Game #40 Preview: Ottawa Senators @ Philadelphia Flyers

A long road trip at this point in the schedule was bound to cause some difficulties despite the miraculous season the Ottawa Senators have been piecing together.  As they marched towards a playoff berth very few fans would have predicted a 5 game losing streak threatening their run.  The Senators have crashed down and need to stop the bleeding before there’s a feeding frenzy.

Record 39-19-14-6 for 44 points.

6th in the Eastern Conference

VS

 

Record 39-17-19-3 for 37 points

12th in the Eastern Conference

Game time is 7 pm

TV: Rogers Sportsnet, Radio: Team 1200

HEAD TO HEAD

Their previous meeting was a 2-1 loss in Philadelphia.  Fans of the Broad Street Bully days would have something to cheer about as the game was very chippy.  A hard hit by Harry Zolnierczyk on Senator’s defenseman Mike Lundin set the tone for the rest of the game midway through the first period.  Lundin was concussed on the play and out for a string of games after that.  Eventually it turned ugly enough that Daniel Alfredsson felt he had to take matters into his own hands and he cross-checked tough-guy Zac Rinaldo in the face.  Alfredsson received a major penalty and a game misconduct.  Former Senator - Kaspars Daugavins - was also involved in a mismatched fight against agitator Rinaldo.  Both Ben Bishop and Ilya Bryzgalov were named stars of the game.

March 2, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Erik Gustafsson (29) and goalie Ilya Bryzgalov (30) hold off Ottawa Senators center Mika Zibanejad (93) during the third period at the Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers defeated the Senators, 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

LAST GAMES

The Ottawa Senators are looking to rebound from their 3-2 loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning.  Their 5 game losing streak is their longest this season and recent play has given hope to the teams sitting below them in the standings.  They’re 6th in the Eastern Conference but the 9th place Winnipeg Jets are only 2 points behind them.

Philadelphia Flyers’ last game was Tuesday evening, a 4-1 loss at the hands of the New York Islanders.  The Islanders outshot the Flyers 32 -27.  The recently acquired Steve Mason, fresh from signing a contract extension, started his first game as a Flyer and took the loss.  The Flyers are 5 points out of 8th place and have 9 games remaining.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Guillaume Latendresse, Ottawa – had a power-play goal in Tampa.  Returning from injury he had 6 points in 7 games; last game’s goal was his first point in the past 4 games.  Latendresse is one of a few forwards who regularly goes to the net with the conviction needed to succeed in the high traffic/dirty areas.  He lives by the rule that good things happen when pucks are shot on net.  His switch from the Zibanejad line to Turris’ didn’t change his game.  If his injury issues are behind him I think Bryan Murray will sign him to a contract extension to keep his “type” of goal scoring in the lineup.

Claude Giroux, Philadelphia – With 12 points in his last 10 games Giroux is the hottest, point-scoring Flyer.  Jakub Voracek has 8 points in his last 10 games but leads the team in overall scoring with 17 goals and 12 assists.  Giroux is second with 38 points.  In the last 5 games Ottawa has not scored more than 2 goals per game.  The Senators will have to contain both Giroux and Voracek to keep the game within reach.

3 STORYLINES FOR THE GAME

  1. Special teams are killing the Senators.  Despite scoring on the PP in Tampa, the Senators have been struggling with their special teams.  Their PK unit was scored on twice and their PP has been struggling to find the back of the net.  The once red-hot Sergei Gonchar has cooled substantially since his point-scoring streak ended and Patrick Wiercioch hasn’t been able to fire the puck into the scoring lanes.  Each time a penalty is called, for or against, the Senators’ momentum is damaged.  When there’s an extended period of time without a stoppage in play the momentum shifts to the Senators – EVERY TIME.
  2. Matt Kassian has served as a deterrent to straight-out fighting, but his presence in the line-up has not been able to stop the hard hitting that many of his teammates took in Tampa.  Tampa wasn’t running amok or outside the rules but they were finishing every check against the recently dubbed “Calder” line.  Kassian can’t be blamed for any of the special team problems but his presence in the line-up has taken away some of the zest that the fourth line has had and as a result some of its effectiveness.  The fourth line had previously been a lot more fun to watch and created puck possession headaches for the opposition.  Now… not so much.  Which is more important?
  3. Stellar goaltending has been the key to many or most of the Senators’ victories this season.  Now, it’s needed even more.  If the goalies can steal a couple more games it would probably be enough to carry the team into the playoffs.  Every game is a must win situation if they want to salvage the odds-defying season they’ve been having.  It’s time for them to find their swagger again.

 

 PARTING SHOT

The Senators are meeting the Philadephia Flyers during a 5-game losing streak.  The Flyers are on the outside looking in at the playoffs and they may miss them for the first time in six seasons.  The Flyers also managed to get under the Senator’s skin during their last meeting; they beat them by keeping the game’s flow under their control.  The Flyers didn’t allow Ottawa’s skill in the game.  They kept their penalty box parade going and the game slipped away.  This is likely one of the reasons Ottawa felt they needed to acquire Matt Kassian.  If Ottawa’s mentality is to play Philadephia’s game they’re going to be in over their heads; I doubt they can out goon the Flyers.  MacLean has a big job in front of him because he’s going to have his skill players playing hockey while the Flyers head-hunt them.  If the Senators want to make it to the post season they’ll likely be required to execute a similar game plan when they play Boston or Toronto.  Tonight’s game may be their biggest test of the year.  Let’s hope they ace it.

Topics: Claude Giroux, Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers

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