Flight Plan: Rivalry Week

Scott Hartnell and Claude Giroux. Image Courtesy of BridgetDS http://www.flickr.com/photos/bridgetds/sets/72157628266089729/

The Philadelphia Flyers have won five of their last seven contests after taking a 2-1 decision yesterday against the Ottawa Senators. They have been getting good play and consistent production from their top two lines, and Ilya Bryzgalov has been steady, if not terrific, on most occasions. The Flyers have two days off before staring a week full of intense rivalry games. They begin by taking a ride up I-95 to New York to face off against the New York Rangers, returning home to host the Pittsburgh Penguins, and finally ending the week in Boston to see the Boston Bruins for the first time this year. All three should be pretty good contests and you can purchase tickets here:

Jakub Voracek continues to be white-hot for the Orange and Black as he notched his ninth goal of the season yesterday and his 25th point on the season. Wayne Simmonds has been quietly rounding into form scoring his third goal in four games, and has scored the game winner in each of the last two games. Simmonds has nine goals and 17 points. Claude Giroux had a six-game point streak snapped yesterday, though he did register nine shots on goal and is just three points behind Voracek for the point lead with 22. Brayden Schenn has five points in his last four games and has assists in two straight, bringing his total to 19 on the year. The Flyers also welcomed Simon Gagne back into the fold this week, as he scored a goal in his first game in his second stint in Philadelphia. Andrej Meszaros is inching closer to returning to action, but is still likely a week or more away.

New York Rangers on 03.05.2013 at 7:30 PM in New York

The New York Rangers have been struggling of late. Despite beating the Tampa Bay Lightning yesterday 4-1, they recently lost four straight and only managed to gain points in one of those games as they lost in a shootout to the Senators. Part of the Rangers’ problems has been an inability to put the puck in the net on a consistent basis. Yesterday marked just the second time in the last six games that they were able to find twine more than twice in a game. Even though the Rangers are a sound defensive team, it’s hard to be successful without potting more than two goals a game anymore. Rick Nash returned to the lineup, scoring a goal and adding an assist as he has 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) on the year to lead the Rangers in scoring. Brad Richards is a close second with 13 points (two goals, 11 assists). Marian Gaborik, who has been in a funk of late, has just one point in his last six games, but still has 12 points on the season (seven goals, five assists).  Henrik Lundqvist, after having a rocky start to the season, has begun to find his game as he now owns an 8-7-1 record, a 2.32 goals against average, and a .917 save percentage. Backup and former-Flyer Martin Biron has a 1-1-1 record, a 2.50 goals against average, and a .911 save percentage. It’s likely that Lundqvist will get the nod since Biron started just two games ago to give the Swedish netminder a rare night off. The Flyers, in order to win this game, must keep the Rangers from getting quality chances against Bryzgalov and keep Gaborik, Nash, and Richards off the scoreboard. If they can manage to do that, they should come out with a win over their Atlantic Division rivals.

Pittsburgh Penguins on 03.07.2013 at 7:00 PM in Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Flyers took the last game between these two teams in one of the most exciting regular season tilts in history. It was a back-and-forth, up-and-down, hard fought game in which Jake Voracek scored the game winner, banking one off the back of Tomas Vokoun and into the net in the final minutes. It was everything one would expect from a playoff game, but also from a Flyers-Penguins game. With that said, these teams have the same exact records over their last 10 games, going 6-4-0, while Pittsburgh has climbed to the top spot in the Atlantic Division, now just two points out of first place in the Eastern Conference. They are led by the usual suspects as Sidney Crosby continues to have an absolute monster season with nine points in his last four games and 34 overall. Chris Kunitz is having a breakout campaign as he has five goals in his last five games and is second on the Pens with 27 points (11 goals, 16 assists). James Neal leads the Penguins in goals with 13 and has 21 points in 2013 (eight assists). Evgeni Malkin, who has missed the last four games with a concussion, also has 21 points (four goals, 17 assists). Defenseman Kris Letang is having a Norris Trophy caliber season as he has 19 points in 19 games (three goals, 16 assists). The Flyers generally play well against the Penguins. If they continue to be able to get under Pittsburgh’s skin and force them into the type of game these teams usually end up playing, it’s hard to see how the Flyers won’t gain another two points in the standings.

Boston Bruins on 03.09.2013 at 1:00 PM in Boston

The Boston Bruins are leading the Eastern Conference with 30 points, though they are tied with the Montreal Canadiens for the top spot, the Bruins have played three fewer games. The Bruins currently sport the lowest goals against total in the league at 38, while they are in the bottom five in the East for goals scored with 54. No matter, as they are 8-1-1 in their last 10 and have won six straight contests. The Bruins are led in scoring by reigning Frank J. Selke trophy winner, center Patrice Bergeron  (four goals, 11 assists) and pivot David Krejci (five goals, 10 assists), who each have 15 points on the year. Brad Marchand, leads the team in goals with 11, has 14 points on the year, and six in his last five games (three assists). Tyler Seguin has 13 points (four goals, nine assists), while Nathan Horton has been having a bounce back season after having concussion issues over the past two years with 11 points (seven goals, four assists). Milan Lucic also has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) on the year. The Bruins have received Vezina-candidate goaltending from Tuuka Rask who has posted an 11-1-2 reocrd, a 1.82 goals against average, a.933 save percentage, and one shutout on the year. His backup, Anton Khudobin, has played well enough as he has a 3-1-0 record, a 2.52 goals against average, and a .906 save percentage. The Bruins are a big, fast team who can play just about any style of game, but are certainly more comfortable in low-scoring affairs. If the Flyers can get them out of that comfort zone, they can likely take two points from the hottest team in the Eastern Conference.