Flight Plan: Home Sweet Home

Jake Voracek celebrates a goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Image Courtesy of lehighvalleylive.com

The Philadelphia Flyers went 3-1-0 this week, capping off a six-game road trip with a win over the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 6-5. They lost the back-to-back game with the Florida Panthers, but beat the Winnipeg Jets, 5-3. More importantly, the Flyers are now in eighth place in the Eastern Conference with 20 points and play their next three games at home, where their record is 5-2-1. This week the Orange and Black will host James van Riemsdyk and the Toronto Maple Leafs, Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals, and Daniel Alfredsson and the Ottawa Senators. Get your tickets for those games here!

Nearly every one of the Flyers’ top-six forwards are on fire. Really. Take your pick. Jakub Voracek has taken over the team lead in points with 11 points in his last four games and 22 on the year. Claude Giroux is slowly creeping his way back up to the top of the team leaderboard and has eight points in his last four games and 18 now in 2013. Brayden Schenn has continued his strong play of late, picking up a pair of goals yesterday and added six points this week to his season total of 17. Wayne Simmonds picked up two Gordie Howe Hat Tricks, and with points in each of his past four games, he now has 15 points in 17 games. Danny Briere has finally found his scoring touch as well, notching at least one point in each of his last five games, six of them coming this week, to raise his point total to 11. Scott Hartnell returned to action yesterday after missing the last 16 games with a broken foot, registering five shots on goal, four penalty minutes, and ending up a -1 on the day in 14:54 of ice-time. Andrej Meszaros is still at least a week away from returning and Matt Read will be out for the next six or so weeks with torn muscles in his rib cage.

Toronto Maple Leafs on 02.25.2013 in Philadelphia at 7:00 PM

The Toronto Maple Leafs torched the Flyers the last time the two teams met by a score of 5-2. The Flyers will no doubt look to even the season series, which will be a tough task as the Leafs have garnered 14 of their 22 points on the road. Toronto has a three way tie for first on the team in scoring as Phil Kessel, former-Flyer James van Riemsdyk, and Nazem Kadri all have 15 points. Defenseman Cody Franson and pivot Tyler Bozak have 11 points apiece, while Nikolai Kulemin and Matt Frattin both have 10 points on the year. James Reimer hasn’t played since suffering an injury in that last game against the Flyers, but 26 year-old rookie Ben Scrivens has played well in his absence, posting a 5-5-0 record, a 2.19 goals against average, and a .929 save percentage. The Leafs, as the Flyers saw in the first meeting, are a balanced, quick-strike team. They scored three of their five goals the last game in a little over four minutes in the second period. If the Flyers can play to what their identity has been for the better part of the last 10 games or so, a high-tempo, hard-nosed team, they should come away with the win.

Washington Capitals on 02.27.2013 in Philadelphia at 7:00 PM

The Washington Capitals won the last meeting by the slimmest of margins, 3-2. The Capitals are currently sitting in 14th place in the Eastern Conference, and are 5-5-0 in their last 10 games. They are led by Mike Ribeiro, who is scoring at better than a point a game clip this year with 21 points in 17 games. Alex Ovechkin has 14 points in 17 games, but has eight goals, and two of them are game winners, one of those clinching tallies came as part of a hat trick and a four point effort over the New Jersey Devils yesterday. Nicklas Backstrom has just one goal on the year, but has 12 helpers in 17 games. Troy Brouwer has 12 points but also has eight goals on the year, while Joel Ward has 11 points. Beyond that group of five, the Capitals have had little help which makes them fairly easy to play against and why they are so low in the standings. Another big reason they’ve been unsuccessful has been the play of their netminders. Braden Holtby has a 5-6-0 record, a 3.37 goals against average, and a .896 save percentage, though he has recorded one shutout in 2013. Michal Neuvirth is 1-4-1, with a 3.05 goals against average, and a .889 save percentage. As long as the Flyers don’t take this Capitals team lightly, they should gain two more points in the standings.

Ottawa Senators on 03.01.2013 in Philadelphia at 12:00 PM

This will be the first meeting of the season for the Ottawa Senators and Flyers. Despite having hard injury luck this year, the Senators have won their last four games and are currently in fifth place in the East with 24 points. One thing that does play in the Flyers’ favor however, is the fact that while the Sens are 11-6-2 on the year, five of their six regulation losses have come on the road where they are 3-5-0. The Sens have played most of this year without Jason Spezza, but have recently lost reigning Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson for the year, Milan Michalek for some time, and Craig Anderson went out with an ankle injury on February 21st. Ottawa has gotten contributions from many different faces this year. Kyle Turris leads the team with 12 points, while Daniel Alfredsson has 11, Colin Greening has nine, and both Sergei Gonchar and Erik Condra each have seven points. One has to wonder how long they will be able to withstand all these injuries to key cogs, but one thing that has carried them has been the play of both Anderson and Ben Bishop. Anderson was having a Vezina caliber year before going out, going 8-4-2, with a 1.49 goals against average, a .952 save percentage, and two shutouts to boot. Bishop, who figures to get the start, has been solid with a 3-2-0 record, a 2.47 goals against average, and a .921 save percentage. The Flyers can’t look at the injury report and think this team is an easy two points, as they’ve proven a resilient group in the face of adversity, with good goaltending all year. So if the Flyers can manage to stay focused, they should take two here and finish out their home stand with a win.