Flyers-Ducks: 5 things you need to know

ducksflyers.png

Flyers-Ducks: 5 things you need to know

Scoring outburst? Check. Back-to-back wins? Check. The Flyers are still far from perfect, but there were several positives that came from the club’s 5-2 win over the New York Islanders on Saturday.

The Flyers (3-7-0) will look to build on their best effort of the early season when they host the Anaheim Ducks (9-3-0), who are in the midst of an eight-game road trip, at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night.

The puck drops at 7 p.m. (CSN) and here are five things you need to know for the contest:

1. Keep it going
The Flyers entered Saturday with their leading goal scorer in the AHL. Tye McGinn, who had three goals in a brief stint with the Flyers as an injury call-up, was sent down to the Phantoms to make room for a returning Scott Hartnell.

So what did Vinny Lecavalier do? He made sure the Flyers left Long Island with a leading goal scorer who is actually on the current roster. Lecavalier netted his seventh career hat trick, and now has four goals and two assists in his first seven games in orange and black.

Lecavalier, however, didn’t act alone in the Flyers’ victory over the Isles. Several players had solid performances including Jakub Voracek, who netted his first marker of the season, Michael Raffl, who picked up his first NHL point, and former Islander Mark Streit, who collected two helpers. Even struggling center Claude Giroux got himself into the mix, earning two assists of his own.

After a horrid 1-7-0 start, the Flyers certainly appear on the precipice of breaking out after two wins over the New York teams of the NHL. They’ll search for their first three-game winning streak of the season against a very good Anaheim club.

The Ducks are capable of putting up goals at will -- they are averaging 3.17 per game -- but will also wear teams down physically. If the Flyers carry over their effort from the Islanders game, then Tuesday should be an entertaining matchup.

2. Advantage Flyers?
Believe it or not, the Flyers are actually better on special teams than the Ducks, statistically speaking. Both teams have struggled this season while on the power play, but the Flyers have the advantage in this game (see story).

The Flyers, who snapped a 1-for-25 skid on the power play against the Isles, are 10 percent on the man advantage. They’ll be going up against a Ducks penalty-killing unit that is at 76.2 percent.

As good as Anaheim has been offensively, its power-play units have disappointed early on. The Ducks rank dead last in the NHL in power-play efficiency at 8.2 percent.

That’s not to say Anaheim is weak on the PP. The Flyers can’t afford to give players like Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Teemu Selanne more ice to work with in the game.

However, one of the few things the Flyers have done well this season is kill penalties. They’ve allowed just seven goals in 43 shorthanded situations. If you take away the three power-play goals the Flyers allowed in a loss to Detroit, the team’s PK would be at 88.8 percent instead of 83.7.

3. Clipped Ducks
While the Flyers are fielding a healthy lineup, the Ducks have a handful of injuries to key players.

Veteran Saku Koivu returned to Anaheim for tests after taking a hard hit during Sunday’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Koivu was knocked unconscious on a check by Brandon Dubinsky and must be tested and evaluated before he is allowed to return to the Ducks, per NHL protocol.

Netminder Viktor Fasth also returned to Anaheim on Monday. Fasth, who is receiving additional treatment on his lower-body injury, hasn’t played since Oct. 16.

In addition, the Ducks are missing forwards Jakob Silfverberg (hand), Matt Beleskey (upper body) and defensemen Luca Sbisa (ankle) and Sheldon Souray (wrist).

Forwards Dustin Penner (concussion) and Mathieu Perreault (wrist) were both full participants at practice Monday and head coach Bruce Boudreau said it was possible one or both could return to the Ducks’ lineup on Tuesday.

4. Ducks fly together
Tuesday will be a measuring-stick game for the Flyers’ defense. The Ducks have a potent offense, led by Perry, Getzlaf and company.

A big reason for Anaheim’s strong start is the balance throughout its lineup. Six players have scored three or more goals already, with Perry (six) and Getzlaf (five) leading the way. In addition, 12 Ducks have registered four or more points.

In comparison, the Flyers have just two players with at least three goals (Lecavalier and McGinn) and only five have four or more points (Lecavalier, Giroux, Streit, Voracek and Brayden Schenn).

The Flyers would be smart to pay attention to Perry. The former MVP has back-to-back two-point games and has three goals and four assists in his last five contests.

Don’t forget about Getzlaf, either. The Ducks’ captain is at a point-per-game pace (12) and trails Perry by just one point for the team lead.

5. This and that
• The Flyers have not played Anaheim since Dec. 2, 2011. In that game, Jaromir Jagr scored twice and added an assist to help the orange and black to a 4-3 overtime victory. Kimmo Timonen registered three helpers, while Giroux and Hartnell each had a goal and an assist.

• Selanne, who is in his 22nd NHL season, has faced the Flyers 21 times in the regular season. The 43-year-old has 17 goals and 13 assists in those contests.

• Due in large part to the strong play of Steve Mason, the Flyers have allowed the fewest goals of any team in the Metropolitan Division (27).

Flyers Weekly Observations: More flashes, more frustration

Flyers Weekly Observations: More flashes, more frustration

The Flyers' playoff hopes are all but buried alive, but we still have plenty to discuss after a busy week of hockey.

The Flyers took the ice four times and finished up with yet another inconsistent showing last week.

They pulled off a 4-3 overtime win over the visiting Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday, dropped a disappointing 3-2 decision to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, impressed with a strong 3-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday and then were stifled in a frustrating 1-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday afternoon.

Let's take deeper dive into the week that was for the Flyers.

• While it was another one of those up-and-down weeks for the Flyers that we've all become used to, Sean Couturier stuck out in a good way this past week. Two plays, in particular, stuck out, and not just because the puck ended up in the back of the net each time. Sunday in overtime against Carolina, Couturier revved up on a quick and powerful solo rush up the ice, broke in on goalie Cam Ward and created a prime scoring opportunity that Brayden Schenn cleaned up for the game-winner. It was something we don't see often enough from Couturier. He has the size with his 6-foot-3, 211-pound frame and can be tough to stop when he gets in gear the way he did in OT on Sunday night. That could be such a weapon for the Flyers if he could do it on a more consistent basis. His goal Thursday in Minnesota was a thing of beauty. He took a slick pass from Schenn, maneuvered the puck through his legs and beat Devan Dubnyk five-hole. Between the pass and the lovely finish, it might have been the prettiest goal the Flyers scored all season. But it was Couturier's skill that finished it off. So he again showed flashes of mixing his size and skill this week to create offense. Queue the broken record, but the Flyers, who average just 2.50 goals per game heading into Sunday night's tilt in Pittsburgh, really need Couturier to do those kinds of things much more consistently.

• Steve Mason was not out of line to question his teammates after Tuesday's disheartening loss in Winnipeg. Heading into that game, the Flyers talked about how, even though their playoff hopes were slim, they still thought they had a real chance to reach the postseason. Entering the third period on Tuesday, the game was tied at 1-1. The Flyers had 20 minutes to vanquish a Jets team that was missing five regular defensemen in the lineup. Instead of playing like a team hungry for the playoffs, the Flyers sat back and let the Jets carry play to predictably terrible results for the Flyers. Think about this: the Flyers had just two shots in the period 13:34 into the frame. I know Mason mentioned the eight straight minutes of penalties the Flyers took in the second period, and, while frustrating, that happens sometimes. The two shots through more than half the third period can't happen. Urgency anybody? They did respond nicely Thursday against a good, albeit stumbling, Wild team. That may have been the Flyers' best all-round effort of the year.

 • In response to Tuesday's lackluster effort in Winnipeg, Dave Hakstol again switched up the Flyers' lines ahead of Thursday's game in Minnesota. One of the changes saw rookie forward Travis Konecny slide down to the fourth line next to Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Chris VandeVelde. That's a curious move. Think about this: the Flyers' playoff hopes are virtually toast, right? What does Konecny get out of playing fourth-line minutes now? Shouldn't he be further up the depth chart in an effort to find some chemistry with more skilled linemates heading into next season? I get that he has defensive deficiencies. But he's a rookie and all rookies have those. At the end of the day, the kid is a skilled scorer. And these are important minutes for him to get more and more comfortable in a top-wing role. You've got to take the good with the bad, especially with the Flyers' goal-scoring needs.

• The Flyers' power play continues to be a debacle. After an 0-for-3 showing Saturday in Columbus, the Flyers' power play is 3 for 43 in the month of March. It's not just that the power play is stagnant right now. It's that it's giving the opponent momentum and helping turn games around against the Flyers. It's more deflating than anything else. More often than not, it just seems that opponents have more quality chances while shorthanded than the Flyers have with the man advantage. Gotta give the Flyers' power-play units credit on Saturday, though. They fired 10 power-play shots on goal, but Sergei Bobrovsky had every answer. He was superbly flawless all game long for the Jackets, for that matter.

• Want a telling stat? Try this on for size: heading into Sunday's games, 16 teams have positive goal differentials for the season and 14 teams have negative goal differentials for the season. Those 16 teams with positive goal differentials are in the current playoff picture. The 14 teams with negative goal differentials, well … I'll let you fill in the blank. FYI, the Flyers' goal differential is minus-27.

• Was going over some stats on Sunday morning and, oh, those poor Avalanche fans. Colorado has just been abysmal this year. As of Sunday morning, the last-place Avs are 20 points behind the next team in the standings, Arizona. Twenty! The Avs' goal differential on the season is minus-104. That's an astounding number that's 44 goals behind the next worse number, coincidentally Arizona's. So for you Flyers fans angry at how this season has soured, just remember it's worse somewhere else. Much, much worse. … If that's any consolation.

Coming up this week: Sunday at Pittsburgh (7 p.m./NBCSN), Tuesday vs. Ottawa (7 p.m./TCN), Thursday vs. New York Islanders (7 p.m./CSN), Saturday vs. New Jersey (7 p.m./CSN).

Flyers-Penguins 5 things: Final long road trip of season ends in Pittsburgh

Flyers-Penguins 5 things: Final long road trip of season ends in Pittsburgh

Flyers (34-32-8) at Penguins (46-17-11)
7 p.m. on NBCSN/CSNPhilly.com and NBC Sports App

The Flyers conclude their final four-game road trip of the season on Sunday night in Pittsburgh against a Penguins team with its playoff ticket already punched.

Let's take a closer look game at No. 75 for the Flyers.

1. Power outage
The theme remained the same for the Flyers in their 1-0 loss to Columbus on Saturday: a lifeless power play leads to little offense in a must-win game that killed any realistic, however slim, hope of making a last-second run at the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot.

After going 0 for 3 against the Blue Jackets, the Flyers' power play is now 3 for 43 in March, 0 for its last 14 and 2 for its last 25. On Sunday night, they face a Penguins penalty kill that is lingering near the bottom 10 of the league at 19th overall with an 80.3 percent kill rate.

"We're getting our chances and it's not going in," Shayne Gostisbehere said Saturday. "It's not like we're not getting shots, so it's a matter of sticking with it and it'll come."

In their 4-0 shutout win over the Penguins on March 15, the Flyers were 1 for 4 on the man advantage and it was the last game the team found twine on the power play.

2. Mr. 100
After winning his 100th game as a Flyer on Thursday night Minnesota -- only the third goalie in franchise history to reach 100 wins -- Steve Mason had Saturday afternoon off.

Without context, rolling with Michal Neuvirth on Saturday was a surprising move considering Mason has been the better goalie of the two and the team believed its season was not yet over. But it was the first game of a back-to-back against two of the East's elites.

Neuvirth appeared rusty in the opening period but settled down in Columbus, but Mason is expected back in between the pipes Sunday against the Pens, whom he shut out 11 days ago.

On Sunday, he's expected to make his 50th start of year. Mason will be the first goaltender in Flyers history to start over 50 games in four consecutive seasons. He's appeared in 53 games this season in total heading into Sunday night's tilt.

Mason is 2-3-1 with a 2.62 goals-against average and .910 save percentage in March and owns a 2.73 goals-against average and .906 save percentage overall this season.

3. Playoffs … playoffs?
With Saturday's 1-0 loss, the Flyers' playoff hopes are realistically dead -- not as if they weren't already. The Flyers have eight games left and are eight points out of the playoffs.

One has to believe the Flyers have to win out and acquire all 16 possible points to have any legitimate chance at the playoffs. That's not taking into account help needed elsewhere.

Let's do some math. If the Flyers were to earn all 16 points on the table, they'd finish the year with 92 points. Is that enough to get into the playoffs? Not unless the four teams ahead of them crash and burn. The Flyers are not officially eliminated, but the playoffs are a pipe dream.

4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: Let's go with Sean Couturier, who has three goals and seven assists in his last 11 games. He had a goal and an assist with a career-high eight shots vs. the Pens 11 days ago.

Penguins: Nick Bonino has seven goals in his last 10 games and nine points in his last 12 games. Bonino has one goal in three games against the Flyers this season.

5. This and that
• The Penguins will wear their gold Stadium Series jerseys against the Flyers on Sunday.

• The Flyers have scored just 20 goals in their last 17 losses.

• This game was originally set for 12:30 p.m. but was rescheduled earlier in the season.

• Pittsburgh is 3-0-2 in five contests since losing to the Flyers on March 15. The Pens are 8-1-3 in their last 12 games and are coming off back-to-back shootout losses.