Gaborik who has 17 goals and 27 points. Offseason free-agent find Brad Richards has 12 goals and 14 assists for 26 points. Captain Ryan Callahan has 12 goals and 11 assists for 23 points and Derek Stepan has 12 goals, but is tied with Richards for the team lead in assists with 14, bringing his point total to 21.

The Rangers have a great young defense corps and they are contributing. Michael Del Zotto, just 21 years of age, leads all New York defenseman in assists and points with 13 and 16 respectively. Ryan McDonagh, at 22 years of age, has a team leading four goals and has added 10 assists for 14 points. Dan Girardi, an old head on this team at 27, has three goals and nine assists for 12 points. The Rangers are missing the services of two 24-year old defensemen in Marc Staal, arguably their best backliner, and Michael Sauer — who are both out with concussion symptoms. Staal has not played since the playoffs last season and Sauer has been out since December 5.

Minding the nets for the Rangers are stalwart starter Henrik Lundqvist and backup Martin Biron, a former Flyer. Lundqvist has been great all year as he has a 12-7-4 record, a .932 save percentage, a 2.07 goals against average, and two shutouts, one of them coming against the Flyers. Biron has been as steady as they come in the backup role as he has a 6-1-0 record, a .934 save percentage, 1.82 goals against average, and has also notched himself a shutout and an assist on the year.