Weekly Flyers Preview: Feb. 24-Mar. 2
The Flyers kick off their second “half” to the season on Thursday after taking a short hiatus for the Olympics. A four game winning streak finished off the first half, so the team will be looking to continue its’ momentum from three weeks ago.
Thursday, February 27, 2014 vs. San Jose Sharks (37-16-6, 80 points, 2nd Pacific) 7:00, CSN
While most fans were sleeping on February 3, the Flyers picked up a win in San Jose, 5-2.
The Sharks have the eighth-best offense in the league, averaging 2.81 goals per game. However, they that number dips to 2.53 when the club is away from home. Joe Pavelski’s 29 goals lead the team and are fourth in the NHL. Joe Thornton continues to be the playmaker, with his 48 assists ranking second in the league and giving him 56 points. Gold medal winning Olympian Patrick Marleau has 23 goals and 50 points this season. That trio makes San Jose only one of three teams with three 50 point scorers so far this season.
Logan Couture and his 14 goals are expected in the lineup after missing the last 16 games with an upper body injury. Brent Burns (14 goals) and Tommy Wingels (12) are the other active Sharks in double figures.
San Jose’s strength is in their backend. Allowing 2.31 goals per game, the club ranks fourth overall. On the road though, they allow more (2.70) and have a negative goal differential (-5). Antti Niemi has been the Sharks’ main between the pipes, and will be looking for his 30th win Thursday. He allows 2.39 goals per game and has saved 91.2% of shots. But his road numbers correlate to his team’s, as he has gone 10-9-3 with a 2.76 goals against average and .903 save percentage away from SAP Center.
Despite the firepower, the Sharks’ power play ranks 18th, scoring on 17.2% of man advantages. Pavelski has ten power play goals (third in the NHL) and Marleau has seven. Dan Boyle provides punch from the point, as he has collected six power play goals. Overall, the Sharks have the eighth-ranked penalty killing unit (83.7%) but they are the fourth worst road penalty killing team (77.6%).
Saturday, March 1, 2014 vs. New York Rangers (32-34-3, 67 points, 2nd Metropolitan)1:00, CSN
The last time these two teams met, the Rangers made the Flyers look silly, winning 4-1 onJanuary 12.
New York’s offense ranks 18th overall, averaging 2.56 goals per game. That scoring is spread out, as eight players have ten or more goals. Rick Nash’s 18 lead the club while his linemates Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan have 13 and 10 respectively. Brad Richards has 15 goals centering the second line with Carl Hagelin (eleven goals) and Ryan Callahan (eleven) as his wingmen. Benoit Pouliot and Derick Brassard each have eleven goals as well.
The Rangers will be without their leading scorer Mats Zuccarello (15 goals, 43 points) due to an injury sustained in the Olympics.
Like the Sharks, the Rangers’ strength is in net. Henrik Lundqvist returns to the Rangers with a silver medal looking to continue where he left off in the NHL. On the season, Lundqvist has gone 22-18-3, allowing 2.44 goals per game and saving 91.8% of shots. Before the NHL went on hiatus, though, Lundqvist was on fire, winning five starts in a row and six of seven. Since New Year’s, he has won ten of fourteen games while allowing only 1.91 goals per game. He’s saved 93.7% of shots faced since then. This doesn’t even include his numbers in Sochi (5-1, 1.50 GAA, .943 save percentage).
Kreider and Pouliot lead the team with six power play goals each, as the Rangers have the second best road power play (25.3%). Brassard has five, while Nash and Callahan have four each (as does Zuccarello). The Rangers have the twelfth best penalty killing at 82.8%
Sunday, March 2, 2014 vs. Washington Capitals (27-23-9, 63 points, 5th Metropolitan)12:30, NBC
The Flyers and Capitals haven’t faced off since mid-December, where they split a home-and-home series, with each team winning on home ice.
Washington currently has the 13th best offense, scoring 2.76 goals per game. The scoring is led by obvious figure Alex Ovechkin, whose 40 goals lead the entire league. Nicklas Backstrom leads the club in assists with 45, giving him a total of 56 points this season. Joel Ward has tied a career high with 17 goals, which ranks him second on the team.
Troy Brouwer has 14 while both Jason Chimera and Mikhail Grabovski have twelve each. Grabovski is expected back in the lineup after an ankle injury caused him to miss eight games before the break. American Olympian John Carlson has ten goals, which is seventh in the league for defensemen.
With all of focus on the offense, the Capitals have been bound to give up goals in bunches. They have allowed 2.85 goals per game this season (22nd). Braden Holtby has been the usual goaltender for the team, playing 36 games and compiling a 17-13-2 record. He has been inconsistent, allowing 2.88 goals per game and stopping 91.2% of shots faced. In his last five games, he has two shutouts and allowed nine total goals in two others.
The Capitals excel on the power play, scoring on 21.7% of man advantages (fourth). Ovechkin has 15 goals to lead the NHL in power play goals and Backstrom leads in power play points (31). Marcus Johansson and Brouwer have six each, while Ward and Carlson have five each. Washington’s penalty killing is respectable (81.3%) but they have been shorthanded 214 times (fifth most). As a result, they have allowed 40 power play goals this season.
Weekly Expectations: 4 points
Since November 18, Dan has predicted Flyers points
Realdeal: 50 points
Flyers: 49 points