Simply put, last season the Tampa Bay Lightning had the Flyers number. In four games against Tampa, the Flyers produced a 1-3 record, including an 8-7 loss and a 4-0 shutout loss. There are many differences between this team and the team that the Lightning beat three times last year, but let’s take a look at three reasons why the Flyers will have different fortunes this year.
The unnamed Giroux line - This line is in desperate need of a nickname and if they keep up the hot streak then I’m sure someone on the world wide web will come up with something that Pierre McGuire will say 50 times during a broadcast. In the seven games that Hartnell, Giroux, and Jagr have been paired together, these have been the results: (note power play points have been taken out),
Jagr: 5 goals, 5 assists
Giroux: 2 goals, 5 assists
Hartnell: 4 goals, 4 assists
Combined: 11 goals, 14 assists, 25 total points
It wouldn’t be possible for these points to be achieved if there wasn’t chemistry. Jagr is calling Giroux “little Mario”, Hartnell looks rejuvenated so much that the four times he falls down a game aren’t noticeable. The line begins, but doesn’t end with Giroux. Right now he is playing at an all-star level and with the production of the line it isn’t unreasonable to think that he will threaten to lead the league in points going into the break in February.
No more Boucher – Last year Brian Boucher started in each of the four games against Tampa. He was pulled twice, once for giving up four goals in two periods, while the other was due to an injury sustained mid game.
This is the first time this year that Tampa gets a look at Ilya Bryzgalov between the pipes. He has two straight wins and even though the offense put up nine on the Blue Jackets, he still stopped 31 of 33 shots. The confidence in net is beginning to build back up again and could use another boost from a win tonight against a pretty good Lightning team.
Quick early scores – In the past two games the Flyers have jumped out to quick leads early on, which is obviously key to grabbing momentum especially on the road. Remember the Flyers are a much better road team because they always play at a higher level when facing adversity. In their last road game against the Sabres, the Flyers peppered Ryan Miller with five shots before Sean Couturier put in the sixth, then James van Reimsdyk and Scott Hartnell poured it in and six minutes into the game Miller Time was no more. On Saturday Steve Mason was the next to suffer a pulling in the first period against the Flyers and now Dwayne Roloson is on the clock.
Beyond just trying to pour it on early, the Flyers need to score early or at least score the first goal of the game. Tampa does an excellent job of dropping back into a box style defense to protect a lead. What they will do is allow the opposing team within their zone, but then get rid of any second chance opportunities, if a puck can even reach the net. This strategy killed the Flyers last season.
Tampa carries a 7-5-2 record into this game, while the Flyers are 8-4-2. Look for a very evenly matched battle between these two teams with the first ten minutes being key for Philadelphia. If they can score a quick goal and not allow the Lightning to drop into defense, Roloson could very well have similar fate to the last two goalies the Flyers have faced. This is a dangerously good offensive team when they don’t kill themselves with momentum stopping penalties .
Hope you enjoyed the read, Go Flyers!
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