Game Time: Noon CST
TV:/Radio: CSN, SportsNet, WGN-AM 720
Travis Hughes Sucks, He Never Settled The Bet: Broad Street Hockey
For some obtuse reason, the Hawks travel to the armpit of the East Coast for a matinee in South Philly this reason. Normally these nooners take place after the Super Bowl and on NBC, but for some reason this one is only on the local outlets in the States. And because it’s a prime weekend matchup, the Flyera will more than likely be wearing their god-awful gold-trimmed 50th anniversary sweaters. But hey, home whites are home whites.
For the Cold Ones, the ghosts of past instances of tripping over their own dicks have come back to haunt them in the first quarter of the season. Despite doing things the right way at forward and not throwing obscene amounts of money at name brand free agents and top trade targets, the Flyera have been undone by their goaltending despite building some enviable forward depth, or at least it was coming into the season. They’re currently missing Sean Coutourier with a sprained knee for another month, which results in a seismic shift in how Dave Hakstol can deploy his lines. Coutourier is basically Marcus Kruger with size and first round pedigree, and will certainly have many years as a Selke finalist in his future. He’s one of the premiere defensive centers in the league, at a notch just below the Bergerons and Kopitars of the world because he hasn’t put up equivalent offensive numbers yet. But although it feels like he’s been around forever, he still only turns 24 next week. That’s not to say the Flyers are bereft at center, as Claude Giroux is still producing at nearly a point-per pace, with 22 points in 25 games, and 12 points on the advantage. Running mate Jakub Voracek is living up to his contract this year (though it was no fault of his own last year after getting paid), and Wayne Simmonds has plowed face first in to 22 points as well, in a three-way tie for the team lead. And first round pick Travis Konecny has shown some promise at least in driving possession while putting up decent scoring numbers with 4 goals and 9 assists.
On the Flyera blue line, the discussion still begins and ends with Shayne Gostisbehre, who was healthy scratched a couple weeks ago for some strange reason, and caused Flyers twitter to collectively lose its shit for a good 24 hours. Ghost Bear is only slightly off-pace of his 46 point effort last year with 4 goals and 8 assists so far, and is the Flyers leader both among defensemen and all regular skaters with a 54.87 share of attempts at evens. He’s spent the most time bailing water for the lamentable Andrew MacDonald, who has a crisp 40.91 share away from Ghost. And while the rest of the blue line has a mostly respectable metrics line. there’s not a lot else here that figures to be in the plans long term. Michael Del Zotto is always hurt and is a Del Zaster in his own end, Mark Streit is 700 years old, and Radko Gudas is basically Roman Polak on krokodil. Rookie Ivan Provorov has done well, with a 52.5 share and 9 points, playing primarily with Gudas.
But, as usual, the ass end of the Flyers’ best laid plans has fallen out due to flatly shitty goaltending. What was a strength last year and allowed the Flyers to make an unexpected playoff push is now completely torpedoing their season. Steve Mason has dropped from a .918 overall to an .899 this year, going from a .935 to a .904 at evens. And there’s no shelter in turning to Michael Neuvirth, who has gone from a a .924 to an .859 overall. And this is Steve Mason’s UFA contract year on top of it. Of course, having said all this, Ma$e will probably pull a 37 save shutout out of his ass today.
As for the Men of Four Feathers, Jonathan Toews remains out despite having skated yesterday afternoon, but could very well be back in the lineup Sunday evening at home against the Jets. But fear not, as Trevor van Riemsdyk has been activated off of IR, and will play for the first time in a month on the road against a quick forward corps with solid possession numbers. At press time it’s unclear who will sit between Kempny, Forsling, or Rozsival, but none of them should be sitting in favor of TVR. The only hope is that this is a showcase for Teflon to hopefully get dealt somewhere, as it’s clear now he serves no real purpose being with this team at the pro level other than to hang around long enough for Vegas to pick him up in the summer. The hope is that LVGM George McPhee finds standing flat-footed at the side of the net reaching and bent over at the waist is a marketable skill, at least if the player isn’t going to punch Lorne Molleken in the face for him.
Corey Crawford figures to get the start on the road this afternoon on the front end of the back-to-back, as it’s always preferable to give Scott Darling the nod at home, especially if they could have a full compliment of forwards.
With both Coutourier and Toews out for today, it kind of eliminates one of the more entertaining aspects of these matchups, and also deprives obvservers of determining whether or not Toews is still fighting whatever has been ailing him and his back. But the Flyers still boast a very real top line with Giroux and Voracek, and Hakstol isn’t a moron and will try to keep them as far away from Kruger as possible on home ice. The key for the Hawks will be to put literally everything on net that they can, and pick their spots against the slower Gudas and MacDonald, and hope that Ghost chases to cover for his very, very challenged partner. Let’s Go Hawks.