March 16 – Day 153 – Fly off to Chicago

In yesterday’s Game of the Day, Philadelphia used a quick two goals in the first seven minutes of play to propel them to a 4-3 victory over the visiting Red Wings.

The Flyers‘ first tally found the back of the net at the 5:41 mark, scored on a First Star of the Game Michael Raffl backhander after assists from Mark Streit (his 14th helper of the season) and Nick Schultz.  Only 1:14 later, a Wayne Simmonds wrister crossed the goal line, assisted by Brayden Schenn and Claude Giroux (his 40th helper of the season).  The two goal shutout lead held into the first intermission.

Detroit got one back only 2:14 into the second period when Andreas Athanasiou’s wrister squeezed past Steve Mason, assisted by Riley Sheahan and Gustav Nyquist (his 22nd helper of the season), but the Flyers returned their lead back to two scores with Raffl’s second of the night (12th tally of the season), assisted this time by Second Star Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Chris VandeVelde.  Scoring subsided until the 14:21 mark when Third Star Pavel Datsyuk earned Detroit‘s second goal, assisted by Tomas Tatar (his 22nd helper of the season), but once again Philadelphia had an answer, as Shayne Gostisbehere scored his 16th goal of the season, the eventual game winner, with 1:06 remaining in the frame to set the score at 4-2 going into the intermission.

The lone goal of the third was scored by Tatar with 3:46 remaining in regulation, assisted by Datsyuk (his 26th helper of the season) and Mike Green, but they were unable to level the game.  With that win, Philadelphia pulls within a point of Detroit for the second wildcard spot with two games in hand.

Mason earns the win after saving 34 of 37 shots faced (91.9%), while Petr Mrazek takes the loss, saving 42 of 46 (91.3%).

With the second straight home victory, the DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 68-39-16, favoring the home squads by 30 points over the roadies.

Usually Wednesdays have only two or three games – not tonight! There’s six games taking place this evening, starting with Montréal at Buffalo at 7 p.m. eastern, followed an hour later by Philadelphia at Chicago on NBCSN.  St. Louis at Edmonton is the next game to drop the puck at 9:30 p.m. eastern, and two more follow half an hour later (Colorado at Vancouver and Winnipeg at Calgary).  Finally, the New York Rangers visit Anaheim at 10:30 p.m. eastern as this evening’s nightcap.

Montréal at Buffalo is the only divisional game being played this evening, and New York at Anaheim is the only contest between teams current playoff qualifiers.

I know we just watched them last night, but the game we’re most interested in here at the home office is the PhiladelphiaChicago matchup, as a surging Flyers teams catches the Blackhawks at arguably their worst play all season.  And it’s nationally broadcasted, which is always a plus!  To the Windy City we go!

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Tonight’s game is Philadelphia‘s fifth in the Game of the Day series where, after last night’s contest, they have a 3-1-0 record.  Chicago has been featured a league-high 20 times before tonight’s game, and own a 10-8-2 record in such games.  Their most recent was their 5-2 loss in Dallas on March 11.

The 33-23-12 Philadelphia Flyers currently occupy fifth place in the Metropolitan Division and ninth in the Eastern Conference, making them the first team left out of the Eastern playoff bracket.  To get to that position, they’ve played the 15th best defense, but its been backed by the ninth worst offense.  A more in-depth analysis can be found within yesterday’s article.

Yesterday’s win is the main reason Philadelphia is being featured again today, as simply forcing overtime tonight propels the Flyers past the Red Wings for the second wildcard position.

The 41-23-6 Chicago Blackhawks currently occupy third place in the Central Division and fourth in the Western Conference.  They’ve certainly earned that position, as they’ve played the seventh best defense paired with the eighth best offense.  A more in-depth analysis of the Hawks‘ game can be found within Friday’s article.

Chicago is currently riding a three game losing skid, with their most recent being their five goal shutout loss on home ice to the Kings.  During this span, the Hawks have lost their conference lead and are now only five points removed from the first wildcard spot.

Chicago already visited Philadelphia this season, but it wasn’t exactly a fun affair, as the Flyers won with a three goal shutout.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Chicago‘s Patrick Kane (89 points [leads the league], 51 assists [second most in the league] and 38 goals [second most in the league]) and Philadelphia‘s Michal Neuvirth (.925 save percentage [fifth best in the league]) should he play.

It is hard to tell how this game will go.  Philadelphia is playing the best they’ve played all season, and the Hawks are riding one of their longest losing skids all season.  Overall, Chicago is certainly the better team, but I don’t know if tonight is the night they get headed back in the right direction.

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