The Philadelphia Flyers went 1-1-1 last week with a disappointing loss to the Ottawa Senators in the shootout, an embarrassing 7-0 loss to end their six-game road trip a the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks, and an impressive 2-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens. The win was another game in which the Flyers scored just two goals. They have now scored two or fewer goals in 24 of their 32 total contests. In order to win games by scoring just two goals, you rely heavily on your goaltender to be outstanding, and Steve Mason has been just that for his club.
Mason is 11-9-3, has one shutout, a .927 SV%, and a 2.29 GAA. Those are excellent numbers and even though he stops a high percentage of shots fired his way, the team has to start potting more than two pucks per game on a regular basis if they want to have any shot at getting into the playoffs. As of right now, the Flyers are just three points back from third place in the Metropolitan Division and hold three games in hand over the Carolina Hurricanes who currently hold that position. It should be interesting to see how the Flyers fare this week with two home-and-homes against divisional opponents in the Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets. You can purchase tickets to any of these games and more through Tiqiq.com.
12.15.2013 Washington Capitals at 3:00 PM in Washington D.C.
12.17.2013 Washington Capitals at 7:30 PM in Philadelphia
The Washington Capitals currently sit in second place in the Metropolitan Division at 37 points through 32 games. They have scored 100 goals while allowing 93. They have a better record at home as they are 11-7-0, but they’ve also garnered three points via shootout and overtime losses on the road as their record away from the Verizon Center is 6-5-3.
It’s no surprise that Caps are led by their captain Alex Ovechkin, who has exploded this year for 26 goals in 30 games, and has 35 (9a) points on the season. That puts him on pace for 71 goals this year, which is just unbelievable. He may not reach that total, but being on pace to score that many goals is special in this league in this era. Nicklas Backstrom is also over a point a game as he has 34 points (8g, 26a). Mikhail Grabovski has 27 points (9g, 18a) while Marcus Johansson has 21 points (3g, 18a), and both Jason Chimera (6g, 12a) and Joel Ward (10g, 8a) have 18 points.
The Capitals score a lot of goals and a allow a lot of goals, but their netminders have been fairly solid. Regular starter Braden Holtby is 13-9-1, with one shutout, a .920 SV%, and a 2.82 GAA. Michal Neuvirth has been out since suffering an injury in practice on November 29th, and call-up Philipp Grubauer has played well going 2-0-1 in four appearances, with a .957 SV%, and a 1.52 GAA despite not having any shutouts. Neuvirth, just for the record, was 2-3-1, with a .912 SV%, and a 2.83 GAA in seven appearances.
The Caps are an offensively gifted team but struggle in tight games where they are limited to two goals or less, winning just four games all season where they’ve tallied two goals or less and have needed either overtime or the shootout to seal the deal in those games. If the Flyers can limit the Capitals offense and play to their strengths in winning those tight 2-1, 1-0 contests, they will have a shot at winning both games.
12.19.2013 Columbus Blue Jackets at 7:00 PM in Philadelphia
12.21.2013 Columbus Blue Jackets at 7:00 PM in Columbus
The Columbus Blue Jackets are in fourth place in the Metropolitan Division with 32 points in 33 games. They have played one more game than the Flyers have, and are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games. They have scored 85 goals while allowing 92 on the year. Columbus is led in scoring by 21-year old Ryan Johansen who has 26 points (12g, 14a) on the year. The next closest Blue Jacket in terms of points is Brandon Dubinsky has 21 points (6g, 15a). RJ Umberger (7g, 10a), Nick Foligno (9g, 8a), and Cam Atkinson (9g, 8a) each have 17 points. James Wisniewski was playing pretty well before being placed on injured reserve with an upper body injury. Wisniewski has 18 points (2g, 16a) and could return later this week.
Regular starter Sergei Bobrovsky has been placed on the shelf with a groin injury and is slated to miss the next 3-4 weeks. He was 10-11-2, with one shutout, a .909 SV%, and a 2.72 GAA in 23 starts. His backup, Curtis McElhinney is day-to-day with a lower body injury as well, and is 4-4-1, with one shutout, a .926 SV%, and a 2.26 GAA in 12 appearances for Columbus. Mike McKenna has appeared in two games for the Blue Jackets and is 0-0-1, with a .898 SV%, and a 3.00 GAA.
One thing that should be pointed out is that for where the Blue Jackets are through 33 games is quite impressive given all of the injuries they’ve sustained to key cogs. Nathan Horton has yet to see the ice this season as he had shoulder surgery during the offseason. Marian Gaborik was placed on injured reserve with a lower body injury on November 15th and was expected to miss 4-6 weeks then, so he could theoretically play this week, but it seems unlikely. Jared Boll has also been out with a foot injury, and is likely to remain out this week as he suffered a setback. That brings the total number of players on Columbus’ injured reserve to five, and other than Boll, the players that have been lost due to injury are guys who could really help the team. To lose your top defenseman, your two best veteran forwards, and your starting goaltender would be tough for any team to overcome, but Columbus just continues to play pretty good hockey and stay in the mix for a playoff spot. These two games are incredibly important to both teams. If the Flyers can stifle Johansen and Dubinsky, they’ll probably have a good shot at winning this game, because the Blue Jackets don’t have very many weapons at their disposal right now.