Flight Plan: North and South East

Image Courtesy of bridgetds

The Philadelphia Flyers are feeling a little bit better about themselves today as they beat the Boston Bruins yesterday by a score of 3-1. Despite losing three of their last four games, they gained a point in two of them and are currently just four points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. This week will see them host the Washington Capitals and Montreal Canadiens, before travelling north to visit the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Winnipeg Jets. You can purchase tickets to all Philadelphia Flyers games here: http://www.tiqiq.com/nhl/philadelphia-flyers-tickets/?publisherid=1260333

Unfortunately for the Flyers, they got hit hard with injuries over the past week losing four veteran players in Danny Briere, Braydon Coburn, Nicklas Grossmann, and Andrej Meszaros. The loss of three of their top-six defenseman is a tough pill to swallow as they try to inch their way closer to the playoffs, but general manager Paul Holmgren made a move to add blue line depth by prying Kent Huskins from the Detroit Red Wings for a conditional seventh round draft choice in 2014. The Flyers also called up 24 year-old, 6’6” defenseman Oliver Lauridsen who made his NHL debut yesterday and skated 17:12, registering one shot on goal, two penalty minutes, three blocked shots, and three hits in that time.

Washington Capitals on 03.31.2013 at 6:00 PM in Philadelphia

The Washington Capitals have two points on the Flyers in the standings and are in 11th place in the East. They have also won four of their last five games and team captain Alex Ovechkin has finally found his game, as he now has points in each of those games, registering nine of his 33 points (17 goals, 16 assists) on the year in that span. Mike Ribeiro still leads the Caps with 35 points (11 goals, 24 assists), while Nicklas Backstrom is just behind Ovechkin with 30 points (five goals, 25 assists). Troy Brouwer is also having a nice season as he has 25 points (13 goals, 12 assists). Aside from those forwards, the Capitals have struggled to find the net on a consistent basis and have scored just 98 goals all year while allowing 96. Their goaltenders haven’t been stellar either as Brayden Holtby has received most of the starts going 14-11-0, with a 2.67 goals against average, a .915 save percentage, and four shutouts. Michal Neuvirth is 2-5-1, has a 2.99 goals against average, and a .899 save percentage. If the Flyers want to make the playoffs, this is an absolute must-win game as the Capitals are a team they are chasing and can move into a tie with them if they can muster another regulation win.

Montreal Canadiens on 04.03.2013 at 7:30 PM in Philadelphia

The Montreal Canadiens are sitting pretty in second place in the East. They have 49 points on the year, have scored 107 goals, and have allowed just 83. While none of their skaters have been extremely successful this season on the scoreboard, they are a deep team with really good goaltending. Carey Price has been steady all year long and owns a 17-6-4 record, with a 2.28 goals against average, a .915 save percentage, and three shutouts. Despite only playing 28 games, young defenseman P.K. Subban leads the team with 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists). Center Tomas Plekanec (13 goals, 13 assists) and winger Max Pacioretty (nine goals, 17 assists) are just a point off Subban as they each have 26 points. Oft-injured defenseman Andrei Markov is having a bounce-back season with 23 points (six goals, 17 assists), while David Desharnais (eight goals, 12 assists) and rookie Brendan Gallagher (11 goals, nine assists) each have 20 points. Montreal doesn’t have the star power up front that some teams in the league do, but they are a solid and deep team. The Flyers need to beat Price or Peter Budaj to win this game, and that doesn’t happen easily, but if they can manage to take advantage of the Canadiens’ 18th overall penalty kill, they might just win this game.

Toronto Maple Leafs on 04.04.2013 at 7:00 PM in Toronto

How about those Toronto Maple Leafs? Just when everyone thinks they will go and blow the season, they seem to have found their game again, have won three straight, and have put themselves nine points ahead of the eighth place New York Rangers. For the first time in a long time, it looks as if the Leafs will make the playoffs. Toronto is led by 22 year-old  center Nazem Kadri who has 39 points (17 goals, 22 assists) and is coming off his second hat-trick of 2013 as part of a four point effort against the Ottawa Senators. Part of his success in that game was due to Joffrey Lupul (eight goals, five assists), who has been red hot of late as he has points in each of his last five games, including four points last game, bringing his total to 13 on the year, though he has suited up for just nine games. Phil Kessel has 34 points (10 goals, 24 assists), while former-Flyer James van Riemsdyk (14 goals, nine assists) and Tyler Bozak (10 goals, 13 assists) each have 23 points. The Leafs are a much better team than they have been in years past, largely due to an improved offensive corps, but have also received quality goaltending from James Reimer and Ben Scrivens who have nearly identical numbers in every category except in terms of their records. Reimer is 13-4-4, with a 2.52 goals against average, a .920 save percentage, and two shutouts while Scrivens is 7-8-0, with a 2.59 goals against average, a .918 save percentage, and two shutouts. To beat Toronto, Philadelphia will need a strong defensive effort, because the Leafs can score at will if they are given time and space.

Winnipeg Jets on 04.06.2013 at 3:00 PM in Winnipeg

The Winnipeg Jets are currently leading the Southeast Division, but are just three points ahead of the Rangers in the standings. What is even more unbelievable is the fact that they have given up 17 more goals than they have scored, and are currently in third place in the East. Captain Andrew Ladd leads the team with 32 points (14 goals, 18 assists), while Blake Wheeler has 28 points (14 goals, 14 assists), and Evander Kane has 26 points (13 goals, 13 assists). Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien (five goals, 16 assists) and center Bryan Little (five goals, 16 assists) both have 21 points. Small, puck-moving defenseman Tobias Enstrom (four goals, 11 assists) returned from a shoulder injury recently and had two goals in his first two games back, bringing his point total to 15 in just 17 games. The Jets haven’t received great goaltending this year as usual starter Ondrej Pavelec has a 15-15-2 record, with a 2.76 goals against average, and a .905 save percentage, while his backup Al Montoya has a 3-1-0 record, a 2.91 goals against average, a .899 save percentage and one shutout to his credit. The Jets are either really good or not good at all. They are prone to giving up lots of goals, but still, somehow, win games. If Philadelphia wants to beat this team, they’ll have to try to contain Winnipeg and not allow them to run and gun like they like to do. If they can keep a lid on this game, they should have no problem getting two points out of the Jets.