No Pushovers Here: Winnipeg Tests Flyers

No Pushovers Here: Winnipeg Tests Flyers
February 12, 2013, 11:31 am
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There was a time in recent NHL history when the Flyers
completely owned a little startup franchise known as the Atlanta Thrashers. In
their 11 seasons of existence, Philadelphia compiled a 30-7-3-3 record against
these Thrashers, once posting a 14-game winning streak in the process. We all
smiled and laughed, and times were good.

But since everybody except Gary Bettman knew hockey doesn’t
fly in Atlanta (the NHL is talking expansion again – third time’s the charm?),
the Thrashers are no more. They packed their bags and made for a real hockey
market – Winnipeg.

They didn’t take everything with them though. They left the
name Thrashers behind, and along with it, the Bullies’ dominance over their team.

The re-imagined Winnipeg Jets performed better than in all
but two of their seasons in Atlanta, finishing 37-35-10 and 84 points. More
relevant to Tuesday night, they ran up a 3-0-1 record over the Flyers in some
of the wildest hockey played anywhere in all of 2011-12.

Winnipeg won games by finals of 9-8, 6-4, and 2-1 via a
shootout, with Philly taking the final tilt 5-4 in overtime. Needless to say,
neither club’s goaltenders had very good numbers, although they all got plenty
of work.

Their recent competitiveness doesn’t look like a fluke,
either. The Jets are making an early bid to be in the postseason mix this year,
good for 11 points so far at 5-5-1. That’s just two points back of first place
in the Southeast Division, and has them very much in the picture for a wild
card berth.

It’s still early, but it would appear the days of taking
this franchise lightly are over.

Anyway, the Flyers have problems all their own right now,
specifically as it pertains to the road. Following last night’s 5-2 loss in
Toronto, the boys in Orange & Black are 1-6 away from the Wells Fargo
Center. To make matters worse, they had to make the two-hour flight to Winnipeg
for a back-to-back, while the Jets haven’t played since Saturday.

Their inability to score could be a problem tonight if last
season’s tilts with Winnipeg are any indication. Philadelphia is still in the
bottom-third in the NHL for scoring, ranked 22nd with 2.38 goals per game. And
while their power play has climbed to a more respectable 16.4% for the season,
the Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi points out they’ve converted just 7.1% of the time
on the road.

They’ll try to find a spark tonight by recalling Harry Zolnierczyk
to the roster. Harry Z has nine goals and eight assists in 46 games this season
for Adirondack, and had three goals and three assists in 37 games with the big
club last season. Jody Shelley was placed on injured reserved to make from for
Z, who is expected to replace Tom Sestito in the lineup.

The downside is Sean Couturier was sent home with the flu,
and Zolnierczyk is no substitute for that presence.

No word yet on who will be in net for the Flyers. Brian
Boucher, up for Michael Leighton who was placed on IR, appeared headed for his
first start – that was until Ilya Bryzgalov got the quick hook on Monday. Now Bryz
could be available, although his .850 save percentage and 3.33 goals against
averaged versus the Jets last season was nothing to write home about.

Al Montoya is in goal for the Jets. Despite spending the
previous two seasons with the New York Islanders, he’s only faced the Flyers
once, allowing four goals on 43 shots in an overtime loss. Montoya is 2-0 for
Winnipeg so far with a .899 SV% and 2.68 GAA

One thing about the Flyers this season is they have shown
some ability to bounce back from adversity. Whenever things start looking
bleak, they’ve picked themselves up and gone back to work. They could use some
of that tonight, if they’re not too tired and beat up to bring it.


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