Orange & Black Breakdown
by Marc Siciliano on 12/08/11 at 06:28 PM ET
…Now that we’ve got your attention, it’s time to prepare yourself as one of the fiercest rivalries in the NHL begins a new chapter with the Atlantic division lead on the line. To help fuel the flames for this playoff-esque matchup, Vince and I are here to give you a playoff-esque write-up after the jump.
Pittsburgh Penguins (16-8-4 | 36 Pts, 1st in Atlantic) @ Philadelphia Flyers (16-7-3 | 35 Pts, 2nd in Atlantic)
”Please stop calling me out for leaving already”
MS: Marc Andre Fleury will be looking for a bounce back win after their loss to Boston. He stabilized the Penguins without Crosby before, and his calming presence on the ice is huge for Pittsburgh as they skate without their Captain yet again (more on him later).
Flower is one of the most athletically gifted goalies in the league and always capable of making a save, but hasn’t fared all that well against the Flyers. He’s played 14 teams over 10 times in his career, and his GAA is 6th worth versus the Orange and Black in the regular season compared to the others. He’s looked good this year, and is in 2nd place in the league in wins. He will surely be salivating at the chance to add another W to that column tonight, but the Flyers can get to him and have done so before.
Vin: Mr. Malkin – Evgeni is posting the 7th best Points Per Game average at 1.14 points. When Crosby came back he went on a 5 game point streak notching 9 points. This past week though (3 games), he has struggled to capitalize. He is still racking up the shots at a ridiculous rate as he has 20 shots in the past 3 games. But for the Flyers to feel comfortable, we would like to see that pace lessen (looking at you Coburn and Meszaros, with your long reaches).
There have been numerous talks in Pittsburgh on how fans want to see the line-ups switched up to help spark him on another tear. Here’s to hoping that it stays the same with Sullivan and Neal on his wings (more to come later). His biggest weakness since he started in the league is to be physical with him. He sometimes lets rough play dictate his emotions, ultimately knocking him off his game. Therefore, look for Rinaldo/Simmonds/Hartnell to be the first guys to get in his face when the puck drops on Thursday.
Vin: James Neal – He has been a huge reason Pittsburgh has been able to keep the ship afloat throughout the first quarter of the season sans Crosby (and Malkin for a 2 week stretch). But with those guys back in the fold, his production will drop due to the fact he will have less opportunities to score. His shots per game will become dispersed to the big 2 now that each of them is back (currently at 4.1 shots/game).
Don’t get me wrong, he is going to continue to put up respectable numbers, but do not expect him to become the proficient goal scorer he was throughout the first month of the season. I see him as a similar player to our very own Scott Hartnell. 30 goals has never been out of the question for him with a career shooting percentage of 12.5%, but his 9 goals in his first 12 games was something even he probably couldn’t explain.
Regardless, his 5 points in his last 10 games (none in his last 3) is proof in the numbers that he is starting to level off to where we should expect him.
Giroux – 1, Kennedy – 0.
Vin: Tyler Kennedy – There is something about small guys that draws me to them. Either I love’em or hate’em. In this case, I’m thinking the Pittsburgh rivalry brings out the venomous opinion. He is that snake in the grass waiting to attack. He may not be a prolific scorer, but when he does score, they tend to be of the game winner variety. His shots are unusually high (3.5 shots/game) even though he has manned a third line role for most of the season. He is in the mold of our very own Danny Briere (size, speed, and quickness). Pittsburgh fans are pining for him to move up into the top 6 (thus moving Neal onto Crosby’s line and Dupuis onto Staal’s line). They feel he could be that spark for Geno, which makes me hope that they wait until after our game on Thursday to get Malkin out of his funk.
MS: The Flyers Rookies put Laviolette in a very intriguing position. Never before have the Flyers had rookie game breakers stashed in their bottom-6, which makes me think they might get some chances until the Penguins can get an idea of what they are dealing with. Though they’re being ‘hidden’ in the bottom-6, the play of the rookies on special teams has really allowed Lavi to rest his pure offensive talents in times of defensive need. Intriguingly enough, Flower has struggled while on the power play, giving up 15 SH goals in his career to Atlantic division opponents. 6 of those have come from the stick blades of the Flyers – can the rookies add to that total and make their presence felt tonight? Regardless of their performance, welcome to the rivalry.
The most unfortunate portion of this entire write up for me is including Sidney Crosby in the Wildcard section. I used to be one of those that would make up any excuse to say Crosby wasn’t as good as ‘player X’, but that all changed last season while working on 24/7 and seeing hours and hours of Crosby behind the scene footage. Even though he won’t be playing tonight, we’ll surely be seeing him in the future and he is more than worthy of some wordplay for a magnitude of reasons.
Simply put, it is so obvious to me why he is far and away the best player in the game when healthy. His success spawns from a work ethic that may never be topped. Yes, there are grinders that may spend just as much time on their game, but they don’t have the talent to use that time to fine-tune their game like Sid does. While they are working just getting better, Crosby is constantly working on being the BEST. At EVERYTHING. Period (except facial hair). Instead of ignoring it and booing such an obvious talent, I recommend you embrace the opportunity to get to see a player of his caliber; it doesn’t come around often, and we get to see it more than anyone else in the league.
Unfortunately, his return will have to wait.
Flyers Emerging Superstar
Claude Giroux – I made mention back when we did the quarterly review that I wanted to avoid repeating the same things that you’ve heard about Giroux. Well guess what, that stubbornness is long gone. Be prepared to be amazed:
-1st in points (26; 1 point ahead of Kessel)
-4th in goals (16; 1 goal behind leader)
-6th in assists (20; 2 assists behind leader)
-2nd in points per game (1.38; .12 PPG behind Crosby)
Digging a little deeper:
-All those that said he needs to shoot more. He is sporting a glamorous 20.5% shooting percentage on 78 shots. (Note: Most of which are actually snipes or beautiful and not garbage goal ‘Hartnell type’ rebounds). Only other player sporting a 20% shooting percentage with more than 75 shots is Milan Michalek (20.2% on 84 shots)
-For those that have asked him to shoot more; he has listened. He went from 2.1 shots/game to 3.0 shots/game 2nd only behind JvR on the team. That huge jump coupled with his career shooting percentage of 14.2% amounts to an estimated 10 goal jump from last year’s total of 25 goals.
-We always knew his vision on the ice is what sets him apart from his peers. But he has never had a top-10 goal scorer in the history of the NHL on his wing. When Jagr was out with his injury for 4 games, Giroux posted a 3 assist game and a 2 goal game. So clearly, Mr. Jagr is not the one dictating his impressive start to the season.
Comparisons to Giroux that give you chills
“Maybe it’s too early to make some comparisons with Peter Forsberg,” Gagne told NHL.com, “but I did play with Peter, and he (Giroux) has pretty much the same style.”
“Mario Lemieux,” Jagr told NHL.com. “A little Mario Lemieux, a little bit smaller – but he can see it. … You have to be watching all the time, because you never know when the puck is coming.”
“He makes me think a little bit of Geno (Evgeni Malkin), how smooth he is,” Talbot said to NHL.com. “I don’t want to compare them, but how smooth he is and how he can make plays full speed and skate up the ice with the puck and you can’t really angle him when he goes up the ice. And he does have that same kind of drive and passion to work to be an elite player.”
Giroux with a Gordie Howe Hat Trick from the ‘09 Playoffs
Lets Go Flyers!
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The Orange & Black Breakdown looks to be the ultimate, around the clock source for news and information on the Philadelphia Flyers organization and it’s ever-present quest for the Stanley Cup. Focusing on what the team can do to achieve success is the ultimate goal.
The OBB is written and maintained by myself - Marc Siciliano. I’m a college graduate and media production professional in the sports industry with credits on projects like Hard Knocks: Bengals and 24/7 Penguins vs. Capitals: Road to the Winter Classic. A man of many hobbies, I always seem to find a way to spend a disproportionate amount of my daily routine with two things: Flyers hockey and social media (much to the dismay of my hockey impartial friends on twitter).
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