The Flames are in the City of Brotherly Love to take on the Flyers this afternoon (11AM MT, Sportsnet Flames) in the second-last game of what has proved to be a thoroughly miserable road trip, and it won't get any easier, as Philly currently sits atop the East in points (32) and goals (84). What's more, the Flyers are 7-2-1, including their current three-game winning streak, in their past ten, and have a record of 9-4-1 at home. We're running into a hot team here, and while the Flames are certainly due for a bounce or two, that likely won't be enough to vault them past a team rolling on all cylinders.
Despite their impressive offensive totals, the Flyers are averaging only 1.5 more shots/game than the Flames so far this season, and actually have a better record in games when they've been outshot than when they've outshot their opposition. Their shooting percentage of 8.96% is above average, but not outrageously lucky by any means--goals will come when you're third in the league in shots.
The Flames have outshot their opposition in four of their past five games, and have come away with only one win and two overtime losses. While they haven't received amazing goaltending in a couple of them, they also haven't done much to make those shots count, scoring fourteen times over the course of that five-game span, half of which came in one game against the 'Hawks last Friday.
The Flyers' forward depth has certainly been the prominent factor in their early-season success; after Mike Richards, Scott Hartnell, Jeff Carter, and Claude Giroux, thirteen other skaters have at least one goal for Philly. Defence and goaltending haven't been too shabby either for the orange and black, who have allowed just 33 goals at EV in 23 games, compared to 55 for. Rookie goalie Sergei Bobrovsky has gone 17-12-3 with a SV% of .925 in the absence of Michael Leighton, who remains on the shelf with a back injury. Some pretty impressive stats, no doubt, but the question of whether or not this team will be able to sustain this performance over the course of an eighty-two game season with the likes of Pittsburgh and Washington breathing down their necks remains.
The Flames got some good news yesterday when Matt Stajan said he hopes to get back into a game this weekend after looking a little worse for wear following a huge hit by Marc Staal in Monday's game against the Rangers, but the Flames will continue to roll with Olli Jokinen, Mikael Backlund, David Moss, and Stefan Meyer at centre today, as Craig Conroy is apparently out with a shoulder injury. Ales Kotalik is also practicing with the team and is close to returning. There has been no official word on expected lines and pairings for today's game due to the early start, but it's probably safe to assume that nothing much will have changed since Wednesday's game, with the exception of Kiprusoff starting. The only point of contention will likely be whether Cory Sarich or Steve Staios gets the nod on defence.
This is going to be a very tough test for the Flames; the Flyers are, for lack of a better term, flying at the moment, and it doesn't seem likely that the fourteenth-ranked team in the Western Conference is going to bring them crashing down to earth. The Flames need a big effort from everyone involved today after a lack-luster performance in New Jersey, and as usual, that starts with their top guys. There aren't going to be many easy match-ups in this game, so they'll have to take advantage of their opportunities, especially on special teams, as the Flyers are about average both on the powerplay and the penalty kill.
Enjoy the game everyone, and boo Chris Pronger just for the sake of it in the comments. Go Flames.