Flight Plan: Week of 01.21.2013

Image Courtesy of Lady Neat

The Philadelphia Flyers had a rough start to this condensed 48-game schedule as they dropped both ends of a back-to-back over the weekend. A loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins is never fun, but despite looking flat in the first period, the Flyers really only lost by one goal as the Penguins scored an empty netter late in the third period to seal the win. The game against the Buffalo Sabres was disconcerting to say the least as the Flyers lost 5-2 and allowed two quick goals in the third period and another empty net goal with just under a minute to go in the game. The Flyers did an okay job matching up against the Penguins, keeping Sidney Crosby off the board completely and limiting Evgeni Malkin to just one point. What they succeeded in doing for the most part against the Penguins, they failed miserably in doing against the Sabres as they let Thomas Vanek have his way with them as he had points on all five Buffalo goals. Allowing a single player who is capable of taking over a game to take over a game is a huge no-no and Philadelphia needs to address that going forward. Luckily the Flyers have four games over the next seven days to try to right the ship and get some points in the standings as they will visit the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday evening, host the New York Rangers Thursday night, and play their second back-to-back set in as many weeks which are both away games in Florida against the Florida Panthers and the Tampa Bay Lightning. You can purchase tickets to any of those four games right here: http://www.tiqiq.com/nhl/philadelphia-flyers-tickets/?publisherid=1260333.

New Jersey Devils: The Flyers will face the team who knocked them out of the Eastern Conference Semi Finals en route to the Stanley Cup Finals on Tuesday. The New Jersey Devils are not the same team they were last year though as they’ve lost their captain Zach Parise to free agency. Of course that does not mean that they should be taken lightly as they still have David Clarkson, Patrik Elias, Ilya Kovalchuk, Travis Zajac, and Dainius Zubrus up front, who all had a hand in defeating the Flyers in just five games last year. So far, Clarkson and Zajac have a goal apiece, while Kovalchuk and Elias each have an assist. Zubrus has no points yet, but he took Claude Giroux right out of the series last year, limiting him to just three points in four games. Oh, New Jersey will also have some guy named Martin Brodeur in net who seems to be up to his old tricks already as he made 18 saves and allowed just one goal in helping the Devils win their first game of the season against the New York Islanders. The Flyers will have to find a way to get some offense going as they’ve scored just three goals through their first two games and while that may be enough to beat the defensively-minded Devils, that isn’t going to cut it most nights against some of the other teams they face later on in the week.

New York Rangers: The New York Rangers are also off to a pretty rocky start as they’ve also lost both of their first two games. The Blueshirts beat the Orange and Black every single time the two teams met last season and did so by being the better team over the 60 minute sessions on all occasions. The Rangers have added a true power forward in Rick Nash, who already has a goal and an assist. Brad Richards has one goal and two assists to lead the team in points, while Derek Stepan has two assists. Captain Ryan Callahan has a goal as does Taylor Pyatt to round out the forwards for New York. The real strength of the Rangers last season was their defense and goaltending, as last year’s Vezina trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist was relied on to not only keep the Rangers in games, but win them pretty much by himself at times. Lundqvist has struggled in his first two games. He’s allowed seven goals in just 88 minutes of play. He will have to be better if the Rangers expect to try to build on the success they had last year, as will defenseman Marc Staal who is a minus-three after two games. Marian Gaborik will also need to get on the board as he is pointless so far. If the Flyers have any chance in breaking their losing streak against the Rangers, they’ll need to bear down and be willing to do the dirty work for all 60 minutes, win battles along the boards, and score some goals, which they had trouble doing last season.

Florida Panthers: As of this writing, the Florida Panthers have played just one game and have scored five goals in a 5-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. One of the favorites for this year’s Calder trophy, 19 year-old center Jonathan Huberdeau, had a goal and two assists in his National Hockey League debut. Philadelphia will want to keep a close eye on him as he is centering a line with Peter Mueller and Alex Kovalev. Kovalev had a goal and two assists as well in his first game as a Panther, and former-Flyer Scottie Upshall potted a puck on the power play for his first point of the season with Huberdeau garnering the primary assist on the tally. Defenseman Brian Campbell had two power play goals for the Cats who went three for six on the man advantage against the Canes, which could present a real problem for the Flyers who are operating at an abysmal 44.4% on the penalty kill. Florida netminder Jose Theodore stopped 24 of 25 shots fired his way for his first win of the season. This will be a tough game, and unless the Flyers can be better on special teams than they have been thus far, this will be an easy win for the Panthers.

Tampa Bay Lightning: The Tampa Bay Lightning scored six goals against the Washington Capitals for their first win on the season. Martin St. Louis had a goal and two assists, while Teddy Purcell had three assists as they are both tied with three points apiece for the team lead in scoring. Defenseman Eric Brewer had two goals, one of them on the power play as the Bolts converted three times in seven attempts against the Caps. Captain Vinny Lecavalier had a goal and an assist, as did 23 year-old rookie Cory Conacher in his NHL debut with Tampa Bay, while last year’s Maurice Richard trophy winner Steven Stamkos has two assists. Former-Flyer blue-liner Matt Carle had an assist, as did former Toronto Maple Leaf Keith Aulie to round out the scoring for the Lightning. The Flyers have had real trouble at times in the past breaking down Guy Boucher’s extremely lax neutral zone trap. His system is one that sends just one guy in on the forecheck and has everyone else standing around between the blue lines waiting for the puck. If the Flyers want to leave Tampa with some points here, they’ll really need to keep lids on Stamkos and St. Louis who are both known Flyer-killers. Putting some pressure on newly-minted starter and full-time giant Anders Lindback will be a must. Lindback stands a staggering 6’6” and weighs 210, so there won’t be a lot of net to shoot at while he’s standing between the pipes and despite giving up three goals, he stopped 27 of the 30 shots he faced in his first game with the Lightning.