Better With Popcorn

Weekly Flyers Preview: Mar. 17-23

Coming off of a home-and-home sweep of Pittsburgh this weekend, the Flyers return home to face three Western Conference teams in the playoff hunt.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014 vs. Chicago Blackhawks (39-15-14, 92 points, 3rd Central) 7:30, CSN/NBCSN

Coming off a 4-1 beatdown of Detroit, the Blackhawks come into Philadelphia looking to catch St. Louis in the standings. The last time Chicago played the Flyers, they dominated in a 7-3 win.

The Blackhawks' game with the Flyers is the first of a back-to-back in which the Hawks host St. Louis Wednesday.

Chicago has the best offense in the league, averaging 3.32 goals per game. They are one of two teams (St. Louis is the other) who have four 20+ goal scorers. Patrick Kane leads the club in both goals (29) and points (67). Linemate Patrick Sharp also has 29 goals, while Captain Jonathan Toews has scored 26.

Marian Hossa returned to the lineup Sunday against Detroit, scoring a goal and adding two assists. This season he has 24 goals, adding to his career total (458). Brandan Saad is knocking on the door of the 20 goal club with 19 on the season. Andrew Shaw has 16 goals, while Brian Bickell has ten. Kris Versteeg has scored eight goals since being acquired from Florida, giving him a total of ten this season.

Defensively, Chicago ranks eleventh, allowing 2.52 goals per game. Corey Crawford has been good this season, winning 26 games, while posting a 2.26 goals against average and saving 91.8% of shots faced. Despite that, Antti Raanta (12-3-3; 2.44 GAA; .904 SV%) will be in net tonight for the Hawks.

Chicago’s third ranked power play is led by Kane’s ten goals. Sharp has eight on the man advantage while Toews has five. Surprisingly, the Blackhawks have the 23rd ranked penalty killing (80.6%), although they are a little better on the road (83%).

Thursday, March 20, 2014 vs. Dallas Stars (32-23-11, 75 points, 5th Central) 7:00, CSN

The Stars have been in a fight for one of the Western wild card spots, and a 5-2-1 run since the Olympics has them sitting in the final playoff position.

Dallas ranks eighth in scoring, averaging 2.84 goals per game. The offense is led by Tyler Seguin, who has the team's most goals (30) and points (69). His linemate, Jamie Benn, ranks second in both categories (27 goals, 64 assists). The other winger is rookie Valeri Nichushkin, who has 13 goals this season.

Veteran Erik Cole has 16 goals, while there are four youngsters in double digits. Cody Eakin has scored 13, while Alex Chaisson, Antoine Roussel and Ryan Garbutt all have twelve goals.

The Stars average an average of 2.79 goals per game, ranking 17th. However, starter Kari Lehtonen will miss this game due to a concussion. Tim Thomas will likely be between the pipes. Since being acquired from Florida, Thomas is 2-1-1 with a 3.01 goals against average and .892 save percentage. Overall, Thomas is 18-21-4, while allowing 2.90 goals per game and stopping 90.8% of shots.

Dallas’ power play percentage is 16% (22nd) but is a bit better on the road (18.8%). Seguin leads the attack with eight power play goals. Chiasson has five, while Benn and Shawn Horcoff have four each. Their penalty killing ranks 19th at 81.1%.

Saturday, March 22, 2014 vs. St. Louis Blues (46-14-7, 99 points, 1st Central) 1:00, CSN

St. Louis is 7-0-1 in March, including road wins in Colorado and Minnesota on back-to-back nights.

Despite the Blues reputation of being a defensive team, they are second in goals scored per game (3.21). They have four 20+ goal scorers, only one of two teams to have that many.

Alex Steen is tied for seventh in the NHL with 30 goals. The Blues have a trio of players with 21 goals: Jaden Schwartz, David Backes and Vladimir Tarasenko. Tarasenko will missSaturday’s game due to a hand injury, however.

American hero T.J. Oshie has 17 goals and leads the Blues with 54 points. Patrik Berglund has added 14 goals while veteran Brendan Morrow has ten. A few players are getting close to double digits as Derek Roy and Kevin Shattenkirk both have nine, while Alex Pietrangelo and Vladimir Sobotka have eight.

St. Louis also is very stingy defensively, as they only allow 2.21 goals per game (third). Ryan Miller is 6-0-1 with the Blues, and has only allowed three goals in one of those seven games. Between Buffalo and St. Louis, he has 21 wins, with a 2.57 goals against average and a .924 save percentage.

With a high powered offense, the Blues rank fifth in power play at 20.7%. Twelve different Blues have power play goals, including Backes (eight), Shattenkirk (six) and Oshie, Steen & Tarasenko (five each). St. Louis has the second overall penalty killing (86.3%) and is even better on the road (89.1%, first).

Weekly Expectations: 2 points

Since Nov. 18, Dan has been predicting Flyers points.

Realdeal: 59 points

Flyers: 60 points