Flight Plan: Struggles Continue

Zac Rinaldo and Jake Voracek during warmups Image Courtesy of Amy Irvin: http://www.Facebook.com/38Photography

This was a good week to see how the Philadelphia Flyers stack up against some of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference. The results however, were not good. The Flyers, now losers of three straight, will look to find any kind of way to get back on track and win some games going forward of they will be golfing in May instead of playing Stanley Cup Playoff hockey. Later today the Flyers will host the Buffalo Sabres, then have a home and home against the New Jersey Devils. You can get tickets for those games here: http://www.tiqiq.com/nhl/philadelphia-flyers-tickets/?publisherid=1260333

Where normally this piece talks of who is playing well, let’s see who has been particularly bad lately, shall we? Jake Voracek has three points in his last three games, despite being shut out yesterday; however he is -3 over those games as well. Claude Giroux? Two points in three contests, and -3 as well. Danny Briere was even yesterday, but was a -5 going into the game. Luke Schenn was a -4. Hard to believe that Braydon Coburn was only a -2 this week, given how horrid his play was against both the New York Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins. The recent slide has not been all Ilya Bryzgalov, as the team in front of him has been listless, emotionless, incapable of playing for 60 minutes, not to mention completely disinterested in playing any form of professional ice hockey outside of the attacking zone, but he has looked a little sluggish lately and could use a rest. Andrej Meszaros made his return yesterday, playing 17:28 and registering three shots on goal. Matt Read rejoined the team this week, well ahead of schedule, from torn muscles in his rib cage.

Buffalo Sabres on 03.10.2013 in Philadelphia at 7:30

The Buffalo Sabres have not been a good team this year. They have been doing so poorly that they have even fired long time coach Lindy Ruff, who had just wrapped up his 14th year behind the Sabres bench in 2012. Interim head coach Ron Rolston has not gotten the team to play much better, though they do have points in three of their last four games. The Sabres are led by Thomas Vanek who has 29 points (13 goals, 16 assists). He is followed by linemates Cody Hodgson with 21 points (10 goals, 11 assists) and Jason Pominville with 19 points (nine goals, 10 assists). Tyler Ennis has also had a decent year thus far as he has garnered 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists), but beyond those four, Buffalo has struggled to find consistent scoring throughout their lineup. The usual starting goaltender for the Sabres, Ryan Miller, has been steady, but has not gotten the results he would have liked to this point as his record stands at 9-11-3, and he has a 2.82 goals against average, with a respectable .915 save percentage. His backup, Jhonas Enroth, has been having a rough go of it as he is still looking for his first win of 2013 with a 0-2-0 record, a 3.94 GAA, and a .871 save percentage. The Flyers usually play well against this team, but both are struggling so who knows what will happen, but if Philadelphia comes out flat like they have the last three games or so, expect the Sabres to gain two points in the standings.

New Jersey Devils on 03.13.2013 in Newark at 7:30 and 03.15.2013 in Philadelphia at 7:00

After a torrid start to the year, the Devils have cooled off, going 2-6-2 in their last 10 and losing three of their last four games in regulation. Part of this skid has been due to a back injury that has shelved Martin Brodeur. Bryce Salvador missed the last game against the Hurricanes as well with an injury. The top point-getter for the Devils is Patrik Elias, who recently scored his 900th point and played his 1000th game. Elias has 25 points (eight goals, 17 assists) on the year and is followed closely by Ilya Kovalchuk with 22 points (nine goals, 13 assists). David Clarkson continues to have a great season as he has 18 points (10 goals, eight assists). Beyond those three however, the Devils are thin up front and have not received good production from their entire lineup. They usually rely heavily on playing good team defense, a relentless forecheck, and scoring just enough goals to keep it close. That works just fine with Brodeur between the pipes, but since he is out, they have been largely unsuccessful. The Devils have had three goalies play games in Brodeur’s absence. Johan Hedberg has gotten the starts and has a 3-7-2 record, a 3.08 GAA, and a .875 save percentage.Keith Kinkaid and Jeff Frazee have played in relief. If the Flyers can deal with the Devils’ forecheck, they may have a shot at beating this team.