Match-up – Philadelphia Flyers (3-5-1 )@ Carolina Hurricanes (2-3-1)
Road/Home records – 1-2-1 -------------------- 1-0-0
TV –TCN, FSCR
Puck drop - 8:00 PM ET
Season series - 1-0 Philadelphia; 6-3 in Philadelphia on October 22nd
Projected starting goalies –Mason/Neuvirth (PHI) –Unconfirmed v. Cam Ward (CAR) – Confirmed
Goals for/against per game:
Philadelphia:- 3.44(5th) and 3.89 (29th)
Carolina: 3.00 (T-11th) and 3.71 (28th)
Power play/Penalty Kill:
Philadelphia-27% (4th) and 74.2% (26th)
Carolina- 28% (3rd) and 87.5% (5th)
Why this game is huge for the Canes:
There will be tons of Super Hero costumes in the crowd as the Philadelphia Flyers come to visit the Canes on “Super Hero Night” at the PNC Arena on Sunday at 5:00 (EST). The Canes will be looking to build off of a solid home-opening performance in which fans saw them notch a pivotal 3-2 win against the Rangers. Tonight, the Canes are looking for redemption following a 6-3 loss in Philadelphia earlier this month—a win tonight would give them their first set of consecutive wins while sweeping their home-opening weekend.
While winning consecutive games at home may not seem significantly important, the Canes are really looking to re-build excitement and interest from within the community. The Canes haven’t made the playoffs since the 2008-09 season and lost in Conference Finals. Following that season, the Canes saw a few years of declining performances and it became evident that the years following those would be committed to a re-build. The Canes hired the right people, drafted solid talent and made relatively rational and positive trades for talented youth-however, the growth and excitement surrounding the community definitely began to dwindle some as the playoff drought grew longer and the team was finishing low in the standings. In fact, community support suffered so much that I recently had an ex-Cane season ticket holder say that, “he grew tired of seeing more opponent’s supporters in the stands most nights.” Canes fans have been left with a case of the “member berries” thinking about how great the glory years in the mid to late 2000’s were:
Last year, Caniacs were left disappointed but showed more interest than in recent seasons—in fact, it was the closest they’ve seen the Canes to making the playoffs in years. Given that the Canes started the season on a six-game road trip and took over two weeks to play their first home game, one can see how significant starting the year off with consecutive wins on their opening weekend is. A strong start at home would send a jolt of excitement to the community which would provide great momentum for a young Canes squad moving forward (especially with how the Carolina Panthers are doing this year…).
The Canes are looking to avenge their 6-3 loss to the Flyers from earlier this year in which they saw a 2-0 second period lead evaporate quickly. The Flyers exploded with a 4-goal second period as momentum swung dramatically in the Flyers favor. The Flyers first goal came on a play by Brandon Manning as he attacked the net, skated around a sprawled out Lack, went below the goal-line and finished it off as he tucked the puck back inside the post . Following that, the rest of the second period looked as though the Canes were adamant on ensuring that no-one with the puck beat them to the net and collapsed their system on Lack-I feel this was one of the major reasons the rest of the game went so poorly. Ultimately, the next 3 goals in the second period all came from point shot opportunities and the Flyers never relinquished the lead.
That evening, the Canes actually played a relatively sound game despite the scoreboard and scored 2 very pretty goals on tic-tac-toe plays. Lack’s performance wasn’t his best as he allowed a pair of goals low blocker and a pair through the five-hole that looked stoppable. The Canes left Philadelphia frustrated as they lost their third game in five performances after failing to maintain multi-goal leads and pull out a win.
One of the reasons that I think the Canes have a favorable matchup tonight is that they will be catching the Flyers with tired legs as they are on the second game over consecutive nights. In fact, this will be the Flyers third game in four days and they will be looking to break a two-game losing streak following a pair of 5-4 losses to Arizona and Pittsburgh (OTL). The Flyers offense didn’t disappoint as the scored plenty and also outshot the Penguins 42-27. Despite that advantage, the Flyers struggled defensively, most notable was Steve Mason—he got scorched for 3 goals in 55 seconds and was promptly pulled. The rest of the game was a back-and-forth scoring battle that saw Pittsburgh win in overtime. I imagine given the poor start by Mason the Flyers will turn to Neuvirth tonight.
Keys to the Game:
The Flyers struggles recently appear to be coming from within the crease as they allow just shy of four goals per game and are second to last in the league. What is even more concerning about that statistic for the Flyers is that they average only 28 shots against per game and are almost in the top five of the league for shots allowed. To further compound the goaltending woes is the fact that their penalty kill has started the season abysmal and is killing only 74% of opponents powerplay opportunities—however, while on the road their PK has only killed 60% of opportunities. Furthermore, it also doesn’t help that they are the tenth most penalized team in the NHL facing nearly 4 penalty kills a game.
Given the PK struggles from the Flyers, the Canes will need to use the speed they had against the Rangers to force the Flyers to take penalties. If the red-hot Canes PP unit (3rd in NHL) can get adequate time, they should be able to find the net 1-2 times. I would look to the 2nd PP line to get extra ice-time on any draws that are within the Flyers D-zone as Staal is winning 69.5% of his faceoffs and is second-best in the league currently for players with more than 10 draws. He has won 85.7% of his PP faceoff opportunities this year and the Flyers as a team only win 49.1%. Throughout the first game against the Flyers, Staal won an astounding 15 of 19 draws for 79%. He was also on the ice for 3 more minutes than any other Canes forward that evening—so I expect to see a lot of him if the Canes can get on the PP.
The Canes are riding the “hot goalie” as Cam Ward stopped 28 of 30 shots and was central on Friday nights 3-2 win over NYR. The decision came on Saturday and Head Coach Bill Peters stated, "If you win, you stay in right now.” The Canes are looking for one of their two goaltenders to step up and take the starting reigns—for Ward tonight would help as consistency the past few seasons have been a common question. On Friday, he made several timely saves and was critical during the first 10 minutes of the game as the Rangers held an astronomical shot advantage and peppered Ward early. If Ward started slow, the Canes would have found themselves in a much deeper hole earlier. Also positive is that both of the goals that he conceded were not on his shoulders—the first one saw his D man check a NYR player which led to him laying on top of Ward and preventing him any chance to stop the puck. Both goals came from Zuccarello who continues to scorch his way through the Canes statistically speaking averaging a point in 20 games against the Canes.
Despite Zuccarello having a strong evening, Jeff Skinner had his own pair of goals and also added an assist on the GWG. Skinner had missed a game due to a middle-body injury and was listed as a game time decision. It was the first time in his career that he was an Alternate Captain for the Canes and he did not disappoint at all. This year, he will only be wearing it for home games and Rask will adorn the “A.” Beyond Skinner, his entire line looked dangerous and created multiple scoring chances throughout the game. Rask looked equally as impressive too; both him and Skinner lead the team in points with 9 (4g, 5a). I would imagine that Coach Peters will do his best to get this line on the ice early and often. The Canes will need another strong performance from this line offensively if they want to beat the Flyers.
I would be surprised if we see many changes in the Canes lines which saw Nestrasil and Nakladal scratched. On Friday, all four lines appeared to be playing well together. Besides the top line playing very well, I thought that the second and third line showed glimpses of dangerous scoring abilities. I saw both lines create some very sound scoring chances, establish a solid forecheck resulting to turnovers and have some great passing. Both of those two lines will only continue to get stronger as these young guys get used to playing with each other—it would be great if they can keep building confidence and find the net once or twice at home before hitting the road again.
The topic of favorable matchups and last change was one that Coach Peters stressed and discussed regarding the Rangers game. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Coach Peters really try to hone in on favorable match-ups against the Flyers bottom-6 pairings. They have very little threat offensively—other than Read who has 5 goals, the remaining 5 guys have a combined 4 points. I don’t think the Flyers depth is as strong as some of the teams the Canes played previously—I imagine the Staal line will get a lot of matchups against either of the top 2 Flyers lines given his faceoff percentage—the goal will be to limit their possession by winning draws. Given this, I expect the 3rd or 4th line to be asked to step up to shut-down the remaining top-6 line so that the Canes first line can get opportunistic matchups against the Flyers 3rd and 4th line.
Ultimately, if the Canes can manage the Flyers top 2 lines and get the PP unit a few chances, I think they should see a favorable result. I expect that the fans will see plenty of offense throughout the evening—there shouldn’t be a shortage of goals and scoring chances. Go Canes!
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