The Time: 1:00 PM EST
The Broadcast: TV: MSG+ (HD); Radio - 660 AM WFAN
The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (7-14-2) vs. the Philadelphia Flyers (15-6-3)
The Last Devils Game: The New Jersey Devils came out flat, got run over by the New York Islanders, and managed to not only lose to a team that lost 14 straight going into Friday's game but got shut out by them. The Devils lost 2-0 and quite frankly, no Devils supporter should be happy about it.
The Last Flyers Game: The Philadelphia Flyers went up against the Calgary Flames and took them beyond regulation. Alas, the Flyers did have a goal called back in OT and they went on to lose in the shootout, making it a 3-2 loss. Travis Hughes at Broad Street Hockey says the team should be lucky they got a point out of the day in his recap.
The Goal: I feel like it's Sunday night all over again, writing up the preview for the Washington game. Who knew that confidence from a 5-0 win could be dashed so quickly? Anyway, I hate the Philadelphia Flyers. Make no mistake. As much as I would love to see the whiny pylons be put in their place, I can't get my hopes up. They are an excellent team from top to bottom and they are - get this - playing to their potential. Ergo, the goal for the Devils is once again: just don't get embarrassed. Don't come out flat, don't play like it's for the first time, and don't do stupid things - be it giving pucks away in the defensive zone or being down 2-0 in a game and starting the next period by putting a slumping Ilya Kovalchuk with a useful-but-not-productive Dainius Zubrus and a definitely-not-productive Adam Mair.
I have a few more thoughts about today's game after the jump. For the Flyers take, please visit Broad Street Hockey.
I'm going to start with some team stats for the opponents, all from NHL.com. The Flyers will put up quite a lot of shots. They have put up an average of 32.9 shots per game this season, among league leaders. The Flyers are not sieves on defense. The team has only allowed an average of 28.8 shots per game, another top 10 placing in a team stat. The Flyers haven't allowed many goals; as Sergei Bobrovsky and Brian Boucher have combined to allow an average of 2.42 goals per game - also a top 5 placing among the league in that stat. The Flyers' PK is also solid, having successfully killed 83.8% of power plays against this season which also ranks among top 10 in that category.
Lastly and most importantly, the Flyers will score goals. They are averaging 3.54 goals per game, which is among league leaders and higher than the Washington Capitals. Yes, those same Capitals. Want a more advanced stat? It's a little dated, but JLikens at Objective NHL found the Flyers to be among the better teams in the NHL when it comes to Corsi ratio when the game is close. This suggests that they tend to control possession when it's close, that possession turns into shots, and those shots have become piles of goals. Ergo, their superior record.
As far as individuals go, Frank Seravalli at Philly.com has a pithy explanation on who have been the important figures on this Flyers team in this list. Many of the team's top forwards are loaded with numbers. Claude Giroux is the hot one - shooting at a ridiculous 21.3% - with 12 goals and 11 assists. Jeff Carter and Danny Briere each have 11 tallies. Their captain Mike Richards has 9 goals to go with 16 assists, which makes him the team leader in points. The Devils can't afford to just focus on these four. Not when Andreas Nodl has an even more ridiculous shooting percentage at 31.6% and 6 goals; Scott Hartnell has 6 goals and 10 assists while throwing pain bombs and taking penalties (66 PIM); and Nikolai Zherdev has 8 goals already. Then there's the defense, still led by
Captain Elbows Chris Pronger, who has put up 3 goals and 9 assists from the blueline.
The best way to quiet such a potent attack? Dominate possession of the puck so the Flyers don't have it, pin them back with shots, and hope a few go past Bobrovsky or Boucher. Given that the Devils have struggled to just move the puck forward against Calgary on Wednesday and against the Islanders last night before the third period, I can't say I'm hopeful that the Devils can do that. For most of the season, New Jersey has really only done that when behind by two goals in the third period.
My lack of hope is exacerbated by the reaction of John MacLean to Friday's game. According to Tom Gulitti at Fire & Ice, MacLean wasn't happy with the loss, he was upset. That's fine. That's understandable. That's reasonable. But I'm left dumbstruck again. The first period wasn't enough to make him upset, so that's why the team continued to flounder? The lack of response after the second goal against wasn't enough to express himself? Is that why he was so calm, perhaps staring off into space, as the game went on? You say there's a concern with the record, yet you continue to stand about and make bizarre decisions by continuing to play an offensively inept fourth line when you need a score? Or telling the media that you want Kovalchuk to shoot more and then continue put him with people who force him to be the sole threat on the line - making it easier for the opposition?
Don't get upset, MacLean, get to work. Whatever it is you've been doing clearly isn't working.
But don't misunderstand me. A lot of the issues are on the players themselves and it's not going to be resolved in a meeting. Talk to each other. Don't force difficult passes or attempt shots through players just because you feel you need to do something. Play simple, smart hockey - review the tape from Monday's game if necessary.
Should the performances of Wednesday night and Friday afternoon continue, the Flyers will absolutely slaughter the Devils. I don't like saying that. I sincerely want to be wrong. I'm going to be at the Rock, sitting in Section 1, Row 16, Seat 5, and I want to see a win. But given that the Flyers are coming off a tough, close loss, they are offensively potent and defensively sound, and this is a rivalry game, they have every incentive to destroy the Devils, who have been playing like a hot mess in their last two games. Things really could get ugly on the scoreboard in Newark.
Aside: I'm not guessing the lineup for today's game as there isn't any new information on what will happen tomorrow. I suspect Matthew Corrente may not be available since he didn't play on Friday, who knows who will start in net (if it's Mike McKenna, I'd be even less hopeful for today), and who knows what convoluted line combinations MacLean will come up with.
The Gamethread will be up later, closer to game time. In the meantime, please feel free to discuss today's game in the comments. If you want to post any news updates, then please do so in the comments with a link to the source. Last and not at all least, thank you for reading. Let's go Devils.