February 23 – Day 131 – Philadelphia Flyers at Carolina Canes: A lesson on alliteration

A whopping nine goals were scored in yesterday’s Game of the Day, and the San Jose Sharks scored two-thirds of them to beat the St. Louis Blues 6-3.

Second Star of the Game Tomas Hertl was responsible for the first tally of the evening, assisted by Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski (his 29th helper of the season) at the 4:44 mark.  5:34 later, Hertl scored again on Ryan Reaves’ five-minute major, assisted by Joonas Donskoi (his 17th helper of the season) and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.  The score extended to 3-0 with a tip-in power play goal from First Star Logan Couture, who was assisted by Thornton (his 41st helper of the season) and Brent Burns.  The Blues got one back with 2:24 remaining in the period when David Backes scored a power play goal of his own, assisted by Jaden Schwartz and Third Star Vladimir Tarasenko, for his 15th tally of the season.  The 3-1 score held to the intermission.

11:25 after resuming play, Tarasenko scored his 29th tally of the season to get St. Louis within a goal, assisted by Kevin Shattenkirk and Jori Lehtera.  That energy was short-lived though, as Couture scored his second of the night only 20 seconds later, assisted by Melker Karlsson and Vlasic (his 27th helper of the season), which ended up being the game winner.  The 4-2 score held into the third period.

Thornton extended the differential back to three goals with an unassisted backhander at the 7:26 mark, his 13th tally of the season.  2:24 later, Jay Bouwmeester’s slap shot found the back of the net after being assisted by Tarasenko (his 25th helper of the season) and Lehtera.  The final goal of the game was en empty netter compliments of a Thornton backhander, assisted by Couture, to set the score at the 6-3 final.

Martin Jones earns the win after saving 25 of 28 (89.3%), while Jake Allen takes the loss after saving 15 of 17 (88.2%) in his first action since being on the Injured Reserve for nearly two months.  He replaced starter Brian Elliott (12 for 15, 80%) after 12:59 of play, who sustained a lower-body injury after the Sharks‘ third goal severe enough to send him to the dressing room.

After tonight’s game, the DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 58-31-12, favoring the home squads by 31 points over the roadies.

It’s a busy Tuesday schedule in the greatest hockey league in the world, with nine games taking place.  The action gets started at the usual 7 p.m. eastern starting time with two contests (the New York Rangers at New Jersey and Philadelphia at Carolina), followed half an hour later by three more (Nashville at Toronto, Columbus at Detroit [NBCSN] and Arizona at Tampa Bay).  The next phase of games drop the puck at 8 p.m. eastern (the New York Islanders at Minnesota and Dallas at Winnipeg), with Ottawa at Edmonton trailing an hour behind.  Finally, Calgary at Los Angeles, this evening’s nightcap, drops the puck at 10:30 p.m. eastern.

Four of tonight’s games are divisional matchups (New York at New Jersey, Philadelphia at Carolina, Dallas at Winnipeg and Calgary at Los Angeles), and none feature two teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.

The game I’m most interested in actually features no teams currently qualifying for the playoffs, but two teams with postseason aspirations.

Philadelphia Flyers LogoCarolina Hurricanes Logo

 

This will be Philadelphia‘s third time featured in the Game of the Day series, and their first appearance since October 21, a 5-4 overtime win in Boston.  The Flyers also won their first appearance, so they own a perfect 2-0-0 record in our series.  Carolina has been featured three times before this evening, and own a 0-1-2 record in such games.  Their most recent was a 2-1 shootout loss in Montréal on February 7.

The 26-21-11 Philadelphia Flyers currently occupy seventh place in the Metropolitan Division and 11th in the Eastern Conference.  They’ve played the 15th-worst defense in the league and, to make matters worse, have scored the fifth-fewest goals.

Even with Nick Schultz’ team-leading 119 blocks, the Flyers have allowed a whopping 1844 shots to reach 13-15-7 Steve Mason and. co., of which a solid 92.1% have been saved for 158 goals against, 15th-most in the league.  Philadelphia has done well at even-strength, but rank seventh-worst in the league on the penalty kill, where they’ve neutralized only 78.82% of their penalties for 43 extra-man goals against.

The offense ranks even worse, although it isn’t for a lack of effort.  Led by Jakub Voracek’s 171 shots, the Flyers have fired the puck 1751 times, but only 8.1% have found the back of the net for 144 goals (led by Wayne Simmonds’ 21 tallies), fifth-fewest in the league.  In comparison, Philadelphia has been moderately successful on the power play, as they’ve connected on 18.23% of their extra-man opportunities for 35 power play goals (led by Simmonds’ 10 power play goals), 13th-worst in the league.

Philadelphia‘s last game was a 5-4 overtime victory in Toronto on Saturday.  A win tonight in Raleigh will propel the Flyers past the Canes in the standings and, if paired with a New Jersey loss, would position them as first-team-out for the Eastern Conference playoffs.  Should they lose and Ottawa win, they would fall back to 12th in the conference.

The 27-23-10 Carolina Hurricanes enter the night sitting in sixth in the Metropolitan Division and 10th in the Eastern Conference.  Similar to Philadelphia, they play a slightly below-average defense paired with a lackluster offense.

Thanks in part to Ron Hainsey’s 93 blocks, the Canes have allowed only 1578 shots to reach 17-12-7 Cam Ward and co., of which 90.5% have found the back of the net for 160 goals against, 14th most in the league.  Although the defense as a whole has not played as well, they certainly clamp down on the penalty kill, where they rank 12th-best, killing 81.88% of opposing penalty kill for only 27 extra-man goals against.

Led by Jeff Skinner’s 171 shots, Carolina has fired the puck 1819 times, of which 8.1% have found the back of the net for 148 goals (led by Skinner’s 21 tallies), seventh-fewest in the league.  Too bad for Carolina, this special team has not been as effective, as they only connect on 17.49% of extra-man opportunities for 32 power play goals (led by Justin Faulk’s 12 extra-man tallies).

Carolina‘s last game was a 4-2 loss to the Lightning on Sunday.   Should the Hurricanes win this evening, they could move ahead of New Jersey for ninth in the Eastern Conference if they fall to the Rangers.  Should Carolina lose, they would swap spots with the Flyers regardless of Ottawa‘s result.

Philadelphia may lead the season series 3-0-0, but it hasn’t been anywhere near as dominant as that record would imply.  The Canes have taken the Flyers to overtime in all three of those games, with their most recent meeting ending 4-3 in Philly on December 15.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Carolina‘s Jordan Staal (38 points, of which 23 are assists [17 of those were at even-strength and two short-handed], 114 hits and a +9 [all lead the team]) and Philadelphia‘s Michal Neuvirth (.93 save percentage [tied for league lead] and 2.17 GAA [tied for sixth-best in the league]).

These teams are very evenly matched for each other, made evident by their previous meetings.  Given Philadelphia‘s ability to get the winner against the Canes in the past, I think I’m leaning towards the Flyers, but wouldn’t be surprised if the game required more than 60 minutes of play.

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