Sabre Noise readers, you have entered hostile territory.
Well, not when it comes to you and me: we’re still the best of friends, don’t you worry! But in order to get our readers as prepared for Buffalo Sabres game days as we can, we here at Sabre Noise will be going behind enemy lines before every game to give you an in-depth look at the Sabres’ current opponent.
So beware: I’m about to think like a Flyers’ fan. [shudder] Scary!
Tonight’s Opponent: The Philadelphia Flyers
Record: 23-19-4, 50 pts.
Standings: Seventh in Eastern Conference
Current Streak: Lost two
The Philadelphia Flyers are a team on the rise. This team started the season 1-7, and saw its head coach, Peter Laviolette, canned just three games into the season. (Harsh, right? At least the Sabres waited until November). Since then, the Flyers have gone 22-12-4 and have clawed their way into the thick of the playoff hunt. Granted, this is a team that many people had picked to finish within the top three of the Metropolitan Division, so the fact that the Flyers are playing well in January is no surprise. Still, any time you bury yourself that deep in the division right out of the gate, it takes a pretty extraordinary effort to climb out of it.
So how have the Flyers fought their way back into the thick of things?
For starters, their goaltending has not been as bad as I would have predicted. I laughed during the offseason when the Flyers decided to pick up Ray Emery instead of trying to make a trade for Ryan Miller, giving Philadelphia the less-than-intimidating 1-2 punch of Emery and Steve Mason. There’s no doubt that the Flyers would be even better if they had Miller manning the pipes – but all in all, I don’t think the Flyers have much to complain about, as they are only giving up 2.74 goals per game – right below Buffalo’s 2.7. Mason’s 2.46 GAA isn’t top 30 material – but it’s close enough (34th) for me to say that Philadelphia’s goalie situation is good enough to keep them in most games.
More than anything, though, the Flyers have been able to go on a tear because of their offense. A quick look at their team stats will show you that they have seven players who have scored 20+ points on the season thus far, with Claude Giroux leading the way with 41. More importantly, the Flyers have erased third-quarter deficits and escaped with a win six times so far this season. How is this possible? Check it out, yo: the Flyers have scored 45 third-period goals this season, fifth most in the NHL. Panic, they do not. Of course, relying on late-game surges can cost you, as it did Sunday, when the Flyers got buried early by the Rangers in a 4-1 loss. Still, you cannot count this team out, so Buffalo should try to strike quickly (impossible, I know!) and hold on for dear life in the third.
A few interesting tidbits:
- The Flyers are 11-11-4 on the road
- Despite their winning record, the Flyers still hold a -8 goal differential this season.
- Scott Hartnell enters tonight’s game with 4 goals and 10 points in his last 11 games and has not gone two straight games without notching in his last 13 games (he did not score a point Sunday against the Rangers)