The Flyers lost a point to a team behind them in the playoff race in a shootout to the Devils on Tuesday night, and they’ll hope to avoid dropping points to another team behind them when they travel to face the Blue Jackets tonight.
That loss to New Jersey was just the fifth time in 25 games the Flyers have failed to get two points when leading after two periods. It was a Taylor Hall goal with 1:21 left in regulation that did them in, though the result was almost inevitable given that the Devils spent most of that period running around the Flyers’ zone.
The Blue Jackets lost more ground in the race with a 6-3 loss at Toronto on Wednesday, and they’ve lost six of their last eight games. Five of those six losses have come in regulation, with a lone loser point coming against Minnesota back on Jan. 30. Outside of a six-game winning streak way back in early November, the club that racked up 108 points a year ago has been terribly disappointing.
League-wide, Columbus is 27th or worse in scoring (2.6 per game), power play percentage (14.7%), and penalty killing (75.7%). With their special teams in shambles, the Blue Jackets have relied upon solid even strength numbers, including a league-best xG (expected goals for) of 2.72 per 60 and a Corsi For of 51.54%. If anything, the Blue Jackets are dangerously inconsistent.
That said, the Flyers should have a great chance to put two points on the board on the road here. Columbus’ league worst power play is a welcome sight for the Flyers’ 28th-ranked penalty kill, which has quietly killed off eight of their last nine. When the Flyers are on the man-advantage, they’ll have a huge advantage with their power play against a bad Blue Jackets penalty kill.
Where things could get dicey for the Flyers is at even strength, where the Blue Jackets excel. A positive is that the Flyers survived a five-on-five onslaught by the Golden Knights on Sunday (Vegas had 30 more attempts) and got stellar goaltending from Michal Neuvirth in that one.
They’ll need Neuvirth to be great again, as the Flyers are facing Sergei Bobrovsky, who has been left out to dry by his team for much of the year. He’s still playing lights out though, posting a 2.45 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage to go along with four shutouts this season. The Officer hasn’t been kind to his former team in his career, going 9-2 with a 1.79 goals-against average, a .939 save percentage, and two shutouts.
Neuvirth has just three starts against the Blue Jackets, but is 2-1 with a 1.99 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage in those games. He’s largely been boom or bust for the Flyers this year overall, but (for now) is the man for the next five to six weeks with Brian Elliott on the injured list.
It’s always seems a close matchup between these two clubs, and their all-time numbers back that up. The Flyers are 10-10-6 all-time against the Blue Jackets, with three ties back when they were a thing. And both teams have scored exactly 79 goals in those 29 games against one another. Here’s to the Flyers pulling ahead in a couple of those columns in game No. 30 against Columbus tonight.
Claude Giroux has eight points in his last five games and goals in four-straight. He’s got 19 points in 22 career games against Columbus (6G, 13A) … Artemi Panarin won the 2015-16 Calder Trophy for top rookie as a 36-year-old … Nick Foligno has 14 goals in 31 games against the Flyers, two more than he has against any other team … John Tortorella was the coach of Team USA for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey … they failed to win a single game and were eliminated in the group stage …
Projected Flyers Lineup
Giroux - Couturier - Konecny
Voracek - Patrick - Simmonds
Raffl - Laughton - Weal
Lehtera - Filppula - Weise
Provorov - Gostisbehere
Hagg - MacDonald
Manning - Gudas