Game Time: 7:00PM Central
TV/Radio: NBCSN, TVA (Francophone), WGN-AM 720
Where The Hell Are Our Cheesesteaks?: Broad St. Hockey
It has been nearly five years. Five years we have waited on Travis Hughes to make good on the bet from the 2010 Final between our former home at SBN and the above Broad Street; the loser of the series to send the other their city’s respective beef related delicacy. Travis now runs SB Nation’s entire hockey wing. He didn’t like it when in the months after we sent our commenters his direction to wonder why he hasn’t made good on the bet. He may think we have forgotten. We haven’t. Not even close.
Moving on to matters on the ice, the Flyers find themselves currently mathematically still alive in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, but only by the slimmest of margins, mere decimal points above zero. Any combination of 5 points left on the table by the Flyers or gained by the teams ahead of them will be the official death knell, but in trading away Braydon Coburn and Kimmo Timonen at the deadline, the white flag was raised a month ago. Which will surely lead Ed Snider to learn the correct lessons this time around regarding not overspending in free agency and not hiring yet another Flyers organizational lifer to run either his personnel or behind the bench.
Craig Berube doesn’t have the guns past his top line and the defense is still in shambles in the Chris Pronger LTIR In Perpituity Era, but he still has them playing “Flyers Hockey”, running around trying to intimidate. That’s led to controlling less than 50% of shot attempts as a team all season at even strength, and when the goalies are Steve Mason and Ray M. Murray, that’s simply asking for trouble even in the mediocre Metropolitan. However Mason has actually been excellent this year, with a .925 save percentage overall, and .935 at evens, but even he can’t stem the tide with the chances the Flyers give up, particularly when the forward corps is so top heavy.
Both Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux are top 10 in the league in scoring with 73 and 67 points respectively, and Wayne Simmonds is a pure menace below the dots and in front of the net and will likely eclipse his career high of 29 goals sitting on 27 currently with 8 games left to play. Brayden Schenn has not taken the next step of becoming a true threat slotted behind Giroux as the number 2 center, and Sean Coutourier seems to have maxed out offensively even if he’s still a defensive nightmare. Vincent Lecavalier finds himself a healthy scratch more often than not. The rest of the group is rounded out by dingbats like Ryan White, Zac Rinaldo who have no use for the puck.
With Kimmo and Coburn gone, the rest of the Flyers blue line is a clown car. Andrew MacDonald makes a sinful amount of money to do this. Michael Del Zotto is on his third team in 2 seasons because of his adventures in his own end. Nicklas Grossman is alright as a stay at home guy, but he’s overmatched against anything other than bums. Nick Schultz consistently takes on the opposition’s top lines. It’s all truly a sight to behold.
As for our Men of Four Feathers, the schedule was not kind to them last night with both St. Louis and Nashville winning in OT, so it now becomes time to make the games they have on both to count before the schedule ramps up. Word out of practice was that Andrew Shaw would be moved up to Jonathan Toews’ right tonight, much to the agita of everyone. Toews himself along with other reporters seem to be as baffled by this as everyone else is, so there’s some consolation in that. Not only is Quenneville breaking up arguably his most consistently effective line of Shaw, Kruger, and Nordstrom, but he’s also supplanting Teuvo. Where he fits in the lines now is anyone’s guess, as absolutely undressing an Olympian in Justin Faulk just isn’t enough.
There has been no word of any changes in the Hawks’ defensive pairings, and one would have to imagine that there would be a nice tribute for Kimmo Timonen at some point today after spending a better part of a decade in Philly as the Flyers’ most reliable defenseman. It stands to reason he’d be pretty amped up for the game himself, and with his play finally starting to come into form over the last couple of games, look for him to push himself even more.
The Flyers have nothing to play for but aren’t tanking, so they’ll be looking to take the piss out of the Hawks tonight by any means necessary. That means Toews will get an ass full of Coutourier with Berube having last change, and Rinaldo et al trying to goad the Hawks into retaliatory bullshit. Staying out of the box will be important because Voracek, Giroux, Simmonds, and Mark Streit comprise the league’s fourth most potent power play. But the most important thing is that the Hawks look how they’re supposed to, and that’s with back pressuring forwards allowing the defense to stand up attackers at their own blue line and not allowing easy entry and sustained pressure that have led to Corey Crawford to have to turn into an alchemist in the crease. Mason is in a groove so it will take a significant amount of shots on net to provide the offensive cushion needed, and if the Hawks play the right way finding those attempts should not be an issue against this defense. But it shouldn’t have been an issue against the Oilers, Stars, and Hurricanes either. Tighten it the fuck up and take care of business. Let’s go Hawks.