Flight Plan: Getting Back Into the Swing of Things

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Image courtesy of Amy Irvin of 38 Photography (http://www.Facebook.com/38Photography)

Through two games, the Philadelphia Flyers are looking like a good team, but have lacked finish as they’ve been outscored 7-2 thus far in the 2013-2014 season. Luckily, there are 80 more games left as opposed to last year where there would only be 46 games  remaining at this point, and there are some bright spots. The scoring lead for the team is currently a three-way tie between Vincent Lecavalier, Mark Streit, and Brayden Schenn. Schenn and Lecavalier clearly have some chemistry on the second power play unit and have each scored a goal and notched a helper on the man advantage, while Streit has garnered an assist on each of the  team’s first two goals of the season. Unfortunately, all of them are minus players, and the club’s top player in Claude Giroux has yet to register a point. There’s still a lot of time left, but unless this team starts hitting the back of the net, it will be a long regular season and an even longer offseason.

Also a plus is everyone has remained healthy enough to stay in the lineup through two games, and part of the team’s struggles last season stemmed from it’s inability to stay healthy. Again, it is about perspective and there is a lot of time left before the playoffs start. A wise man once said that the regular season is a war of attrition and that the Stanley Cup is won in June, not in October.

This week the Flyers have games this week against the Carolina Hurricanes, the Florida Panthers, the Phoenix Coyotes, and the Detroit Red Wings. You can purchase tickets to any of those games through Tiqiq here: http://www.tiqiq.com/nhl/philadelphia-flyers-tickets/?publisherid=1260333

10.06.2013 Carolina Hurricanes at 5:00 PM in Raleigh

The Carolina Hurricanes are the first opponent the Flyers will face this season from the newly formed Metropolitan Division. Carolina is a speedy team with good goaltending and a tough defense corps. Up front, the ‘Canes are stacked: Alexander Semin, Jeff Skinner, Eric and Jordan Staal, and Jiri Tlusty round out a formidable top six. Tuomo Ruutu would also be included in that list if he weren’t on injured reserve with a hip issue. Cam Ward is an elite goaltender in the NHL and if he could get some more help this year from his forwards and defense, the Hurricanes will be a difficult team to play against most nights. The blue-line doesn’t have any top names in the game, but they are a good group. Justin Faulk looks like the real deal, and Carolina did well to pick up Ron Hainsey and Andrej Sekera this offseason to solidify their defense. The Flyers usually play well against Carolina, so it wouldn’t be surprising if this is their first win of the season, but they absolutely need to start getting pucks behind goaltenders if they want to win some games this year.

10.08.2013 Florida Panthers at 7:00 PM in Philadelphia

The Florida Panthers lost long-tenured Stephen Weiss and are coming off a shellacking at the hands of the St. Louis Blues (7-0 loss). That being said, this team has a lot of talent and shouldn’t be taken lightly. They are going to be led for the next few years by two high first round draft choices in Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov. Tomas Fleischmann will look to replicate his success from last year where he tallied 35 points (12 goals, 23 assists), while the Panthers are hoping that Tomas Kopecky can continue potting pucks as he led the team last year with 15 goals. The team suffered immensely last year when Kris Versteeg was out of the lineup, but if he stays healthy, the Panthers should have a much more consistent and balanced offensive presence. On defense, the Panthers are led by veterans Brian Campbell and captain Ed Jovanoski, but they also have a couple of good youngsters in Erik Gudbranson and Dmitry Kulikov. The biggest pickup for the Panthers could be Tim Thomas, who did not play at all last season. Thomas is no spring chicken, but if he can get into game shape quickly, Florida could have one of the better tandems in the league between him and Jacob Markstrom. If the Flyers can capitalize on their chances and limit the young scorers of Florida, they will likely win this game.

10.11.2013 Phoenix Coyotes at 7:00 PM in Philadelphia

The Phoenix Coyotes missed the playoffs last season, but are a solid team which plays a good, strong system. The Coyotes brought in Mike Ribeiro who was the second highest scorer for the Washington Capitals last year as he topped out at 49 points (13 goals, 36 assists), while appearing in all 48 games for the Caps last year. Ribeiro joins a corps of veteran forwards including captain Shane Doan, Radim Vrbata, Mikkel Boedker, Antoine Vermette, and Martin Hanzal. Phoenix has one of the most balanced defense corps in the NHL and it is led by Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Keith Yandle, Derek Morris, and Zbynek Michalek are all defensemen that most teams would take in a heartbeat on their rosters. The ‘Yotes are backstopped by Mike Smith, who is a good goaltender, and while he had a down year last season he still managed to get five shutouts. All in all, the Coyotes play a system and if the Flyers can crack it, which they have done in the past two years, then they should get the win.

10.12.2013 Detroit Red Wings at 7:00 PM in Detroit

When you think of perennial Cup contenders, you think of the Detroit Red Wings. Even when they are not necessarily the class of their conference, they are always in the conversation of teams who could win the cup because they’re a balanced, talented, and tough team to play against. They haven’t missed the playoffs in over two decades. They have an aging corps of forwards that just seems to get better every year. It’s downright ridiculous when you really think about it, but here they are, a new addition to the Eastern Conference and will, in all likelihood, still make the playoffs despite playing in what might be the best division in hockey in the Atlantic. They are led by captain Henrik Zetterberg and assistant Pavel Datsyuk, but were able to lure long-time Ottawa Senator captain Daniel Alfredsson to the Motor City. The Red Wings have a ton of depth beyond those three guys though as names like Johan Franzen, Justin Abdelkader, and another new addition in Stephen Weiss, are all figuring to be regular contributors. On top of that, they also have a good group on the blue-line. Nicklas Kronwall has really developed into a true top-tier defenseman, and he lead s a group that’s rounded out by Jonathan Ericsson, Kyle Quincey, Jakub Kindl, Brendan Smith, and youngster Danny Dekeyser. Jimmy Howard mans the nets for Detroit and he has been a big part of their success in recent years, as last year his numbers were that of an elite netminder: .923 save percentage, 2.13 goals against average, and 21 wins, five of which were shutouts, in 42 appearances. The Red Wings are always a good team and if the Flyers want to win this game, they’ll have to play a solid 60 minutes and find a way to neutralize Detroit’s extremely balanced attack.