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Columbus Blue Jackets (38-30-7) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (39-27-9)- Game Preview, Analysis and Predictions

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It’s a match-up of Mason vs. Bobrovsky: two goalies facing their former teams, with playoff implications to boot. Columbus is currently four points back of the Flyers in the standings, with the same amount of games played (75). Both teams are trailing the Rangers for the second spot within the Metropolitan Division. New York has 90 points in 77 games played, three more points than Philly has.

The Blue Jackets have won two out of the three previous meetings between the two teams this season, in the first year as Metropolitan Division foes. In the first match-up on December 19th, Philadelphia not only came back from a three-goal deficit, but scored an incredible five goals in the third period on their way to a 5-4 victory. Two days later, this time in Columbus, Bobrovsky and the Blue Jackets got revenge by handily defeating the Fly Guys 6-3

Flyers’ captain Claude Giroux had four points (2 goals, 2 assists) in the two teams’ first get together back in mid-December, and all together he has five points in three contests vs. Columbus this season (2 goals, 3 assists). On the flip side, Columbus blue liner Nikita Nikitin has three points (0 goals, 3 assists) vs. Philly this season.

Sergei Bobrovsky didn’t start the first two games back in December vs. his old team due to a strained groin, which sidelined him a total of 14 games, before returning to play in early January, prior to the two team’s third meeting two weeks later. Backup Curtis McElhinney started in his place, compiling a .893 save percentage in the process. Meanwhile, Ray Emery started two out of the three games as well for Philly.

In their two victories over Philadelphia this season, Columbus has not only averaged 5.5 goals/game, but they’ve gotten significant contributions on and off the scoreboard from numerous players. Nine different Blue Jackets, out of 11 total goals scored in that time span, have lit the lamp; a very positive sign for their head coach Todd Richards.

Richards is seeking his first playoff berth as NHL head coach. He’s now in his third season as Blue Jackets’ head coach, after previously coaching Minnesota for two seasons.

Update: Veteran Flyers’ defenseman Kimmo Timonen will play tonight vs. Columbus, after missing last game due to an upper-body injury. Defenseman Erik Gustafsson, who was brought up to replace Timonen last game, was sent back down to Adirondack. Steve Downie is still out for the Flyers, who now will miss his sixth straight game due to a concussion.

"I think he’s close, but he’s not ready yet," Berube said after Thursday’s morning skate at the Wells Fargo Center.

Defenseman Andrew MacDonald will play as well, after suffering a heavy slap shot off his right foot in the last game at St. Louis.

The Flyers didn’t play (one of) their best game(s) of the year on Tuesday at St. Louis, but considering the opposition and Timonen’s injury, they stuck with them and earned a point. They out-shot the Blues by three; 31-28, with winger Matt Read leading the way with five shots on goal. Newly-acquired defenseman Andrew MacDonald had a busy night, on and off the score sheet. He logged 27:25 minutes of ice time; which led the team, had four penalty minutes, two shots on goal, and three blocked shots. MacDonald now has 33 blocked shots in 13 games since joining Philadelphia on March 5th; an average of over two and a half per game.

Despite chasing multiple teams for divisional playoff seedings, and currently holding the final Wild Card spot in the East, Columbus has been an average team as of late, going 4-4-2 in their past 10, while Philadelphia’s been a little bit better at 6-2-2. The Blue Jackets blew a two-goal lead last game vs. Colorado, despite earning a point in the game.

Columbus’ power-play has been red hot as of late, as they’ve gone 4-11 in their past four contests. Their penalty kill is 11 for 14 in that time span, including a game in which they went a perfect 4-4 vs. the NHL’s second best power-play in Pittsburgh three games ago. Columbus also threw 36 shots on Penguins’ netminder Marc-Andre Fleury in that game, despite the loss.

Five games ago at the Islanders, they had 41 shots. Columbus has averaged over 32 shots/game in their past five games. The point being: on paper, their offense looks average, but don’t let the statistics fool you. They’re an offense with a lot of depth and determination.

On the flip side, since March 1st, Philadelphia is 9-3-3. On top of that, they’ve not only faced a ton of tough teams in both leagues down the stretch within that span of time, but they’ve either defeated or earned at least a point vs. most of those playoff-caliber teams. If the playoffs began today, Philadelphia went 6-2-2 vs. playoff teams in that stretch. In that time span, they’ve averaged 3.30 goals for/game, while allowing only 2.46 goals/game.

Philadelphia’s special teams play has picked up tremendously as well since Berube’s hire, but on a more recent basis. Philadelphia’s penalty killing units have successfully killed off 20 out of their last 21 penalties. However, their power play has struggled as of late, as they’ve only converted on three out of their last 27 man advantages (11% conversion rate).

As mentioned, Columbus this season is a middle-of-the-pack type of team in most offensive/defensive categories. They rank 13th in the NHL in goals for game average with 2.70 (Philadelphia ranks slightly ahead of them at # 11 with 2.76/game), 21st in shots/game with 2213 (Philadelphia ranks 19th with 2262), 12th in penalty minutes with 835 (Philadelphia ranks first with 1108), 15th in goals-against-average with 2.65 (Philly ranks 17th with 2.68), 16th in penalty killing (81.9%), and 17th on the power play (17.6%).

First-line center Ryan Johansen leads the team in both goals and points scored, with 30 and 55, respectively. Right-winger Corey Tropp leads the team this season in +/- with a +12.

Former-Bruin Nathan Horton won’t play today, and is listed as day-to-day, due to a lower-body injury. Nikita Nikitin didn’t travel with the team to Philly, and won’t play as well due to the same injury.

Injury Report

Columbus

Player Date Status Injury
8 N. Horton Mar 31 Day-to-Day Lower-body injury
6 N. Nikitin Apr 2 Day-to-Day Lower-body injury
27 R. Murray Mar 4 Day-to-Day Lower-body injury
46 O. Gabriel Sep 14 Injured Reserve Torn Achilles

Philadelphia

Player Date Status Injury
9 S. Downie Mar 23 Day-to-Day Upper-body injury
43 M. Bourdon Sep 11 Injured Reserve Post-concussion syndrome
20 C. Pronger Sep 11 Injured Reserve Post-concussion syndrome

Line Combinations

Columbus

LW C RW
Boone Jenner
Boone Jenner
Ryan Johansen
Ryan Johansen
Mark Letestu
Mark Letestu
Matt Calvert
Matt Calvert
Brandon Dubinsky
Brandon Dubinsky
Cam Atkinson
Cam Atkinson
Nick Foligno
Nick Foligno
Artem Anisimov
Artem Anisimov
R.J. Umberger
R.J. Umberger
Blake Comeau
Blake Comeau
Derek MacKenzie
Derek MacKenzie
Jared Boll
Jared Boll
Defensive Pairings
Jack Johnson
Jack Johnson
Dalton Prout
Dalton Prout
Fedor Tyutin
Fedor Tyutin
James Wisniewski
James Wisniewski
Nikita Nikitin
Nikita Nikitin
David Savard
David Savard
Starting Goalie
Sergei Bobrovsky
Sergei Bobrovsky

Philadelphia

LW C RW
Scott Hartnell
Scott Hartnell
Claude Giroux
Claude Giroux
Jakub Voracek
Jakub Voracek
Tye McGinn
Tye McGinn
Brayden Schenn
Brayden Schenn
Wayne Simmonds
Wayne Simmonds
Matt Read
Matt Read
Sean Couturier
Sean Couturier
Michael Raffl
Michael Raffl
Zac Rinaldo
Zac Rinaldo
Vincent Lecavalier
Vincent Lecavalier
Adam Hall
Adam Hall
Defensive Pairings
Braydon Coburn
Braydon Coburn
Kimmo Timonen
Kimmo Timonen
Mark Streit
Mark Streit
Nicklas Grossmann
Nicklas Grossmann
Andrew MacDonald
Andrew MacDonald
Luke Schenn
Luke Schenn
Starting Goalie
Steve Mason
Steve Mason

Starting Goalies (GP, W-L-OT/SOL, GAA, SV%, SO)

Sergei Bobrovsky- CBJ- 52-27-19-5, 2.47 GAA, .919 SV%, 3 SO
Steve Mason- PHI- 57-31-17-7, 2.53 GAA, .916 SV%, 4 SO

Keys to The Game

-Win defensive-zone face-offs. Columbus is one of the best ranked (8th in the NHL at 51.6%) face-off teams. Losing numerous face-offs in your own zone will not only lead to puck possession for Columbus, and having to backcheck, but chances and goals

-Mason vs. Bobrovsky: Who’ll prevail?

Player of the Game Prediction

Wayne Simmonds

Game Prediction

Columbus wins in the shootout 3-2

This item was written by a member of this community and is not necessarily endorsed by <em>Broad Street Hockey</em>.

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