January 6, 2012; Philadelphia, PA USA; Philadelphia Flyers right wing Wayne Simmonds (17) and Chicago Blackhawks center Andrew Shaw (65) battle for puck during the third period of the game at the Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers defeated the Blackhawks 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Yes, the Chicago Blackhawks hosting the Philadelphia Flyers is a rematch of the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals, but you most likely didn’t need to be reminded of that. Much has changed, for both teams, since then.
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As is the case, most of the times, the Blackhawks have a statistical edge, in this matchup, but the Flyers are not a team that the Hawks should take lightly. The Flyers had a disastrously bad start, which has likely skewed some of their numbers. However, the Flyers still have very respectable defensive stats. While they have done a solid job at keeping the puck out of the net, the Flyers are up against the far and away best offensive team, in the NHL, tonight. The less than stellar offensive numbers, for the Flyers can be a little deceiving, as they have players that know how to light the lamp, consistently.
The Flyers are currently 6th place, and only 3 points out of 3rd place, in the Metropolitan Division. They boast a 5-4-1 record, in their past 10 games, which is a far cry from the dismal start to the season, and they are now very much in the Metropolitan playoff race. Philly will be wrapping up their 6-game road trip, tonight, in Chicago, on which they have a go 2-2-1 record, and are trying to avoid a 3rd straight loss. Much was made about Claude Giroux‘s goal-less drought, to start the season, but he has more than made up for it with assists, as the goals eventually came. The Flyers have very solid depth at center, with Vince Lecavalier, Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn all having fine seasons.
Philadelphia has been surprisingly exceptional, in goaltending, this season. Steve Mason has not experienced this much success, since his Calder Trophy winning rookie season, in 2009. Former Hawk, Ray Emery, might be the best backup goalie, in the NHL, just ignore his controversial side.
The Blackhawks are surging, as they have followed a 3 game losing streak with a pair of 6-2 blowout victories. The Hawks are currently leading the highly competitive Central Division, as well as the entire NHL, and they have won 7 of their last 10 games. Patrick Kane continues his career year, and is now 2nd in the NHL in points, this season. Patrick Sharp has 6 points, in his last 5 games.
While you could go on and on about how all the skaters are putting up ridiculous amounts of points, an area of concern, for the Blackhawks, is goaltending. Corey Crawford is expected to miss a couple of weeks, with a groin injury, and the Hawks are forced to rely on rookies, Antti Raanta and Kent Simpson. Raanta has played well, but he played just last night, and it will be interesting to see if Head Coach Joel Quenneville goes back to him tonight, or if he gives Simpson his NHL debut.
The Flyers have a big test tonight, as they are better they are better than they were, at the start of the season, but are still searching for an identity, as they have climbed back into the playoff race, in the Metropolitan Division. The Blackhawks continue to steam roll, the league, but they have serious questions in goaltending and on the Penalty Kill, even though it has improved lately. It should be a good game!