Yes, this past weekend was a glorious weekend with the Stadium Series Shutout. And yes, the feelings of sheer bliss were promptly ruined by the crap game we had to suffer through Tuesday night against the Minnesota Wild. Like hell we're going to put up with a shitty effort two games in a row in this stretch before the Olympics.
The hockey world scoffed when Claude Giroux boldly predicted that his then-winless Philadelphia Flyers would make it in the playoffs. Since then, his prediction isn't looking too outrageous seeing as the Flyers have put together wins to keep them in playoff sights (even though they are coming from the terrible Eastern Conference). The Flyers are flying high coming off a 5-0 shutout of the Detroit Dead Wings (honestly, with their injuries, they really ought to adopt this moniker.) They will begin a dreaded 3 game roadtrip to the new state of hockey, California (Sorry to AC writer Ben--Minnesota, you no longer have that right since we got an outdoor game before you. You can take the rare Honda Center win), starting in Anaheim.
The last time the Anaheim Ducks met the Philadelphia Flyers, I was actually there Halloween night at the Wells Fargo Center when the Ducks scored 3 unanswered goals and forced fans to boo their own team off the ice. It was also the game that forced Teemu Selanne to miss 3 games in his farewell tour after taking Luke Schenn's high-stick (which was not called by the way) to his amazing face.
Teemu was supposed to be out for 2 weeks. But he was out for 3 games. Because he's Teemu. But yeah, we haven't forgotten that high stick.
Keys to the Game: The Flyers are inconsistent in their performances. They can look awful on some days (eg. Boston), then look brilliant in others (eg. Detroit). This will be one of those games the Ducks need to storm out of the gates to make them look like the first. Like the Ducks, the Flyers aren't much of a first period team; but unlike the Ducks, they aren't much of a third period team either.
Expect the Flyers to come out and play physically. They can play big, but they are nowhere near talented as the Los Angeles Kings or the St. Louis Blues. The Flyers take the prize for the most PIM's in the NHL, so the Ducks can take advantage of the minutes on man-advantage. The Ducks will need to play physical, but stay disciplined. I have a feeling there will be a mismatch along the lines, and it wouldn't surprise me if either the third or fourth line ends up making the big difference.
The Flyers may have plenty of talented forwards and centers, but their defense is their Achilles heel. The Ducks will be able to catch the Flyers' defense on their haunches with good passes and puck-handling through the neutral zone. Steve Mason has emerged as their number one goaltender, but he is far from spectacular. The Ducks will find more opportunities by shooting and crashing the net for ensuing rebounds, seeing as the Flyers defense isn't all too strong. The Ducks have been out-shot in their last couple games as well, so they will need this game to get back to their offensive game. Notice, that good things happen when Anaheim puts the puck on net.
What Can We Learn From this Game: Let's cut the crap and leave all the emotions behind. Yes, the Ducks won the Stadium Series outdoor game, but that isn't a Stanley Cup. This is a tough stretch right before the Olympic Break. The Ducks need to take each game in stride and collect every two points. Who knows how the break will affect the Ducks as well as other teams. Once the Olympics are over, every team is going to be fighting tooth and nail to get into the playoffs and a point-cushion will give the Ducks some breathing room.
Fearless Prediction: Luca Sbisa comes out wearing his orange Stadium Series jersey and the Flyers bring him back to Philly with them. [Ed. Note: *Monty Python Voice* And there was much rejoicing. (yay!) - Kyle]
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