Philadelphia Flyers (10-10-2; 4-3-2 away) vs. Florida Panthers (6-13-5; 3-4-3 home)
Location- Sunrise, FL
Arena- BB&T Center
Time: 07:30 PM EST
TV Channel(s)- FSFLP, CSN Philly
Radio- 97.5 the Fanatic
Starting Goalies- Steve Mason (PHI)- Tim Thomas (FLA)
The Flyers are back on the road again, folks. This time it’s brief, at least for now, and only for two games- both of which are in Florida. After tonight, they face off against Tampa, at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, two days from now on the eve of Thanksgiving. They’ll play a rare 11:30 AM game this Black Friday at home vs. Winnipeg, on a back-to-back game schedule, before traveling to play at Nashville on Saturday. The Fly Guys have been playing excellent, extremely competitive hockey as of late under new head coach, interim Craig Berube. They’ve won three straight and are undefeated in seven straight games, since November 9th. So far this year, Philadelphia has been a somewhat better road team, than home team, going 4-3-2 away from the Wells Fargo Center.
As for Florida, they’ve lost two straight (one was a shootout loss), and went 2-2-1 on their five-game road trip that they just wrapped up prior to tonight’s game. They’re 6-13-5 this year, and are currently in second to last place in the Atlantic Division standings, ahead of Buffalo.
Offensively this season, Florida ranks 25th in the league in goals (51), 21st in shots on goal (673), 27th in assists (83) and 27th in goals-per-game (2.13). They’re dead last in the NHL on the man-advantage, with a percentage of 9.3. They’re also very poor on the penalty kill as well: ranked 27th overall with a percentage of 77.1. This is why their record stands as it is. They’re poor in special-teams’ scenarios, they’re poor five-on-five and in the face off circle as well (ranked 24th; with a 48.1% face-off win percentage).
As for their goaltending and defense, the Panthers haven’t maintained a level of consistency there either. They rank 27th in save percentage, with 89.2%, and 26th in GAA with 3.10, with no shutouts thus far.
Tim Thomas gets the nod for them tonight. He’s had a poor season thus far, and as of late, he hasn’t been any better. His past three starts, he has a goals-against-average of 2.54 and a save percentage of .908. Going a little further, his past five games, he’s put up numbers of 2.34 and .914, respectively. He’s 2-2-1 in that time span.
On the flip side, the Flyers went from a hot mess to hot, in the span of a couple weeks. They’re 7-1-2 in their last 10 games, undefeated in their last seven games, and back to the .500 mark for the first time all season long. After head coach Peter Laviolette was fired on October 7th, following an unacceptable 0-3 start to the season, things have slowly turned around. Craig Berube came in as interim head coach (a role I foresee him continuing for more than just this season) and has done a spectacular job. It took the team a few games to get acclimated to the latter’s system of play as coach, but the forechecking, backchecking, and all around effort(s) have improved mightily.
And most importantly, the confidence for the team is back in there, finally restored after a rusty, tough start, and a shakeup behind the bench.
Right-winger Matt Read is playing the best hockey of his career. He has four goals in the past two games, and five points in the past three contests. His minutes have gone up, and he’s doing the little things right, offensively, for the team.
The team’s best line combination, at least as of recent, has been surprisingly the checking line, which consists of Read, Sean Couturier and newcomer (in his second tenure with the team) Steve Downie. Couturier, as he has been the past several years, has been the shutdown defensive offense-man, with defensive skill sets almost perfect for the Selke Trophy. Couturier has improved on face-offs, can backcheck, block shots and skate well, and he’s not even 200 pounds. Read provides the offense for that line, Couturier provides, for the most part, the strong defense, while Downie has been an excellent acquisition (from Colorado). Downie can not only provide the team with a strong physical game, and forecheck, but he’s a very solid passer. He found Matt Read perfectly aligned in the slot, and with a perfect saucer pass from behind the net, earned an assist in the last game vs. the Islanders.
Claude Giroux has picked up his game as of late as well, after a rough output early on. He was putting too much pressure on himself to perform, after earning C stripes last January, but a text from former teammate (and captain) Mike Richards helped him calm down a little bit and focus solely on playing, which he’s done. He had four points this past week, in three games, and in the past six games he has seven points (2 goals, 5 assists), a +5 rating, and 22 shots on goal.
Jake Voracek has been strong as of late as well, among many others for the team.
Line mate Scott Hartnell hasn’t been as strong lately on or off the puck. He hasn’t been as persistent, and has focused almost too much of his time on being physical, rather than being productive as well. Hopefully Giroux can give him a boost tonight, and Hartnell can play smart and effective vs. a weak team in Florida.
On defense, since the move at coach, 1st-pairing defenseman Braydon Coburn has improved his game a lot more, especially within the Pittsburgh game a couple weeks ago. He’s been very solid off the puck, with strong backchecking, skating 1-on-1 with the opposing skater in Flyers’ territory, and playing with a sense of physicality as well. He’s limited his turnovers, which has been a frequent problem for him (and a few other defenseman on the team as well), and used his size to his advantage. If he can use his size and stick speed on the power play or penalty kill vs. Florida, he could be an asset for the team in the game.
He doesn’t block as many shots as Nick Grossman does, or hit the opposition as much as Luke Schenn does, but he’s been a strong off-the-puck defenseman, defensively this season, which is huge for the team.
Overall, the past few games, the team has been 3-for-14 on the man advantage (21.4%), a strong output, even though they’ve been lacking on the penalty kill, as the opposition’s gone 3-14 on the man-advantage as well. If Philadelphia can sustain the pressure on the PK, it’ll better their chances of winning, especially considering how inadequate Florida’s been this year on the power play.
Offensively this season for Florida, Tomas Fleischmann leads the team in scoring, with 12 points in 23 games (3 goals, 9 assists), and shots on goal as well. Offensive defenseman Brian Campbell also has 12 points, while former Flyer Scottie Upshall is third with 11 points. Defenseman Erik Gudbranson leads the team in both hits (59) and penalty minutes (51), while Marcel Goc leads in face-offs win and face-off percentage, with 228, and 54%, respectively.
Steve Mason is in net again for the Flyers. He’s 7-7-2 this season this year with an outstanding GAA of 2.11 and an excellent save percentage to boot of .933. This season, against Florida, he’s 1-0, and saved 33 of 34 shots in the team’s only meeting thus far. In his career, he’s been outstanding vs. Florida. He’s 5-0 with a 1.17 GAA and a save percentage of .960.
-Tonight marks the second of three meetings this year between the two teams. On October 8th, Philadelphia won 2-1 at home. They don’t play again this season until April 8th at Florida.
-Adam Hall has won 64% of his face-offs this season
-The Flyers are 18-8-1 all-time in Florida
|43||Marc-Andre Bourdon||Sep 11||Injured Reserve||Post-concussion syndrome|
|20||Chris Pronger||Sep 11||Injured Reserve||Post-concussion syndrome|
Healthy Scratches- Hal Gill, Andrej Meszaros, Michael Raffl
|55||Ed Jovanovski||Sep 30||Injured Reserve||Hip|
|43||Mike Weaver||Nov 16||Injured Reserve||Illness|
Healthy Scratches- Tomas Kopecky, Mike Weaver, Jesse Winchester
Keys to The Game:
01. Win the special teams war
02. Take advantage of Thomas’ rebounds
03. Don’t take Florida lightly
01. Force turnovers, and win the turnover battle
02. Apply as much pressure as possible on the PP
03. Control the rebounds and screens in front of the net
Player of the Game Predictions
-Matt Read- Philadelphia
Philadelphia wins, 4-1