Food for Flight: Flyers Face Danger Ahead in Toronto


If setting out on an eight-game road trip doesn’t spook the Flyers, perhaps their matchup on Saturday night will. The orange and black will return to the Air Canada Centre since dropping a 4-3 overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Mar. 8th of last season. With Steve Mason out of the lineup, and a 3-9-3 road record, do the Flyers face danger ahead?

Historically Speaking

Despite dropping their last game in Toronto last season, the Flyers have surprisingly enjoyed their recent trips to Ontario. In their last 10 visits to the Hockey Hall of Fame’s city, Philly is 5-3-2, outscoring the Leafs throughout that span by a mark of 28-24.

But after dropping last year’s season series by a record of 1-1-1, tonight’s tilt will be one that favors a surging Toronto squad that has won eight of their last 10. And with Philly’s run of 3-4-3 through that same stretch, it appears to be a mismatch that could make their road woes even more… well, woeful.

Mason Out, Emery In, Zepp Up

This will not be the first time – this season alone – the Flyers will lean on backup goaltender Ray Emery for a critical game. Philadelphia will be without Steve Mason, who has started in all but 10 games this season, due to a back injury at the finale of Friday’s practice.

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It’ll be Emery’s fifth start since allowing six goals in a 6-3 defeat at Montreal on Nov. 15th. And although the veteran backup was victorious in his last outing against New Jersey on Dec. 11th, he will guard the pipes tonight with a 1-5-0 record in his last six appearances. Despite playing in 68 career games with Philadelphia, tonight’s game will be Emery’s first appearance against the Leafs as a Flyer.

With Mason out at least two games, Emery will be relied on to give the Flyers the kind of steady production he turned in throughout a four-game winning streak back in October. Mason’s understudy is 5-4-1 on the season, with three of his wins coming on the road – a welcoming omen for a Flyers team that’s won just one road game in their last 11 contests in road whites.

Mason’s vacancy gives veteran journeyman Rob Zepp a possible opportunity to make his NHL debut. The 32-year-old Newmarket, Ontario native was originally drafted by the Atlanta Thrashers, but opted not to sign as a fourth-round pick in 1999. Zepp would later be selected by the Carolina Hurricanes two years later, but never climbed up the organizational ladder after spending four seasons in the ECHL.

Striking Fast

Since scoring the game’s first goal in six of their last eight games, it’ll be even more vital for the Flyers to continue their early scoring trend tonight in Toronto. According to Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sunthe Leafs are 14-0-0 when scoring first, but are only 5-7-1 against teams with losing records. When allowing the first score of the game, Toronto’s record drops to 5-10-3.

It’s a larger drop off for the Flyers in the score first/trail first category. Philly has gotten on the board first in 38 percent of their 31 games, and are 8-2-2 when doing so. When falling behind first, however, the Flyers’ win percentage drops to .158 – fifth to last in the league.

Keying In

Hornby also points out that the Flyers are 0-6-2 when Claude Giroux is held scoreless, a feat that’s been achieved in only eight games thus far. The Flyers captain is tied with Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby for seventh in the league in points with 35. Giroux leads the league in assists with 27, while coming in at second in the NHL in power play points with 17.

Sitting one point behind Giroux in the scoring race is Toronto’s Phil Kessel. The 27-year-old forward’s 34 points are evenly distributed with 17 goals and 17 assists. The eight-year veteran has notched 11 points in his last 10 games, but has been held to just two goals in his last five games against the Flyers.

Jonathan Bernier will make his 24th start of the season, bringing his 13-7-3 record into tonight’s showdown. Bernier’s .922 save percentage is fifth in the league among goalies who have started at least 23 games. In four career starts against Philadelphia, the 26-year-old is 2-2-0, but has been lit up for seven goals in his last two games against the Flyers.

This will be the the first of three meetings between the two teams. The Leafs will travel to Philadelphia on Jan. 31st.