Flight Plan: Week of 01.28.2013

Image courtesy of DelawareOnline.com

The Philadelphia Flyers had an even-up week as they won two games against the New York Rangers and the Florida Panthers, and lost two games against the New Jersey Devils and the Tampa Bay Lightning. As it sits, the Flyers are owners of a 2-4-0 record with four points, which is good enough for last in the Atlantic Division. To boot, any good vibes that may have been building for the club in two near complete game wins over the Rangers and Panthers, were quickly washed away as Philadelphia was easily handled by Tampa Bay in a 5-1 loss where the team looked both listless and tired.

While it may have just been fatigue, the one alarming thing going forward for this team is that the resolve they showed, even took pride in, when down in games last year, has seemed to vanish. Enough of the core group has returned that this whole giving up when down by a couple goals thing should not be a long-term issue, but that is certainly not the case right now. It’s not time to hit the panic button just yet, but the Orange and Black need to keep playing, even when the chips are down and they’ll have the opportunity to do that three times this week with games against the Rangers, Washington Capitals, and Carolina Hurricanes which you can get tickets for here: http://www.tiqiq.com/nhl/philadelphia-flyers-tickets/?publisherid=1260333.

On the bright side, the Flyers did get Danny Briere back from injury, signed veteran winger Mike Knuble, and Ilya Bryzgalov is playing well.Unfortunately forward Scott Hartnell is out with a broken toe for four to six weeks and defenseman Andrej Meszaros is out for at least four weeks with a shoulder injury. Center Scott Laughton was returned to his junior team, the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League.

 

New York Rangers on 01.29.2013 in New York at 7:00 PM

In their last meeting, the Flyers finally broke their losing streak against the Rangers, which dated all the way back to the 2010-2011 season. Philadelphia won by playing a complete, 60-minute game. It was their first of the season and while they did get a couple of fortunate bounces on both Wayne Simmonds’ and Jake Voracek’s first goals of the season, they made their own luck by working hard and getting to the dirty areas for goals. To beat the Blueshirts the most important thing will be to, once again, keep their big three at bay in Marian Gaborik, Rick Nash, and Brad Richards. This will likely be more of a task this go around as these guys are starting to gel. Nash has five points in his last five games, Richards has six points in that span, and Gaborik has a staggering eight points in just the last three contests. Henrik Lundqvist, after being lit up for 10 goals in his first three starts, is starting to settle in as he now has allowed just four goals in his last two games. If the Flyers come out and play the way they did last Thursday, they should have no problem earning their third victory of 2013.

Washington Capitals on 02.01.2013 in Washington D.C. at 7:00 PM

The Capitals finally got their first win of the year over the Buffalo Sabres by a score of 3-2. They are led in scoring by summer acquisition Mike Ribeiro with six points (one goal, five assists) , Joel Ward with five points (three goals, two assists), and Jason Chimera with four points (four assists). Two concerns for the Caps at this point has to be their goaltending as neither Braden Holtby nor Michal Neuvirth have played particularly well to date, and two of their big guns in Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom have yet to get going in terms of production. Neuvirth has played three games, given up nine goals for a 2.92 GAA and an ugly .889 save percentage. Holtby has given up 10 goals in just two games for a 5.04 GAA and an uglier .863 save percentage. Meanwhile Ovechkin and Backstrom both have just two points in five games. The only small comfort for Washington in all of this is that Ovechkin’s one goal has been a game winner, so he’s still capable of coming up big at the right times. Other than that, there’s not much that’s been impressive in the early-going for the Caps and the Flyers will need to pounce on this opportunity to gain points in the standings.

 Carolina Hurricanes on 02.02.2013 in Philadelphia at 7:00 PM

The Hurricanes are currently right in the middle of the Southeast Division. They are 2-2-0, but have allowed more goals (11) than they’ve scored (13). The Hurricanes landed two huge forwards in the offseason in the highly-skilled-oft-injured Alex Semin, and the big-bodied-defensively-minded Jordan Staal. Semin brings a pure goalscoring presence to the Hurricanes that they pretty much have never had, and Jordan Staal should help provide both depth and size to the Hurricanes’ center corps, which is probably the best in the league and are leading the way for Carolina. ‘Canes captain Eric Staal has three goals and one assist for four points, while Jordan Staal has four assists, and Jeff Skinner has four goals. They’re a talented group that can beat you in a variety of ways if you leave them unchecked, and all bring different skillsets. Eric Staal is more of a power forward, while Jordan Staal is more opportunistic, and Skinner is a skill guy. To keep those guys off the scoreboard is going to be a challenge in and of itself, without also having to worry about guys like Semin and Jussi Jokinen. As far as goaltending goes, Cam Ward hasn’t quite been himself as he has allowed 11 goals in his three starts, and was pulled once already. He owns a cringe-worthy 4.71 GAA which will no doubt improve over the course of the season. If Ward’s backup Dan Ellis plays, it wouldn’t be all that surprising given he has allowed just two goals over 100 minutes of play, has a .963 save percentage, and a 1.20 GAA. If the Flyers can fend off the Hurricanes’ high-powered offense, they should be able to get another two points in the standings here.