Better With Popcorn

Weekly Flyers Preview: Jan. 27-Feb. 2

The Flyers continue a brutal stretch of their schedule this week against three Stanley Cup contenders in hopes to break their four game losing streak.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014 vs. Detroit Red Wings (23-18-11, 57 points, 5thAtlantic) 7:00, CSN

This is a huge game for the Flyers as the Red Wings currently hold the second Eastern Conference Wild Card spot by one point over the orange and black.

The last time these two teams met, the Flyers beat a shorthanded Red Wings team 6-3 in Detroit. In that game, Detroit was missing stars Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg due to injuries. Both (along with Johan Franzen) will miss this game as neither made the trip to Philadelphia.

The Red Wings come into this game winning three of their last five.  However, they have only one once in their last four road games. Overall, they are 14-7-3 away from Joe Louis Arena.

Overall, Detroit’s offense is ranked 20th (2.54 goals per game) but average 2.88 goals on the road. Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Franzen have been some of the biggest offensive weapons (combined 40 goals, 89 points) for the Wings, so the Flyers are lucky to miss them.  But Detroit’s offense still has weapons, namely Daniel Alfredsson, who has scored 12 goals in his first year in Detroit. 

Tomas Tatar has been a pleasant surprise, as he also has 12 goals. Gustav Nyquist (nine goals) has had the hot hand lately, scoring in his last four games and earning seven points in his last five. For his efforts, Nyquist was named the NHL’s second star of the week.

Jonas Gustavsson will be between the pipes for Detroit Tuesday, despite Jimmy Howard’s activation from the injury list. This season, Gustavsson has gone 13-3-3, with a 2.47 goals against average and has saved 91.4% of shots faced. He has won five of his last six starts, dating back to December 19. On the road, “the Monster”has a 7-0-2 record, a 2.17 goals against average and a .923 save percentage. Both road losses for Gustavsson have been in the shootout.

Despite the offensive weapons, Detroit’s power play is below average at 16.6% (22nd). Datsyuk leads the team in power play goals (5) but is closely followed by a trio with four: Franzen, Niklas Kronwall and Todd Bertuzzi. Despite being shorthanded 198 times (3rd highest), the Red Wings have exceled on the penalty kill, as they are seventh overall (84.3%) but first on the road (87.5%).

Thursday, January 30, 2014 @ Anaheim Ducks (39-10-5, 83 points, 1st Pacific)10:00, CSN

A huge test awaits the Flyers in Southern California Thursday night as they take on the league’s best team, the Anaheim Ducks. The Flyers met the Ducks in October, blowing a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2.

The Ducks have been quietly on fire in January, winning ten of twelve games. Anaheim has compiled a mind-boggling 21-1-2 record at Honda Center.

Anaheim has the third best offense in the league (averaging 3.33 goals per game) but is even more dangerous at home, where they score 3.88 goals per game. Corey Perry is tied for second in the league with 28 goals, while captain Ryan Getzlaf is third in points with 60. Those two, along with linemate Dustin Penner (12 goals), have combined for 65 goals and 144 points. Other than that line, the Ducks scoring has been spread out with every line virtually as dangerous as the next. Anaheim has four other players with nine or more goals: Andrew Cogliano (17), Nick Bonino (16), Kyle Palmieri (9) and Mathieu Perreault (9).

As much as they score, Anaheim shuts teams down as well. Fifth in the league in overall goals against average (2.33), teams struggle to score at Honda Center, where opponents only muster 1.79 goals per game. Jonas Hiller has been outstanding, only losing two games since December 3 (15-2-0). Overall he has won 24 games, posted a 2.34 goals against average and stopped 91.5% of shots. In Anaheim, he is even stingier, only allowing 1.97 goals per game and posting a .931 save percentage.

Anaheim’s special teams are fantastic. They boast the fourth best home power play in the league (24.2%) and that unit is led by Bonino and Perry’s six power play goals. Even if those guys are shut down, Anaheim has firepower, with six guys scoring at least four power play goals. Their home penalty kill ranks sixth (85.7%) and are only shorthanded 3.21 times at home.

Saturday, February 1, 2014 @ Los Angeles Kings (30-18-6, 66 points, 3rdPacific) 4:00, CSN/NHLN

After playing Anaheim, the Flyers travel up I-5 to face off against the KingsSaturday afternoon. 

The Flyers have had success at Staples Center, going 6-1-1 since the building opened in 1999. They have picked up at least a point in their last four, with the last regulation loss in Los Angeles coming in 2003. This season, the Kings have gone 16-6-3 in their home building (plus one loss coming at Dodger Stadium).

Lately, the Kings have been in a tailspin, losing five of six, including two to rival Anaheim. The offense has dried up, as they have only scored ten goals in those six games.

Although they have some great offensive weapons, the Kings only average 2.35 goals per game (26th).  At home, that number jumps to 2.61, but that is hardly a scary number. Old friend Jeff Carter leads the team with 20 goals (including seven in January), while linemate Anze Kopitar has 15 and leads the Kings with 42 points. Dwight King has seen action with those two, and has scored eleven goals. Justin Williams (11) and Dustin Brown (10) are the only other Kings in double figures. Third line winger Tyler Toffoli has been a surprise, scoring nine goals in 34 games.

Mike Richards has been a disappointment for the Kings this season, only finding the back of the net seven times and is only on pace for 11 goals, which would be his lowest total since his sophomore year in 2006-07. His 6.4% shooting percentage is currently the worst of his NHL career.

The Kings’ strong suit is in net, where they have US Olympian Jonathan Quick. Overall, they have the lowest team goals against average (2.02) in the league. This season Quick is 15-9-2 with a 2.01 goals against average (4th in the league), while saving 91.8% of shots faced. Los Angeles is stingy as they only allow opponents 27.1 shots per game.

With a lackluster offense, the Kings’ power play has suffered, as they only score on 14% of man advantages (27th). The first power play unit of Kopitar, Carter, Richards, Drew Doughty and Slava Voynov have accounted for 19 of LA’s 27 power play goals. On the flipside, the fantastic defense has given the Kings the fifth-best penalty killing (84.6%) in the league. Unfortunately for the Kings, they have been shorthanded 208 times (second, to the Flyers), so opportunities for opponents have been there.

Weekly Expectations: 2 points

Since Nov 18 Dan has been predicting Flyers points.

Realdeal: 46 points

Flyers: 39 points