Flight Plan: Turning It Around

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

The Philadelphia Flyers have been one of the hottest teams in the entire NHL in November. Since their first game of the month, a 7-0 blowout loss to the Washington Capitals, they have managed to garner at least a point in the standings in every game except one, as they’ve gone 7-1-2. It’s a pretty impressive little run they’ve been on, but what’s also refreshing is that they are starting to score goals at a more consistent pace. They’ve scored more than two goals on six occasions now for the season, which is a feat they accomplished just once through their first 15 games.

One of the biggest reasons for the turnaround has been that all of Philadelphia’s lines have been contributing. A huge catalyst for their recent surge has been Steve Downie’s presence on the checking line with Sean Couturier and Matt Read. Since coming over in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche, Downie has six assists in his last six games, and the line has combined for 17 points over that span. Claude Giroux has finally arrived this season as well as he now has 15 points through 22 games this year, eight of those points have come in his last seven games. It’s nice that they are scoring, but the goaltending has been the story for this team all year long, particularly the play of one, Steve Mason. Mason is 7-7-2 on the year and has just one shutout to his name, yet he has a low 2.11 GAA and a sparkling .933 save percentage. Ray Emery, after having a rough go at first, has rounded into form lately as he is now 3-3-0 on the year, and has a shutout to go along with his 2.53 GAA and .910 save percentage.

The Flyers have four games this week to close out the month and if they can continue to roll as they have been, they may find themselves in one of the top three spots in the Metropolitan Division. Considering how bad they started off the year, that would be pretty remarkable in just a month’s time. Over the next seven days, the Flyers have games against the Florida Panthers in Sunrise, the Tampa Bay Lightning in Tampa Bay, the Winnipeg Jets at home, and the Nashville Predators in Nashville. You can get tickets to all Philadelphia Flyers games here: http://www.tiqiq.com/nhl/philadelphia-flyers-tickets/?publisherid=1260333

Florida Panthers on 11.25.2013 at 7:30 PM in Sunrise

The Florida Panthers currently sit seventh place in the Atlantic Division with 17 points. They have scored 53 goals while giving up 80. Only the Buffalo Sabres are worse in terms of goal scoring in the Atlantic as they have just 43 goals on the year. Leading the Cats in scoring are defenseman Brian Campbell (3g, 9a) and winger Tomas Fleischmann (3g, 9a) with 12 points apiece. Brad Boyes (8g, 3a), Jonathan Huberdeau (5g, 6a), and Scottie Upshall (4g, 7a) each have 11 points on the year, while second overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft Aleksander Barkov (4g,6a) has 10 points. The Panthers have received solid goaltending from Tim Thomas as he is 5-7-1, with a 2.79 GAA, and a .908 save percentage. Jacob Markstrom, his backup, has a 1-5-3 record, a 3.36 GAA, and a .877 save percentage. For all intents and purposes, the Flyers should win this game if they give a pretty solid effort.

Tampa Bay Lightning on 11.27.2013 at 7:30 PM in Tampa Bay

If the Panthers are the rule, the Tampa Bay Lightning are the exception. They have been the biggest surprise of any team in the Eastern Conference, and certainly in the Atlantic Division. Unfortunately, they have hit a little bit of a skid recently and dropped to third in the division, holding a one point lead over the Montreal Canadiens, though they also have a game in hand on the Habs. The Bolts suffered a huge loss as Steven Stamkos broke his tibia in a game against the Boston Bruins. Stamkos was, at the team, the league leader in goals and the team leader in points. He is still at the top of the leaderboard for the Bolts with 23 points (14g, 9a), but Marty St. Louis (8g, 13a) is finally catching up to him as he has 21 points. Valtteri Filppula (9g, 7a) has been solid for the bolts as he has 16 points and he is followed closely by Alex Killorn (6g, 9a) with 15 points. The reason the Bolts have won games, however is the play of one Ben Bishop who has run away with the competition for the crease in Tampa. He owns a 13-3-1 record with one shutout, a 2.20 GAA, and a .926 save percentage. This will be a really emotionally intense game being as that it will be the first game back in Tampa for Vincent Lecavalier, who no doubt will be fired up to play in front of the fans who he played for in every year of his NHL career up to the start of this season. If the Flyers can find a way to put pucks past Bishop, they should be able to win this game.

Winnipeg Jets on 11.29.2013 at 11:30 AM  in Philadelphia

The Winnipeg Jets won the first of two meetings between these teams in Winnipeg via the shootout. The Jets play much better at home than they do on the road as they are 7-6-3 when playing within the confines of the MTS Centre and are 3-5-1 when playing at other teams’ venues. The Jets are led by Bryan Little (12 g, 11a), who is having something of a breakout year as he has 23 points in 25 games. Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien (6g, 13a) and captain Andrew Ladd (6g, 13a) each have has 19 points on the year. Blake Wheeler (5g, 11a) is providing offense at a fairly steady clip for Winnipeg as well as he has 16 points. The problem for the Jets always seems to be keeping the puck out of their own net, but goaltenders Ondrej Pavelec and Al Montoya have been rock solid for the team. Pavelec is 8-9-1 with one shutout, a 2.81 GAA, and a .913 save percentage while Montoya is 2-2-1 with one shutout, a 2.49 GAA, and a .913 save percentage. Those numbers are not elite, but they certainly give the Jets a chance to win every game. If the Flyers can build off their strong home stand, they should be able to take this game from the lowly Jets.

Nashvillve Predators on 11.30.2013 at 8:00 PM in Nashville

The Nashville Predators are in sixth place in the Central Division. They have 24 points through 23 games and are looking at an upward battle just to get back into the playoff mix as every team in the Western Conference playoff picture has over 31 points. The Predators have offensive issues and to boot, they are without the services of Pekka Rinne, who is absolutely an elite goaltender in the NHL. The loss of Rinne could be detrimental but luckily for Nashville, they have Marek Manazec who has been stellar of late. Manazec is 3-3-0 with one shutout, a 2.32 GAA, and a .929 save percentage. As for the skaters, the Preds are led by David Legwand (4g, 14 a) as he has 18 points. Craig Smith (6g, 8a) has 14 points and is followed closely on Nashville’s leaderboard by Patric Hornqvist (6g, 7a) who has 13 points. Nashville captain Shea Weber (6g, 5a) and center Colin Wilson (3g, 8a) each have 11 points on the year. If the Flyers can continue their offensive push, they will likely win this game if for no other reason than they have more lines that can put the puck in the net on a regular basis than Nashville.