Flight Plan: Flying Right Along

Jake Voracek and Claude Giroux fly down the ice on a rush. Image c/o Amy Irvin of 38Photography (https://www.facebook.com/38Photography)

The Philadelphia Flyers won two of four games last week and gained points in three, as they climbed back into second place in the Metropolitan Division. The team is now fifth place in the Eastern Conference, by virtue of fewer games played, with 55 points. The importance of gaining points now is important not only to attempt to entrench themselves in one of the top three spots in the Metropolitan, but also to put distance between those teams who are vying for the wild card positions in the Conference.

Despite a disappointing loss to the New York Rangers, the Flyers managed two come from behind victories this week, once again displaying their newly discovered (or rediscovered, depending on how you look at it) character. As of yesterday’s win over the New York Islanders, this Flyers team has tied a franchise record for eventual wins after trailing at any point in the third period. It is the eighth time this group has done so this season, and while it is becoming all too habitual for them to fall down only to come from behind and win, it’s encouraging to know that this bunch is able to win in a variety of ways, which will only aid them later on in the season when the race for the playoffs begins to narrow.

How about that Andrej Meszaros, huh? He now has nine points in his last six games and three goals in his last two. Not saying that he deserves a new contract at all, but it’s nice to see a talented guy who has had two consecutive seasons derailed by injuries get back on track. Just three seasons ago In 2010-2011, Meszaros received the Barry Ashbee trophy as Philadelphia’s best defenseman, and if he truly has returned to form that bodes extremely well for the Flyers.

This week Philadelphia has four games, three of which come against divisional rivals. They will complete a home-and-home series, as well as the season series, with the Islanders on Monday in New York, face the Carolina Hurricanes back in Philadelphia, square off with the Columbus Blue Jackets in Columbus, and wrap up the week at home against the Boston Bruins. You can purchase tickets to any and all Philadelphia Flyers fans at Tiqiq.com.

New York Islanders on 01.20.2014 at 1:00 PM in New York

The Flyers have now won three of the four games in their season series with the Islanders, and will look to sweep them on Monday afternoon. The Flyers have outscored the Isles 16 to eight in those three games. In last night’s game, the Flyers received goals from Adam Hall, Michael Raffl, Jake Voracek, Andrej Meszaros scored two, and Matt Read capped it off with an empty netter. For the Islanders, John Tavares scored his 22nd of the season, while Cal Clutterbuck, Brock Nelson, and Brian Strait also scored.

The Islanders are led by Tavares who now has 58 points (34 assists) on the season. Kyle Okposo now has 47 points (19 goals, 28 assists), Frans Nielsen has 38 points (16 goals, 22 assists), and Thomas Vanek has 33 points in 34 games (13 goals, 20 assists).

Kevin Poulin got the start and figures to be back between the pipes tomorrow for the Isles. Poulin is 10-14-0 on the year, with no shutouts, a .895 save percentage, and a 3.10 goals against average. The Flyers have generally been successful at keeping the Islanders’ top scorers from generating offense and if they can do that again, they should manage to come away with the season series sweep.

Carolina Hurricanes on 01.21.2014 at 7:00 PM in Philadelp-hia

The Carolina Hurricanes are in seventh place in the Metropolitan Division with 49 points. They are 6-3-1 in their last 10 and, despite allowing 132 goals, are just three points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Hurricanes have won both of the first two meetings between these two clubs, one in regulation and the other in overtime.

The Hurricanes are led by team captain Eric Staal with 37 points (10 goals, 27 assists). Jeff Skinner has 35 points and leads the team in goals with 21 (14 assists) in 36 games this year. Defenseman Andrej Sekera is having a breakout season as he has 24 points (seven goals, 17 assists), while Nathan Gerbe has 21 points (nine goals, 12 assists), and Alex Semin has 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists).

In net, the Hurricanes have received strong play from both Justin Peters and Anton Khudobin as regular starter Cam Ward has missed 16 games this year due to injury. Peters is 7-9-4, with one shutout, a .922 save percentage, and a 2.38 goals against average. Khudobin is 7-2-0, with no shutouts, a .937 save percentage, and a 2.00 flat goals against average. The Flyers can atone for their early season missteps by winning both of the remaining games against the Hurricanes, but they will certainly have their work cut out for them.

Columbus Blue Jackets on 01.23.2014 at 7:00 PM in Columbus

The Columbus Blue Jackets have made their way back into playoff contention with a strong 7-3-0 run over their last 10 games. Thanks in small part to the return of regular starter Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus now has possession of the final wild card slot in the Eastern Conference, with a couple of games in hand over teams that are looking up at them. The Flyers and Blue Jackets have split the season series to this point as Philadelphia completed a thrilling 5-4 comeback victory in the first half of a home-and-home, while Columbus was able to win the back end in a 6-3 game at home.

It’s important to note that Bobrovsky was out of the lineup for both of those games with a groin injury, but has since returned to action and in a big way. Over his last five starts, he has had only one game in which his save percentage has dipped below .929, including his second shutout of the season, and has recorded five straight wins in January. Bobrovsky’s winning streak actually extends back into November, but he missed nearly all of December with the aforementioned groin injury. Bobrovsky is 15-11-2 on the year, with two shutouts, a .916 save percentage, and a 2.53 goals against average. His backup, Curtis McElhinney is 8-8-1, with two shutouts as well, a .908 save percentage, and a 2.82 goals against average.

In terms of scoring, the Blue Jackets are led by Ryan Johanesen with 36 points (18 goals, 18 assists). Brandon Dubinsky has 32 points (10 goals, 22 assists) in 42 games, defenseman James Wisniewski has 28 points (four goals, 24 assists) in 41 games, Cam Atkinson has 27 points (15 goals, 12 assists), and Nick Foligno has 26 points (12 goals, 14 assists) in 42 games. The Blue Jackets have also seen the return of Nathan Horton, but Marian Gaborik is still out indefinitely after undergoing surgery to repair a broken collarbone which occurred during the last game against the Flyers.

If the Flyers can get pucks past Bobrovsky, they have a shot at winning this game, which is a very tall order of late.

Boston Bruins on 01.25.2014 at 1:00 PM in Philadelphia

The Boston Bruins are sitting atop the Atlantic Division with 62 points. They boast the league’s second best goals against number to date with just 104 goals allowed, but are not inept in terms of scoring as they have 136 goals for as well. This will be the first of three meetings between these two clubs.

The Bruins have gone 5-5-0 in their last 10 and although Tuukka Rask has played well almost all season, he has faltered a little bit of late, as just two of his last seven outings have seen him obtain a save percentage that reached over the .900 mark. That being said, one of those was a 26-save shutout over the San Jose Sharks, and the other was a 36-stop, .973 save percentage performance against the Winnipeg Jets. Rask is 22-12-2, with five shutouts, a .928 save percentage, and a 2.11 goals against average on the year. His backup, Chad Johnson, is 7-3-0, with no shutouts, a .918 save percentage, and a 2.27 goals against average.

As far as offense is concerned, the Bruins are led by David Krejci with 38 points (10 goals, 28 assists). Reilly Smith is having a breakout season with 34 points and a team-leading 15 goals (19 assists), while Milan Lucic has 32 points (13 goals, 19 assists). Jarome Iginla (13 goals, 16 assists) and perennial Selke contender Patrice Bergeron (12 goals, 17 assists) each have 29 points, while both Brad Marchand (12 goals, 12 assists) and rookie defenseman Torey Krug (10 goals, 14 assists) both have 24 points. This game will be a real good test for the Flyers to see where they are against one of the best teams in not only the Eastern Conference, but in the entire NHL.