The Philadelphia Flyers will be trying to take advantage of a Detroit team who is down, and make their play to move into a playoff position. Tomorrow night they will have an excellent chance to close in on teams they have to catch for a play off spot to open.
There is a possibility that the Flyers can get to within a point of the Detroit Red Wings for the wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. All they have to do is continue their home dominance of the Red Wings on Tuesday night. Despite having their three-game winning streak stopped on Saturday with a 5-4 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers, they are still owners of a 6-1-1 winning stretch. And to add more spice to this match up, the Flyers are the first team right behind Detroit.
Until now, the Flyers’ closest opponents in the standings, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings have been playing well. And the Flyers were looking at the possibility of losing a lot of ground in the playoff race despite their recent good record. It seems like a tough break for a team that’s going to need every single point it can get if they want to sneak into the playoffs.
Luck was on their side last night, as the Flyers got some help from a really unlikely source: The Toronto Maple Leafs. The team dead last in the league in fact, who is a full six points behind the NHL’s 29th-ranked team in the standings. They rolled into Joe Louis Arena in Detroit on a Sunday night and took out the Red Wings 1-0. They didn’t allow them a goal and frustrated a team that has gone to the playoffs 24 seasons in a row. That record is in serious threat now. Those were two points that Detroit was expecting to get, and that they missed out on them is great news for the Flyers’ post-season hopes.
“We have to have an all-around team effort, and the guys are playing good hockey,” said Flyer goalie Steve Mason, who despite yielding four goals on Saturday, is 3-0-1 with a 1.72 goals-against average in four starts this month.
The Flyers are 32-23-12 and can use Detroit’s loss to their advantage and keep making up ground in two upcoming games. In the game against Detroit Tuesday night and in Saturday’s game against the wild-card leader the Pittsburgh Penguins, whom they trail by four points.
Philadelphia has scored 22 goals during their 5-1-1 home stretch at the Wells Fargo Center. And if you look at the head to head match up at home, they’ve outscored the Red Wings 44-17 in a 10-game winning streak. In this season’s meeting, the only one so far, on Jan. 17, Claude Giroux had the tying goal and scored in the shootout of a 2-1 victory in Detroit who has a 34-24-11 record. Giroux has been hot versus Detroit, with five goals and nine assists in an eight-game point streak against the Red Wings. Wayne Simmonds also recorded five points in his last three match ups with Detroit.
The Red Wings on the other hand, have dropped two straight games on the road, and in their last 10 games they’ve gone 2-6-2. Detroit’s inconsistency was clear when they lost to Toronto and failed to win a third straight game.
“Every game this time of year, especially for us with how close the standings, are is a huge game,” said Detroit defenseman Danny DeKeyser. “It’s tough when you don’t come away with points.” Goalie Petr Mrazek stopped 26 shots and initially made the save on Leafs’ Michael Grabner’s attempt in the second period but the puck somehow slid into the net anyways.
“Every game is extremely important, so now we got to put our sights on Tuesday and say ‘How are we going to win the game on Tuesday?” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “That’s what I’m thinking about. I’m not thinking about anything else.
“We’ll look at (Sunday’s) game and learn from this game but now we got to put our sights and say how are we going to win on Tuesday?”
They’ll face a big test versus Philadelphia who’s gone 8 for 32 (25 percent) on the power play in eight games. The Red Wings have been able to kill off eight of nine penalties in the past three games after their previous three opponents went 6 for 11 with the man advantage. So Detroit will have to have an effective special teams play.
Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk has only managed one goal and two assists in his last 10 games. But when he faces the Flyers he has seven goals and five assists during an eight-game point streak against them. He took a hit to the face against Toronto which bloodied his face and seemed like a metaphor for the lost game itself.
Mrazek has gone 2-1-0 with a 1.67 goals-against average in his last three starts. He made 30 saves against Philadelphia in January so he will probably start in net, but he will have to be sharp and make sure very few pucks get past him if they want to win, as Sunday night even one was too much. We think though that their skid is just beginning.
Our Pick: Flyers over Red Wings, 3-1