Better With Popcorn

Weekly Flyers Preview: Mar. 31-Apr. 5

With eight games remaining, the Flyers look to solidify their playoff position.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014 @ St. Louis Blues (50-17-7, 107 points, 1st Central) 8:00, CSN/NBCSN

The Flyers beat St. Louis March 22 by a 4-1 score, giving Ryan Miller just his second regulation loss since joining the Blues. Since losing to the Flyers, the Blues have won three of four. Their home loss to Dallas on Saturday was their first regulation defeat in St. Louis since January 18.

St. Louis has the fourth ranked offense (3.14 goals per game), with five players scoring 20 or more goals. Alex Steen leads the club with 33, and is tied with T.J. Oshie (21 goals) for the team points lead (60). David Backes has 27 goals, while Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko  have 23 and 21 respectively.

Patrik Berglund (14) and Brendan Morrow (twelve) are also in double figures, giving the Blues scoring depth up and down their lineup.

Miller will likely be between the pipes once again for the Blues, who allow 2.23 goals per game (third). Overall this season, he is 24-25-4 with a 2.59 goals against average and a .921 save percentage. Since joining St. Louis, he is 9-3-1, while allowing 2.18 goals per game and has a .912 save percentage.

St. Louis has the fourth ranked power play, with Backes scoring ten power play goals. Steen has seven goals on the main advantage while Kevin Shattenkirk has six.  The Blues have a stellar penalty kill, ranking second (86.1%).

Thursday, April 3, 2014 vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (38-30-6, 82 points, 4th Metropolitan, 2nd Wild Card) 7:00, CSN

Columbus is clinging to playoff hopes, sitting in the second wild card position. They’ve been up and down since the Olympics, going 9-6-1, and haven’t won back-to-back games since a three game win streak from March 1 to 4.

The Jackets have the 14th ranked offense, averaging 2.74 goals per game. The offense is lead by third-year sensation Ryan Johansen, who has set a career high with 30 goals. Sniper Artem Anisimov has hit the 20 goal mark, while Cam Atkinson (19), Nick Foligno (18) and R.J. Umberger (18) are all right on the doorstep of the milestone. Brandon Dubinsky has scored 15 lumpy goals and Boone Jenner has contributed thirteen.

Like their offense, Columbus’ defense is ranked 14th as well (2.68 goals allowed per game). Sergei Bobrovsky will likely be making his first start in Philadelphia since the Flyers traded him. This season, “Bob” has won 27 games, while posting a 2.47 goals against average and saving 91.9% of shots faced.

Columbus holds the 17th overall ranked power play at 17.8%, but has only scored on 13.8% of road power plays. Umberger’s eight power play goals lead the team.  Like their power play, the Blue Jackets’ penalty kill struggles on the road as they only kill 77.9% of penalties (compared to 82.2% overall, 14th).

Saturday, April 5, 2014 @ Boston Bruins (52-17-6, 110 points, 1st Atlantic) 1:00, CSN/NHLN

The Bruins beat the Flyers Sunday in a shootout, 4-3. The Flyers put up a good fight against the defending Eastern Conference champions, but the Bruins won their 15th of 16 games.

Boston has the third ranked offense, averaging 3.17 goals per game. The Bruins come in waves and each line is as good as the last. The line of Jarome Iginla, Milan Lucic and David Krejci have combined for 67 goals this season, with Iginla hitting the 30 goal mark for the twelfth time in his career.

Patrice Bergeron (27 goals, 65 points) has established himself as one of the top two-way forwards in the league and has gotten some buzz about being a Hart candidate. Brad Marchand has scored 22 goals on his wing, while Reilly Smith has 19. Zdeno Chara continues to be a weapon from the blueline, scoring 15 goals this season.

Tuukka Rask has given the Bruins the number one ranked defense in the league. The Flyers peppered Rask 52 times Sunday, but were only to score three times. This season, Rask is 34-14-5 with a 2.02 goals against average and has saved 93.1% of shots faced.

The Bruins have the third ranked power play at 21%, lead by Chara’s ten power play goals. Torrey Krug has six, giving the Bruins multiple power play triggermen. Boston has the seventh ranked penalty kill at 84.3%.

Sunday, April 6, 2014 vs. Buffalo Sabres (20-45-9, 49 points, 8th Atlantic) 7:30, NBCSN

Buffalo has been a complete disaster this year, sitting in last place (by twelve points) in the entire league.

The Flyers and Sabres haven’t squared off since a 4-3 Flyers win on January 14.

Buffalo scores the least amount of goals in the league, averaging 1.84 goals per game. The Sabres only have three current players in double figures: Tyler Ennis (19), Cody Hodgson (17) and Drew Stafford (15). Tyler Myers is close with nine goals this season.

The Sabres allow 2.95 goals per game on average. With Ryan Miller traded and Jhonas Enroth and Michael Neuvirth injured, the Sabres’ goaltenders are Matt Hackett (1-2-1, 3.28, .908) and Nathan Lieuwen (0-2, .300, .901). Yikes.

Buffalo’s power play is 29th, scoring on 13.8% of power plays. Hodgson leads the club with seven and Ennis has five. Despite their struggles, the Sabres have a respectable 81.5% penalty killing, which ranks 19th.

Weekly Expectations: 5 points

Since November 18, Dan has predicted Flyers points.

Realdeal: 67 points

Flyers: 69 points