Flyers at Sharks Preview: Use the Force, Logan
Help us, Erik Karlsson. You're our only hope.
Just under a month ago, the Shakrs (6-4-3, 4th Pacific) beat the Philadelphia Flyers (6-7-0, 6th Metropolitan) by scoring a whopping eight goals. The Sharks are already facing the Flyers again, this time out of Gritty’s territory, to put an end to the cross-conference season series.
The Sharks are hosting Star Wars Night tonight and All the Brent Burns Wookiee jokes will be made. Here’s mine: please don’t rip anyone’s arms off, Brent. That’s at least a double minor, I’m sure.
The Flyers are in the middle of their West Coast road trip, and have already beaten both Southern California teams to end a three-game losing streak, but don't let that fool you. The strongest competition in SoCal right now is John Gibson's goals saved above average and the Flyers faced off against back up Ryan Miller in Anaheim. They may not fly so high against stronger competition.
Between the Flyers' defense and goaltending, there's plenty of room for the Sharks' unlucky offense to take off. The Flyers are allowing an average of 28.5 shots per game and 3.85 goals per game — the third most in the league.
While Philly's offense is technically still out-shooting their opponents, it's often not by much, taking just 31 shots more than their opponents so far. Meanwhile, the Sharks are third-best in the league with shot differential, with 118. Overall, the Sharks have taken 92 more shots over the same 13 game stretch as the Flyers.
There's a chance the Sharksgo for 10 tonight.
Picking up Points
The Sharks have five players with 10 or more points this season. Logan Couture and Burns are both tied at 15 points each. Timo Meier leads the team in total goals with nine and has added five assists. Meier was recently named the Player of the Month of October by the Sharks Foundation.
Only two Flyers have at least 10 points so far: Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. Each have recorded 10 assists and added a few goals. They also have both scored a significant portion of their points while on the power play: six for Giroux and four for Voracek. On the Sharks, Burns is the only player with more than four power-play points (he has six).
The Flyers have allowed a power-play goal against in both games of their West Coast trip so far. The Flyers’ penalty kill is 68.8 percent effective this season, which puts them at 29th in the NHL. Only the Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes had less-effective penalty kills in the first month of the season.
The Flyers also have multiple players with over 10 penalty minutes. Wayne Simmonds leads all Flyers players with 20 PIMs in 13 games; Scott Laughton has 18, Jori Lehtera has 14 and Robert Hagg and Jordan Weal have 12 each. Of the Flyers who have played at least 10 games, only Sean Couturier and Nolan Patrick have not taken at least one penalty.
By comparison, only two Sharks have more than 10 penalty minutes: Burns (14) and Evander Kane (25). Kane's per-game penalty minutes average is 1.92 to start the season, the highest of his career.
If the Sharks can get the Flyers to take penalties, it’s a good way to build momentum and hopefully score some goals. The Sharks’ power play has reached 20.4 percent effectiveness, a rate good for 16th in the league.
Score first, score often
Scoring early and often is how the Sharks got it done in Philadelphia. It’s also how the Flyers earned a 5-2 win over the Kings on Thursday.
The Sharks managed the scoring first part in their last game against Columbus. They slacked on the “often” part, only scoring once and taking a 4-1 loss.
In all of the Sharks’ six wins, save the 3-2 shootout over L.A. in the second game of the season, the Sharks have scored at least four goals. I think it’s because scoring more goals is good in hockey? That sounds right.
Bold prediction: Gritty appears and kills a man. The Flyers allow at least four goals. Let’s go for half of last time’s total!